March 19, 2016

Print double bill – the long and short of it

Filed under: Consumer Trends,Marketing — by xrematon @ 3:13 pm
Tags: , ,

It doesn’t take long to get lost in the endless flurry of pieces that chronicle the dire state of the struggling print newspaper industry. Apparently, print ad revenues are now the lowest they’ve been since 1950, when the Newspaper Association of America began tracking industry data and when the U.S. population was less than half its current size. And over in the UK, national daily newspapers lost half a million in average daily sales over the past year. So it is clear things are not looking good in this sector, which is why my eye was caught recently by two new print media initiatives. Each is trying to find its ‘special place’ and fill a gap in the market, but with very different understanding of what that gap might be.

My first exhibit is a UK daily newspaper, ‘The New Day’, which launched at the start of March 2016. Its ambition is to cater to ‘normal’ women (primarily) and men who don’t get what they are looking for from the existing newspapers. Alison Phillips, the editor, describes what her paper is attempting to offer as “balanced opinion” and “positivity”. The former is a reaction to her awareness that “normal people cannot understand why papers feel they have a right to tell them how to think and vote. They find it patronising and insulting.” And the latter, positivity, is about not writing news that just all focused on doom and gloom.

Reading ‘The New Day’ revealed that these editorial ambitions have been realised, quite literally. Offering a balanced opinion is done by having ‘opinioneers’ presenting each side of an argument, as well as explaining developments through ‘why-isms’ and ‘what-isms’. The positivity is also quite visible – not only in the inspiring quotes that seem to pop up all over the place as well as through the opportunity for personal goal setting  introduced on the inside cover (see image below). Positivity comes through most prominently in the newspaper’s motto printed at the bottom of each page.

New Day

A somewhat paradoxical aspect to the paper is that whilst it bases some of its appeal on the fact it is print (as evidenced by this statement from the editor: “Children spend too much time on screens. And parents spend too much time on Facebook. The truth though is that you don’t feel good about it. You know you’re wasting your life on screen time. It’s a bad thing. Print is totally different. It still has all those connotations of being a good thing. It’s good to sit down and read, whether it’s a newspaper or a book); in its design and layout, it borrows much from the online environment. This is not just in terms of the informality of its prose and the curated aspect of its news coverage (no in-depth or ground-breaking journalist here), but also in the very short articles dotted about the page and the use of lists.

Commentators have been less than 100% complimentary about this new paper. And whilst I got the paper (admittedly free due to an issue with the cover price not coming through correctly at the till), I am not sure I would be willing to invest further time or money on it. It is indeed struggling to reach its sales targets.

My other new print experience is 1843, the new re-launch of Intelligent Life, the sister publication to the Economist. This magazine aims to offer a very different reading experience. As described by Emma Duncan, the editor, it is about offering “something longer, slower and more thoughtful.” It does indeed feel more weighty and kept me away from my screens for several hours more than the flimsy ‘New Day’ managed to. Whilst I enjoyed some articles, for instance, the travel piece on Antartica and the exploration of what Chinese students go through in order to get a place at American universities, some of the other articles felt more insubstantial than the ones in the New Day. A criticism of the latter is that it treats big topics in a superficial way; in 1843, there are small ideas which are explored with an excess of words. Examples include a four page spread written by some who got diddled trying to buy super fine wine, or long piece by a creep at the Economist on how they actually love working really long hours at all times of night and day.

I got 1843 free too (I am devoted and loyal Economist subscriber) and I can’t say I will be ‘unwinding’ with their new offering. After all that, I’m happy to stick with my beloved (free) supermarket magazines!

Print double bill

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