Traditionally, newspapers and other publications have relied heavily on advertising revenue as the primary means through which profit was generated. However, this trend seems to be fizzling out, as advertising dollars are disappearing, and being supplanted with income from subscriptions and circulation. While many have pitched this development as a clear sign of the print industry's demise, the reality as that the market is being redefined.
Circulation revenue replaces advertising
The business model for news publications appears to have shifted in recent years, according to a World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers report. Larry Kilman, the organization's deputy CEO and executive director of communications and public affairs, noted in an article for The Media Online that global circulation revenues are now larger than advertising figures. This unprecedented development suggests that the standard practice for newspapers is moving from primarily B2B to B2C.
Consumers now drive the majority of profits, which is a stark departure from traditional publishing, but also an indication that the demand for print materials remains strong, despite the growth of digital alternatives. In 2014, newspapers generated $179 billion overall, outperforming the music and film industries. Circulation revenue beat out income garnered from advertising by a count of $92 billion to $87 billion, which is a seismic shift from past years in which ad revenue accounted for 80 percent of profits in some markets.
The future of print appears to be stable
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers report also found that global print circulation grew 6.4 percent over the past year, while experiencing a 16.5 percent increase over the past five years. This growth is primarily occurring in Asian markets, as the continent saw a 32.7 percent industry boom over the past five years.
More than 93 percent of all newspaper revenue worldwide still comes from print, the report indicated, which clearly suggests long-term stability and market domination. However, publications are increasingly investing in multimedia platforms to keep up with the expansion of digitalization. Innovation is the key to success in a demanding and constantly shifting market, and printers are recognizing and adhering to such standards.
Print will never be outdated or irrelevant
Gordon Kaye, editor of Graphic Design Magazine USA remarked in an article for Xerox that in a brainstorming session with other industry experts, some common ideas were agreed upon regarding the future of print. The group determined that print will always have a role in media due to its profound and powerful ability to connect with consumers. Touching and feeling an page is vastly more provocative than simply viewing something on a screen, and so in the design realm, Kaye's specialty, print will perpetually remain crucial.
Kaye noted that according to a survey his magazine conducts annually, 93 percent of designers work with print, and that using it accounts for 75 percent of their time. One of its key elements is its versatility – the source suggested that it is portable, convenient, accessible, easy to read, goes anywhere, and does not require power to use. It can also serve as a breath of fresh air for marketers or designers, as the incessant bombardment of digital information inhibits the ability to stand out online. This renders print media a ripe new resource, as recognition by consumers can be increased with its use.
Another aspect of print that is often overlooked, and in many cases scorned, is its sustainability – or perceived lack thereof. However, Kaye argued, the paper industry is actually quite eco-friendly in its current state, and is consistently embarking on new efforts to increase its "green-ness" and supply chain transparency. Meanwhile, he said, online providers should be more honest about the inordinately high levels of energy consumption they tend to cover up – these practices are more harmful to the environment than using a renewable, recyclable and biodegradable commodity such as paper.
Statistics and sentiment among industry leaders alike show that print is in high demand and does not appear to be going anywhere. For the first time in decades, newspaper circulation revenue outweighs advertising, an indication that consumers value these publications highly. Meanwhile, in the design realm, print products are an invaluable aspect of the workplace that cannot be replaced by soulless digital alternatives. Print is powerful, strong and sustainable, and it is here to stay.