Print ‘thriving in wider publishing ecosystem’, finds UPM white paper

‘The Future of Media: How digital-to-print revenue models continue to shape the industry’ is one of four white papers produced this year by FIPP in collaboration with UPM Communication Papers, one of the six business areas of UPM the Biofore Company. The white paper explores the value print continues to bring to publishing portfolios and how print fits into the wider publishing ecosystem.

The paper’s author, Jon Watkins, a content marketing and media consultant, told delegates to FIPP Insider in Paris earlier this month he set out to highlight opportunities for publishers to engage more of their audience and generate more revenue through a multitude of (publishing) channels – not just print or digital. To do this – and with the help of some of the most influential publishers in the industry – they first looked at the current publishing landscape, particularly with regards to digital usage and trends. 


Future of Media cover ()


Adapt and reconsider

The evidence pointed to the fact that digital disruption is escalating and will put even more pressure on the publishing industry to adapt and reconsider their approach. 

Some of the digital disruptions they took note of were:

– The growth of podcasts. Since 2017 up to 44 per cent (124 million) of the American population has listened to podcasts;

– Smart-speaker penetration had reached almost 50 per cent in markets where they are available;

– WhatsApp is now used for news distribution by around half of online users in countries such as Malaysia (54 per cent) and Brazil (48 per cent). In Spain (36 per cent) and Turkey (33 per cent) it is used by around one third of the population for sharing news; and

– Digital publishing subscriptions have become the most important revenue stream for news publishers worldwide, at 44 per cent.


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Print continues to thrive

Despite the continued growth in digital usage, said Watkins, statistics also support the notion that print continues to thrive. 

This includes:

– 58 per cent of subscribers still describe themselves as primarily print-oriented;

– 60 to 80 per cent of publisher revenues are still generated from print;

– In the US, the top 25 print magazines reach more adults and teens than the top 25 prime time television shows; and

– 24.6 million UK adults were reading news brands daily, as well as 36 million reading magazines monthly.

Within this wider ecosystem, said Watkins, publishers should not be thinking about creating content for digital or print, they should be thinking about how they want to connect with different audiences. The need to ask: what does each audience want and how do we get it to them in the way they want it?


A more complex ecosystem

“As print continues to thrive, it finds itself in a more complex ecosystem. Print isn’t for everybody in the same way podcasts are not for everybody…what successful publishers are doing is that they are considering what different audiences want. They then segment their audiences not only by the type of content they want but also by the formats they want to receive that content.”

He said those publishers that take this approach, understand the crucial role print can play.  “In fact, in this ecosystem print isn’t threatened, it enhances it and gives it new opportunities to thrive.” 

Watkins quoted Troy Young, President of Hearst Magazines, who maintains there remains “something really wonderful” about print. Young said: “Print is heavily edited and curated and it’s like an event that happens once a month…it’s a lean-back experience that I think gives a consumer a break from the intensity of the digital world. And I think increasingly that people are going to look for that. So, print plays a really important role in saying this is important and this has a place in culture, and take a moment to think and read about this and consume it. And I think our magazines are going to play an important role in how we do that for a long, long time.”



Troy Young Future of Media ()


Print and digital mix

Watkins said those who accept the fact that print has an important role to play in reaching audiences, also need to understand that this role is now part of a print and digital mix. This is evidenced by the large number of publishers who run successful multi-platform strategies to reach different audience groups through different platforms and formats. Examples include publishers and brands that are delivering content across print, social media, digital platforms, television and more.

Watkins referenced several examples demonstrating that print and digital provide the optimum mix if publishers innovate to bring print and digital together. As one example, Bauer Media’s Empire Magazine (UK) featured a print cover that talked back to readers. They embedded an interactive speaker in the cover, meaning that when readers pressed a button, they could generate an immediate spoken response to their questions. 

In another instance, Swedish furniture giant Ikea introduced technology to a brochure in response to research that revealed that “nine in ten people in the UAE are not getting the ideal eight hours of sleep a night”. They added a ‘white noise and lavender’ treatment to an advertising page in the brochure which enabled readers to remove it and plug it into a USB charger. Once activated the page emitted a white noise frequency and a port released an aroma from the lavender infused ink to help users sleep. 



Print and digital - future of media ()


Multi-channel engagement

Watkins also referenced examples where a mix of print and digital provides publishers with the opportunity to engage different audiences through different channels and platforms. This enhances the brand experience in “an always-on fashion” and allows to seek further brand extensions in a bid to enhance the consumer’s loyalty even further and to find new revenue opportunities. 

The example taken from the UPM white paper is that of Bauer Media’s Motorcycle News (MCN). This newspaper sells 60,000 copies a week but also has a website with 2 million unique weekly users. Bauer added profitable brand extensions to the title such as MCN Sport and some bookazines. They have now also added a e-commerce shop to the website and an insurance product. This has become a significant business in its own right, not to mention the four motorcycle shows they host annually.



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