When two become one
27 June 2012
The European print industry has transformed itself and embraced the opportunities that the digital age brings. As leading newspaper and magazine brands provide multimedia experiences alongside their print editions, industry leaders believe that the traditional print and new digital sectors are becoming at ease with each other
You may be forgiven for thinking that print is becoming the media of the past, partly driven by the rise of online and SMS advertising. Surprisingly though, the European print sector has bounced back from challenging times in 2008 and 2009, to the point that it now enjoys annual growth of around two percent. With more than 140,000 companies making up the sector, 85% of which are SMEs employing fewer than 20 people, the industry is now worth almost $186bn, with Germany, France, Italy and the UK contributing two thirds of the revenue in Western Europe.
The market is also buoyant beyond Europe; in the emerging Chinese and Indian economies, demand for print is on the rise alongside the growth of the middle classes who have cash to spend on consumer goods.
Tim Peppiatt, chief executive of Paperhat, a print management and creative service company, points out: “It’s just the type of print being consumed that is different. I think it is fair to say that reporting and accounts will migrate to online mediums, but demand for personalised print communication is still growing rapidly and continues to be met by companies using both traditional and digital printing technologies.”
A digital world
Print is a sector that has started to respond in the right way to the opportunities that digital advances have presented. Newspapers and magazines across Europe have launched multimedia digital platforms that sit alongside their print editions, while demand for creative solutions in print and online in the corporate sector also continues to rise.
Peppiatt adds: “The challenge print owners face, therefore, is to stand out from their competitors. This will require continued innovation from companies in both their equipment and processes to guarantee enhanced service delivery.”
Recent research from Info Trends on the European printing industry shows that print volume that originates online is expected to increase by an impressive 8% over the next two years to reach 18% by 2014. Much of this growth is driven by software adoption and print volume perspective in variable data, automated production, and web-to-print. “A combination of new technologies and a willingness by print suppliers to embrace data as part of their offering is also seeing them climb further up the marketing supply chain,” Peppiatt continues.
Data from March 2012 shows that readership of online newspapers has grown 2% compared to 2011 figures. Larry Kilman, deputy chief executive, executive director, communications and public affairs at World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, says: “Newspaper publishers were taken by surprise by the rise of the internet, but that is certainly not the case with mobile, tablets or any other emerging opportunity. The speed of adaption on these platforms by traditional publishers is necessary and also remarkable.”
With the merging of online and offline experiences in the newspaper world, Kilman doesn’t think that the print and the digital sectors are even separate entities now: “It strikes me as a bit archaic to refer to ‘European print media’. I can safely say that all European daily newspapers, and most if not all non-dailies, are now multimedia publications. We have to get beyond this concept of print versus digital when they co-exist. What European newspapers are trying to do is quite simple – to maintain print circulation and advertising and increase revenues, and to grow digital audiences.”
The magazine industry has also embraced the digital world with the number of apps available for readers to consume on mobile or iPad growing from just 66 in 2010 to 1,863 by 2011. Even so, print editions continue to thrive and 67% of Europeans aged 16-26 prefer reading paper magazines.
Andreas Schilling, chief executive of Burda Community Network, the central advertising sales unit of the Hubert Burda Media corporate group, states that some regions have a marked fondness for the paper versions of their favourite titles. “The Germans still love their magazines,” he says. “They spend $323bn per month on 2.5bn copies of magazines every year. However, intense investments are being made to keep up with the digital boom.”
The road ahead
So, although the print sector is managing to stay successful in such changing times, it seems that the magazines and newspapers of Europe have recognised the need for as much investment in the digital versions of their brands as the printed ones.
This is especially true in light of the discovery by researchers at the University of Helsinki that five behaviour habits have been identified as associated with print media post-reading activities: internet browsing; online socialising; multimedia use; further reading; and shopping.
Schilling says that the brands that remain successful are the ones that capitalise on this: “The business fields of successful print media owners must be diversified. For instance, Hubert Burda Media, Germany’s largest magazine publishing house, is strong in the digital sphere. However, strong print brands with relevance in their target group will remain valid sources for a long time to come.”
If forecasts are correct and the print volume that originates online does indeed grow by 8%, then it seems consumers will still access their newspapers and magazines in print format, enhanced by online activity.
Kilman concludes that, with the right strategy in place, the publishing houses and media organisations of Europe are in a good position to reap the rewards that the digital revolution can bring: “While the goal is simple, how they go about it is quite complicated – the old business model of circulation revenue plus advertising has been replaced by a wide variety of different models,” he explains. “Publishers are most certainly in control of their own fate, and they are finding different ways to maximise print profits while simultaneously growing their digital businesses.”
Ultimately, it seems that rather than the digital sector replace print, the two really have segued into one.
The reports of the death of print have been greatly exaggerated. While print as we know it is evolving, the platform is well and truly here to stay for the foreseeable future. The recent appearance of its leaner, speedier and more convent digital cousin is nothing more than a exciting development for those print media owners who have embraced the medium and in the process reinforced their brand. The future for print publishing looks ever so exciting.
By Amanda Saint