News Corp: a lot of life in print yet

Print media remains utterly viable and a cheap way to reach large audiences.

That might seem like the type of statement which was made in the middle of the last decade, with froth rising about the growth of social media and editorial eyebrows being raised about the rapid shift online.

Yet it was the view of one of News Corp’s most senior executives when we met to talk about the future of media and the changing commercial models of the big publishers last week. Raju Narisetti, Vice President and Deputy Head of Strategy for the new News Corp, which was spun off as the publishing arm of the media and entertainment giant this summer, told how online unique visitors numbers were continuing to grow. But print remains a substantial portion of publisher revenue – and remains king for weekend titles.

He may be too humble to admit it, but Narisetti is one of world journalism’s heavy-hitters. His career has included spells as editor of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of the Washington Post.

In his view, there have never been more people consuming journalism, so regardless of format there is surging appetite for editorial output. I could write thousands of words about the fascinating insight into the top end of media change that he gave and you can follow him @rajunarisetti on Twitter for more, but here’s a quick blog-friendly summary:

  • Online news journalism remains highly attractive for readers: the Wall Street Journal Digital Network has 58 million unique visitors in August 2013 as an example
  • Print isn’t going away anytime soon, because in many cases it remains the cheapest platform for publishers and advertisers alike to reach mass audiences
  • The drive to create hyperlocal digital content has largely failed
  • The competitive advantage of news content can now be measured in seconds
  • Between 60 and 80 per cent of most newspaper publishers’ revenues remain print-based
  • Of that revenue, around 60 cent is derived from weekend publications, when the majority of readers still like to take extra time to pour over print
  • The Wall Street Journal now produces more video than any other publisher, but unlike its copy it doesn’t place it behind a paywall
  • Mobile may be a huge focus for media companies as formats evolve, but remains of limited use as a platform for investigative journalism. However, more people are reading and viewing journalistic content on multiple platforms
  • Paywalls will succeed if they’re seen as one more source of revenue
  • Journalism has become a conversation not just a ‘destination’ for content
  • Newsrooms need to do more to keep pace with the ways news consumption platforms are changing: the culture of newsrooms and shifting advertising revenue are the two biggest challenges facing publishers

Above all, the notion that digital advertising will supplant print advertising is now dead – it may have been the focus of concern in the past, but now the landscape is far more complex. It’s just not that simple.

I write this from a desk littered with a laptop, smartphone, piles of magazines, some newspapers and a tablet. It seems in the evolving multi-format, multi-platform editorial world, there’s plenty of life left in print yet.

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