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There's life in the old dog yet

2008

Roland Berger study on print media in the digital age

Despite its many ostensible swansongs, the market for print media is quite alive and kicking. This is the result of a study conducted by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants on the future of print media. Multimedia competition with TV and Internet will become increasingly tougher in the future, because digital media have dramatically changed public interest in information and the need for entertainment – and they will continue to do so. German daily and weekly papers saw their average circulations reduced by 17% from 31.4 million in 1997 to 26 million in 2007. Over the same period, papers such as Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit were able to increase their circulations by 8% and 7%, respectively.

Given the huge changes in the markets, not every offer will actually survive in the long run. Print media need to take urgent action in the next few years: "With so many operational optimizations already successfully implemented, what needs to be done now is to set the strategic course for the next five to ten years," Alexander Mogg, Partner in the consultancy's InfoCom Competence Center, describes the challenge publishing houses are facing.

The media expert identifies the critical success factors: "Magazines and newspapers will only be able to achieve lasting success in multimedia competition if they really know their target groups and focus on the inherent strengths of print publications. We see growth potential in the premium reader segment and in other niches. The ability to fill a niche, strengthen the brand and improve competence in innovation will be the decisive factors."

Nine theses on the future of the print market

Roland Berger has repeatedly addressed the future of the print market in numerous projects. This can be summarized in nine theses:

  1. Consistent target group orientation and aligning publication as well as reader market and advertising market strategies within a comprehensive publishing concept has become a critical success factor for all publishing houses – print media can only successfully compete with other media if they are clearly positioned
  2. Media use between the individual customer segments is increasingly unbundling – premium readers are the most attractive segment for publishing houses, as these readers will continue to use print media in the future, are prepared to pay for them and are the best argument for the advertising market
  3. Online advertising is the fastest growing advertising segment – but print media are losing far less ground to the online boom than many had anticipated. Print media continue to be an attractive platform for image advertisements and premium classifieds
  4. In multimedia competition, print media will have to focus on their inherent strengths – beyond quality, these include providing readers with an individual experience and the deliberate choice to set aside quality time in their busy schedules. For the publishers, this means focusing more on agenda setting, background information and opinion pieces as well improving visual and haptic reading pleasure
  5. The mass market has been fully distributed, but niches still hold growth potential – However, some publishing houses still have to learn how to successfully fill niches
  6. Publishing houses offer limited cost cutting potential across all functions – but resizing content can still improve profitability
  7. Brand investments are generally worthwhile, because a strong brand is becoming more and more important in a increasingly fragmented media landscape. Younger generations have to be "trained" to become readers and get used to print media early on
  8. Experience worlds and events like congresses and seminars, entertainment events and travel are the next step for profitable diversification following the additional product business – and due to their coverage and brand awareness, print media provide an optimal platform for tapping these new growth areas
  9. As the dynamics of the media market will continue unabated, the ability to innovate and develop new products will become a critical success factor – publishing houses will have to be more creative and show that they have the courage to reform and experiment with new ideas by launching new offerings
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