In the 24-hour news cycle society we live in, we’re used to consuming content at the click of a button. Whether it’s scrolling through our Twitter feed in the morning, skimming the headlines on our morning commute, or reading the digital version of our favourite paper, we live ‘in the moment’ and publishers over the last decade have adapted to meet these societal shifts. But, the reality is that many of us still value physical things, and this is no different when it comes to the news.
The challenging climate we’re currently facing as a result of coronavirus has shone a light on this, and is really fascinating to me from a media perspective. Not only are publications changing the way in which they operate as journalists get to grips with working from home, but consumer habits are shifting. From a first glance, you’d think this would just mean the acceleration of online and digital media consumption – which is true, given that the majority of us are housebound due to the government’s imposed lockdown. But, we’ve actually seen an uptick in demand for print too.
As a nation, we’re relying on journalism now more than ever to keep up with the fast-moving news agenda surrounding the global pandemic. Research from Censuswide found that almost half (46%) of us are reading national news, and a further 45% are reading local news at least once a week.
The last few weeks have been particularly difficult times for some publications, and I was really sad to see City AM, a personal favourite of mine, temporarily cease its print and digital edition as a result of the crisis. Fortunately for me, the publication has shifted its focus to online, and I’m still able to read its content daily! We’ve also recently seen the London Evening Standard change tact. The capital’s commuter paper announced it would slash its print circulation by just over a third and has started experimenting with home-delivery in zones 2 and 3, as the outbreak forces workers to stay at home.
With our ability to go out to physically buy the paper restricted, the need for online media news has never been so pressing, particularly as the situation is changing so rapidly. But what does this mean for the future of print?
While this may be the worst global pandemic of a generation, businesses have recovered from the likes of the Dotcom bubble and the global financial crash, and – in theory – this ought to be no different. This pandemic may highlight the value of the immediacy of online news, but it’s also showing how much we value print, with a number of people, my mum included, using their once-daily outing to buy a paper.
There’s something nostalgic about holding a physical paper and for many people, reading it is part of their daily routine. And, since the government advised those aged over 70 to stay at home because of the coronavirus, newsagents have been reportedly flooded with orders and delivery requests. For these customers, having a paper in self-isolation is their link to the real world. And, with many not being able to access to the internet, it may be the primary way they are keeping up to date with what’s going on (although I’m sure everyone reading has been calling their parents, grandparents, neighbours and friends – wifi or no wifi – to touch base. If not – here’s your reminder!).
The media is a hugely important channel that we, as financial comms professionals, leverage to help our clients reach their target audiences. So, if Coronavirus is shifting audience consumption, businesses will need to re-think their distribution strategies and recalibrate their understanding of how their audiences interact to ensure their messages land with impact.
In spite of all of that is happening, this remains clear: in this digital age, we still really value physical things, and while online consumption may be on the rise, the future of print isn’t dead yet.