Wednesday, December 12, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: Print Will Remain Vital

BoSacks Speaks Out: Print Will Remain Vital

I've had four or five print salesman write to me yesterday and complain about my recent rant of a digital vs. a print geocentric future. Here is the full dope on he subject.

I have never said that print is dying or even withering on the vine. Nope, I never said it. I think print will have a fine half-life as we proceed into the new world order. Print will happily be around for several generations. And for the printers reading this, they can/will or might have a very successful career. I can say this as I am a print manufacturing specialist of 37 years, I understand the print process better than most, and I am a believer in the mystique of ink on paper.

But that affection does not blind me to the near and future prospects of new information distribution. My friends, it is possible for you to believe in the happy prospects of a viable print career and at the same time understand that digital is going to supplant print as the number one source of reading.

It is going to happen, in fact, it is already happening. So what? There are plenty of millionaires in the radio business 50 years after the advent of television. There is room in this world for parallel systems of communication. Print, TV, Radio, and the digital World Wide Web can coexist without all the damn rancor. Don't be so paranoid and defensive; it serves no logical purpose except to deny the societal trends before your eyes. Pick your career and ride it for all it's worth, but don't complain to me for covering the facts and possible future of our industry.

The Internet is here to stay and so is the digital process. It is not going to get weaker, but rather stronger and much more impressive and robust. It will imbed itself into everyone's life in ways we can't even imagine.

And, oh yes, every one of the complaints of my coverage that I received today came to me over a blackberry digital device. I say that is case closed.

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
William Arthur Ward (American dedicated scholar, author, editor, pastor and teacher)

Print Circ. May Decline, But Will Remain Vital
Tim Bowdler, Johnston Press CEO: print circ. may decline, but will remain vital

Tim Bowdler, one of UK's most respected press chief executives, CEO of Johnston Press, agreed to release an exclusive statement for the Weblog about his outlook on the future of the industry. In the following, he both acknowledges the realities of decreasing sales and debunks excessively gloomy forecasts.

"You could be forgiven for being very gloomy about the prospects for the newspaper industry at the present time. Indeed, if you listened to the financial community you would receive a very grim analysis with cyclical declines driven by weakness in the economy exacerbated by the structural challenges which our industry faces. They would emphasise declining circulations and the failure of several recent attempts to sell regional newspaper titles. Share prices have been badly affected; Johnston is at half the level it was at the beginning of the year. One analyst, who chose to remain anonymous, described the industry as being in its "death spiral".

I am in no doubt that the gloom expressed by the financial community and others is greatly overdone, much of it based on a poor understanding of our industry.Underlying cyclical trends are obviously something we have to contend with and in some areas of our business we have recently seen weakness in advertising revenues as a result. Whilst there are also structural challenges, migration to websites has not had a significant impact. This has been much more as a result of events like motor dealer consolidation and the sea change in public sector spending levels which has resulted in a dramatic reduction of job recruitment in that area of the economy.

Whilst circulations are in decline, this has been largely confined to daily newspapers and most obviously those serving the larger metropolitan areas. Weekly paid-for newspapers which make up a significant part of the UK regional press have suffered relatively little over the past decade and publishers are not sitting inactive watching sales drift away, but are instead launching new titles, targeting geographic and demographic niches and in that way continuing to ensure high levels of market penetration and advertising response. Taking a longer term view, I suspect we will sell fewer newspapers, but, when coupled with these new print launches, we will continue to achieve high levels of market reach which will be further extended by our rapidly growing digital channels. The regional press in the UK has also been investing in modern printing plant and new IT systems which will help to drive ever-increasing levels of operating efficiency, improved quality and enhanced customer service. And, of course, the industry is investing heavily in digital channels which have become an embedded part of the local publishing mix and an extension to our print based activities.

I have no doubt that the regional press will play an important role in the media industry for many, many years to come and that print will remain a vital part of the local media mix. As I have said, the print mix will continue to adapt, reflecting changes in market conditions and our new digital channels will expand our penetration into local communities whereby we will reach greater numbers of people than the being newspaper publishers to community media companies which will continue to exploit the huge investment we have in resources on the ground in journalism and our sales people."

Tim Bowdler recently announced he would retire from Johnston Press in 2009, once a suitable successor has been found. In 13 years, he took the company from being a "publisher of small local newspapers with a market capitalisation of £65m to a £700m group with 318 titles," reported the Daily Telegraph.

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