From an economic point of view, it’s much more efficient to deliver content in digital than print. Digital delivery also wins on interactivity, speed, features, content types supported, reusability—the list is long and gets longer each day. If it’s not the case yet, I would bet that digital will beat print in every single feature in just a couple of years.
So, looking down the road, is there a future for printed newspapers (and magazines) in, say, ten or twenty years from now?
I could see (s0me) print editions surviving by redefining themselves as luxury items.
Luxury items are bought because of the aesthetics, the quality of materials, the sentimental value, the story behind them, the experience of interacting with the brand, the satisfaction one gets by buying them, holding them, showing them off. Nobody buys a $10.000 watch because it shows time better —even if it does!—, do they?
How could a printed newspaper become a luxury item? I don’t know.
I would guess that asking current subscribers could give some clues. If they say it’s the feeling of the printed paper, one should put a lot of effort in making this a great feeling and make a point of how only paper of a specific kind is used to print their newspaper. If it’s the smell, well, make a newspaper smell like the best newspaper in the world. If it’s about durability, make a point about the combination of acid-free paper and carefully selected inks that ensure each paper will last centuries. Work on typography, make it beautiful. Rethink the form factor. Work on image: holding a printed newspaper should be a statement of style, status, something. Redesign the experience of ordering and delivering each issue. There are so many things about newspapers that come from an age when a printed newspaper was a necessity, not a luxury. Make the subscription a valuable present I would buy for a good friend or a new associate.
Berg’s Little Printer could also be an interesting source of inspiration in this direction. They may be having troubles sustaining their business, but they had some great ideas on how delivering content in print could be redefined.
As I said, I don’t know how a printed newspaper could become a luxury item and I have no idea of the economics and logistics involved.
However, I do have a personal example: my WIRED magazine subscription.
The print edition costs 250% more than the digital one. And, to be honest, I don’t really need it, as I usually read it on my iPad and, in most cases, I could have read the same content through their website. But each printed issue is a beautiful item I like to own. I love the typography, the design, the print quality. I like showing off my collection of past issues to my friends. I like the idea that these issues will still be there long after I’ve moved from an iPad to something else. There’s no doubt: It’s a luxury item.
[*] Photo by Martin Kenny https://www.flickr.com/photos/coofdy/12245978213/
This article was also posted on Medium: https://medium.com/p/will-printed-newspapers-become-luxury-items-233d0439bde4