Printing industry analysts have long predicted the end of hard copy, and they were making such claims even before the current recession.
Market pressures that have heavily impacted the industry are actually helping it. Companies that might have otherwise used digital communications to get a message out are turning to print because of the inability to source some types of information technology gear. Upwards of 1.8 million young people in the United Kingdom lack basic computer access. Traditional printed materials are helping to fill a gap that may start to widen as a result of income inequality.
Conventional publications may be on their way out in spite of this, but they shouldn’t be counted out just yet either.
Some Surprising Numbers from the Fourth Estate
It’s no secret that circulation numbers for newspapers, broadsheets and tabloids have declined in the last three decades. Economic advisers might be shocked to hear that 21 million individuals across the UK read hard copy news every single month. On the other hand, this is good news for advertisers seeing that these same people will often spend upwards of 88 minutes looking over their preferred periodical. Chances are that few people spend that kind of time sitting on the same website, which makes print a far more attractive option for those who want to publish long form content intended to influence their readers.
Online services and even analog broadcasting media can react with lightning speed to breaking stories. That being said, same day printing London services have proven that those with a need to get information out fast shouldn’t have any difficulty doing so. Many people simply ignore the 24-hour news cycle that they’re constantly subjected to, which gives printed publications a chance to catch up anyway.
Advances in both technology and management techniques have certainly made it possible for print to keep pace with the competition, but a number of challenges continues to impact the industry.
Why Print is a Changing Medium
Conservationists would argue that digital media are better for the environment. Others have expressed concerns about how many periodicals are controlled by a small group of multinational corporations who don’t allow for the free expression of divergent views. Regular consumers have complained that the costs related to purchasing printed books and magazines are far higher than those associated with equivalent digital products. Considering that reports from The Guardian alleged you could find any novel you want online for free in around 30 seconds, some may feel that getting potential customers to pay for nearly any kind of material is nearly impossible these days.
Ironically, representatives of the print industry have tried to make themselves seem sympathetic to these problems by discussing them in the open. Major newspapers like The Daily Telegraph pushed for decisive climate action while others have been attempting to devote more space to diverse voices. While these changes might help to prevent existing consumers from moving away from their preferred publications, they’re likely to do little to capture the imagination of people who currently don’t use print material very often.
Smaller organisations are leading the way when it comes to this segment.
Independent Printers Give Startups a Voice
Smaller businesses and political action committees that want to get a message out to untapped demographics have found that targeted print campaigns are among the most efficient ways of doing so. These are far different from the pamphlet initiatives that plagued consumers in the past. Representatives from Print Shop London, an independent organisation that offers sticker and flyer services in the city, have said that small batches of booklets have been better received by individuals than mass mailings ever were.
Giveaways, such as maps and bumper stickers, may not be looked at as an important source of information. As more people turn to walking or cycling as a way of getting around urban areas, however, these are becoming increasingly common. They’re usually provided to patrons of certain shops or visitor’s centres, so most people who end up getting them are already interested in the message being given.
Bookmarks and other handouts might seem unnecessary in a world that’s quickly moving away from print, but these too have gotten popular because of how easy it is to include a phone number or other contact details on them. They provide ample space to help businesses and charities direct consumers to their other channels, especially now that they’re able to meet with people in person again. Print shops have been retooling their operations to focus on these novel applications, and it doesn’t seem like this trend is going to change anytime soon. Judging by the fact that government agencies still rely on print materials, the market will certainly never go away completely regardless of how much things change.
Encouraging a Healthy Print Sector
Reports that the print media had spread a massive amount of misinformation has done little to encourage people to embrace the industry at a time that it faces so many outside challenges. Independent contractors are finding a variety of ways to adapt to changing times, however, and this should continue moving the industry forward.
Over time, it’s likely that the overall amount of printed material produced on an annual basis will shrink. Leaner, more efficient print shops will be able to weather the storm and even grow their business.