I love print… there I said it

09/05/2013 — Leave a comment

I Love PrintSo the Trader Media Group is taking it’s portfolio, including Autotrader, online only. The classified-car-sales elements of its business sit particularly well on the Internet and this jump to digital is probably a smart move

Is this another nail in the coffin for print?

I still talk and write a lot about print. In my weaker moments – as I work to position myself in my new state of self-employment – I worry about not appearing digital enough. Everyone is talking digital and that’s maybe where the work is; my biggest nightmare is that someone says, “Oh Peter Houston, he’s a print guy”.

I’ve been in print publishing for 25 years, but I’ve been in digital for 20 – ever see a magazine on a CD-ROM? When I started out in publishing, print was the only game in town, but that was a long, long time ago. So why do I still talk about print when so much of the conversation is digital?

Because I still love print… there I said it… I still love print.

I take some comfort from the fact that I’m not alone. This year’s PPA conference exposed a few print fans. Grazia editor Jane Bruton told the conference print will always have a place because, “You can’t read an iPad in the bath“.

Update: Some reservations have been raised about the “Bath Reading” strategy as a likely saviour of print publishing. Mr Neil Thackray summed up the debate on Twitter, “I am not sure that the ability to read a mag in the bath will save the print model”. It has also been pointed out that you can actually read an iPad in the bath if you use a TrendyDigital WaterGuard iPad case.

More importantly, the fourth annual Publishing Futures Report launched at the conference reported that consumer magazine publishers still generate a healthy 78% of their total revenues from print; and B2B publishers a not insignificant 40%.

My print love is not some doomed “Lo what light through yonder window” style infatuation. It has a future if we want it. Professor Samir Husni, Mr Magazine, says if your magazine goes away it wasn’t because print died, it was because you committed suicide. Dying is something that happens to you. Suicide is something you do to yourself, something you control.

You can choose go all digital, and give up on print – if you’re losing money on print on your offering works better online you probably should ditch it. But if your print products can still deliver a return, why give up on them? Just because they might not be viable in 10, five or even three years? Why not work to make the most of the time you have left. Better still, why not work to create an integrated crossmedia brand that takes advantages of both mediums.

Back at the PPA conference, the panel on multiplatform publishing seemed to agree that print has its place in the future media mix.

A report on Journalism.co.uk has Simon Kanter, Editorial director at the Haymarket network, lauded for it’s London 2012 print daily, saying it’s not a question of “print vs digital” but of print being a part of the mix and using skills developed in print media across the range of digital platforms.

Maybe it’s just not fashionable to bang the print drum. It can certainly seem like hard work juggling two publishing strategies at once, making sure that both add value. But it’s not two publishing strategies, it’s one: a crossmedia strategy combining print and digital channels.

So, from here on in I refuse to worry about being seen as a print guy… or for that matter a digital guy. Like my kids, I love print and digital equally. They’re different, they can be hard work, but I love them equally.

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