Reports of print media’s death (sort of) exaggerated

w14coversWe’re winding up our biggest publishing season of the year, having just finished the autumn production of the three magazines we publish: Schweitzer Magazine, released in October; Sandpoint Magazine on Nov. 1; and, just now shipped to the printer, Flyfisher magazine.

We’re happy with the final products in all three cases, and the feedback on each so far has been excellent. That is our goal, of course: to produce compelling publications people want to read. If we succeed with that, then we deliver premium exposure for our advertisers.

But marketers who know how digital media have overtaken the print media should ask: Are magazines and newspapers still a smart place to advertise?

It’s a good question. The publishing business is deep in the midst of huge paradigm shift in readerships, media habits and advertising models, as the Internet and digital media command larger and larger shares of both readers and advertising dollars. The funeral bells have been tolling for the print media for a decade now.

But the funerary preparations for print media, particularly niche publications, are proving premature. Tablet-only magazines have not grown as fast as predicted just a couple years ago; one study says three-fourths of U.S. tablet owners still prefer print magazines to digital editions. Interestingly, two previously digital-only websites – AllRecipes and Politico – have just launched new hard-copy magazines. Similarly, e-book sales that rocketed up the past few years have plateaued – at least temporarily.

That segments of the print media are holding up is mirrored in our experience. In fact, our own magazines have enjoyed respectable growth this year:

  • Schweitzer Magazine, which we produce for the resort, with a distribution of 20,000 copies, grew from 36 to 44 pages, a 22 percent increase.
  • Our Winter edition of Sandpoint Magazine nudged up from 116 pages a year ago to 124 pages this time, 7 percent more; we’ll distribute 25,000 copies.
  • Flyfisher, a magazine with national distribution of 13,000 that we publish for the International Federation of Fly Fishers, grew 17 percent, from 48 to 56 pages.

There’s no question that digital media will continue to expand dramatically – and in fact, we’re planning on it here, as we continually work to enrich our own digital products like and our weekly TownCrier newsletter. Those readerships have grown dramatically over the past few years. In fact, two weeks ago the TownCrier reached a new threshold when it mailed out to 4,253 subscribers – for the first time, inching higher than the paid distribution of 4,007 reported by the local Daily Bee newspaper in its October 1 postal report. And of course, use of social media like Facebook has grown tremendously; some local entities like the Panhandle Animal Shelter – with 4,594 “likes” as of today – command a larger number of Facebook followers then the newspaper has subscribers.

Note that these numbers bear some interpretation; with 2 to 3 readers per copy, the Daily Bee still commands a higher readership than either the TownCrier or PAS Facebook page, and in fact we often recommend the Bee to clients who are marketing locally. But the trend toward digital is under way.

Our local trend in print-versus-digital is typical of that being reported nationally; general consumer magazines like Newsweek or U.S. News and World Report have folded up the past two years, and daily newspapers have lost tremendous market share to the new digital media. But many niche publications are thriving. Take a look at Spokane, where in the past decade the Spokesman-Review newspaper has undergone dramatically reduced readership, page counts and advertising lineage, even while the niche Inlander weekly lifestyle tabloid has seen solid growth in all those measures.

In September we conducted a local market survey of Sandpoint-area residents, with 283 respondents; the survey methodology was opt-in by respondents and also skewed demographically toward females and the 45-64 age group. While we don’t consider it completely representative of local media usage, the results were instructive. In response to the question “What local media do you regularly read, listen to, or watch?” the Daily Bee and Sandpoint Magazine led the pack as most used, respectively by 69% and 62% of respondents; came next at 55%; and fourth-most identified was social media like Facebook, at 42%. The dozen other local media polled 10 to 45 points behind those leaders.

So, what conclusions should marketers glean from these threads of information? Here’s what we think the data says:

  • The reports of the death of the print media are indeed exaggerated. The print media, particularly niche publications, remain the biggest vehicles for advertisers to reach their customers.
  • Yet digital media continues to gain on print media, and companies are well advised to ensure they have an healthy presence on the Web, and to strategize how they can use online media to drive traffic to their websites and businesses.
  • An awful lot of your customers and potential customers are using social media, and you should understand how to utilize Facebook and other social media to connect to your customers.

If you’re weighing your marketing and advertising plans for the upcoming year, feel free to give us a call. Whether you choose to utilize our own media products or not, we’re happy to share our insights to help you maximize your marketing efforts. Click to contact us»


Dead Tree Edition: “A funny thing happened on the way to the funeral for Print media” (November 17, 2013)

Bonner County Daily Bee: “U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation” (October 1, 2013)


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