Can Print Media Adapt to Digital

Citzen Kane

Newspapers and Magazines are currently under considerable threat from the disruption of digital publishing and the shift in consumer consumption habits.

The big publishers in Australia, News Limited and Fairfax have just briefed analysts that they have a plan to “Evolve” their current businesses to meet the demands of the Digital consumer and advertisers alike.

This is no easy shift as disruption is always difficult from within the very empire that is under threat from change.  Managers tend to protect their bottom lines and resist innovations and processes that come from the new upstarts.

This has already played out in the 90’s as publishers failed to see the threats from “Category” killer upstarts in the valuable areas of Jobs, Cars, and Real Estate.    All of these categories now have built up  significant brands in Seek, Car Sales, and others that have ripped the value out of print media display and classifieds.

These same publishers tried to develop their own digital category offerings but were never as good or innovative as the challenger brands, which is a telling tale for the current mantra, of trust us we have a plan to adapt.

Perhaps lessons have been learned, history shows that challenger brands can impact on the incumbents to bring them screaming into the market with similar or competitive offers, however the market is always fragmented and shared in the process with lowering of margins for all.

Delivering on innovation while transitioning from legacy print business models and cost structures, to a media company that prospers in a highly competitive digital market is a revolutionary task.  The elephant of upstart digital companies is always in the room, who don’t need print based infrastructures and costs.

They talk of new engagement models, and increased quality of product, while simultaneously slashing costs, products and journalists and erecting pay walls, to wrench the final dollars out of their dwindling readership.

The new ground rules have been set and disruptors are not waiting for the titans to regroup.  Winter is coming, as the houses or Murdoch and Fairfax battle over a playing field that is already shifting.