I was shocked to read last week that Newsweek magazine is planning to end its life in print and become an online-only publication.
In retrospect, I should not have been so surprised. After all, I’ve been telling clients for years, “Don’t underestimate the value of online media!”
While Newsweek as we know it isn’t going away any time soon, it’s joining a long slow march that includes publications like The Christian Science Monitor and others that have adopted a half-and-half approach, including the Detroit Free Press, which cut home delivery to three days a week and ramped up its digital efforts.
Print is not dead – despite the headlines I keep seeing – but the numbers indicate a definite trend, and it’s one we can’t ignore. From 1990 to 2010, paid newspaper subscriptions dropped from 62.3 million to 43.4 million, according to a report this year by Pew Research Centers. That’s 30 percent. Meantime, newspaper website audiences are quickly growing – 111.6 million unique visitors last December alone. And that’s just newspapers!
Digital media is affecting every print-related industry you can think of, from the U.S. Postal Service and its plans to close or consolidate more than 260 mail processing centers, to the book publishing industry, which is getting a run for its money from e-books, to magazines and their promising boost in circulation from mobile device users.
What does that mean to those of us interested in gaining media exposure? When newspapers and magazines move their publishing online, they create a greater demand for quality content. News websites operate 24/7, rather than producing daily, weekly or monthly publications. They must be constantly refreshed with new material to keep audiences coming back. That demand makes it easier today to get them interested in you.
It also means you don’t have to hope for a superstar like Oprah Winfrey to give you your big break. The “Oprah effect” is now possible for anyone because the playing field is leveled. Yes, there is a lot of competition, but you no longer have to go through a lot of gatekeepers — Oprah’s executive producers, for instance — to gain access.
• If your book or product strikes a chord, it could go viral. In the old days, people had to hope, pray and fight for a spot on “Oprah” or a national publication like Money or Country Living in hopes of getting their message out to millions. Now, with enough exposure, good timing, a message that resonates and a product, book or business that people find appealing, anyone can potentially win that marketing lottery. Justin Bieber, the pop sensation, hit the big time after a talent manager spotted his videos on YouTube. More recently, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey – first published as an e-book and print-on-demand – became the fastest-selling paperback ever thanks to bloggers who generated great word-of-mouth.
• The potential online audience increases exponentially every day. With publications like the The New York Times growing their online paid subscriptions far more quickly than their print products, your potential audience is enormous. The Times has passed the 500,000 mark for paid digital subscriptions and, as of last year, The Wall Street Journal had 449,000. But many publications are allowing free access to their digital content, which promises even bigger numbers for popular publications. Your audience has almost unlimited potential to grow as readers share articles and post them on aggregate communities such as Digg.com.
• Thanks to instant access, readers/users can react spontaneously. That’s what we love about the Internet, isn’t it? If you see something you want to purchase, click and it’s yours. Users who read about you in an article online can satisfy their curiosity immediately. They don’t have to wait (and possibly forget your name) to visit your website, check out your book or product, and perhaps buy it.
Yes, I do believe the traditional media are still extremely valuable. We all consume information in a variety of ways — newspapers, magazines, television and radio have plenty of devoted fans. While I get news online, nothing will ever start my day better than the morning paper and a cup of coffee!
The landscape is changing though, and if you want the most exposure possible, it’s vital to include online media in your plans.
Always just a click away,