Traditional print media has been declining for well over a decade now, largely as a result of the increasing prevalence of digital alternatives which have proven to be more accessible and can break news in a more timely manner. However, despite this highly-publicized downfall for newspapers, the overall print industry is hardly fading into irrelevance.
Printers are being forced to adapt or go out of business in the 21st century. Print is developing into less of a broad medium and is targeting niche areas, finding success in several areas. Book publishing remains strong, and regions markets around the world have demonstrated lasting power within the industry. In addition, print marketing is re-emerging as a successful strategy for generating brand resonance. Diversification throughout the sector is keeping print relevant on a global scale, even in the midst of the digital revolution.
Print media is changing to reflect the fluid nature of contemporary news
Nasdaq reported that, responding to their well-documented decline in sales and advertising revenue, newspapers are undergoing restructuring initiatives to better appeal to consumers. In order to meet the ever-evolving demands of marketers, affluent households and millennials, print-oriented media outlets are beginning to invest in multimedia approaches to provide more comprehensive coverage.
The source also noted that publishing companies are seeking to diversifying their revenue bases and cutting ties with assets that do not benefit core operations in an attempt to cut expenses. In addition, many large-scale news organizations – like The New York Times – are offering a limited number of free digital articles in a certain period of time, Nasdaq pointed out.
After this limit has been reached, readers will hit a paywall, but the hope is that they will have become so enamored with the free content that they might choose to subscribe to the publication. This is a starkly different model than that which has dominated print media throughout the majority of its existence, indicating that diversification of revenue sources has indeed become prevalent.
Survival is the name of the game for local printing companies
Rapid City Journal contributor Jim Holland told the story of local establishment Simpson's Printing Co., which has endured 50 years of ups and downs within the print industry. Holland reported that the company has been forced to evolve in recent years in order to keep up with both industry competitors and the ever-expanding digital market.
Simpson's is currently in its third generation of ownership, and the present owner, Jonathan, focuses heavily on digital printing these days – including large images on hard surface materials and vinyl wrap, both of which are valuable commodities for marketers. Jonathan told Holland that innovation is one of the business's primary goals, as he understands the intricacies of the continuously evolving print market.
Despite some unforeseen circumstances hindering Simpson's during the recession – then-owner Dan invested in expensive new printing equipment, only to see the economy collapse a year later – the company has managed to constantly adapt to reflect market demand. Products such as business cards or packaging for retail products will always be sought-after, and these are areas in which small printers can continue to thrive.
The South African print market appears to be strong and sustainable
BusinessDay contributor Thabiso Mochiko wrote that the print industry worldwide is seeking ways to reestablish itself as a major factor in the global economy. Mochiko pointed to strength in the South African sector as an indication that print can be sustainable. She noted that the industry has an annual turnover of about 60 billion rand, which converts to approximately $4.76 billion U.S. In addition, Mochiko said that in South Africa, printers employ more than 45,000 people – a significant economic contribution.
Mochiko spoke with Printing SA CEO Steve Thobela, who argued that in terms of environmental friendliness, print gets a bad rap. Africa has been slower to adopt technologies that replace paper than mature markets, but Thobela insisted that this is actually a good sign for its sustainability. He suggested that while technology consumes energy and omits harmful emissions into the air, paper is a one-off in terms of carbon footprint, and it is also recyclable and biodegradable. This gives it an inherent advantage over electronic alternatives, since they require constant power sources to exist.
Thobela did admit that printers will need to work with digital platforms going forward, at the risk of fading into irrelevance. However, he said that electronic media can serve as an extension of the services that printers already provide, and these businesses should welcome the challenge of integration.
The global print industry has certainly taken its hits over the years, but it appears as though some degree of stabilization is being achieved in the aftermath of the recession. Diversification of offerings and revenue sources will become the priority for successful printers over the course of the next several years, and there do not appear to be any reasons why the industry should not remain strong.