Depending on who you talk to, print newspapers are going through their final rattle or simply finding a place in a new, broader interdependent media landscape. Even within the Hello Starling office, who you talk to (and whether or not they’ve had a cup of tea at that point), will present a variety of opinions. Because the truth is, none of us are absolutely sure about the future of print as a format and of the future viability of print advertising. We know it works right now and we provide value to our clients through an understanding of what media works now, and not what will work tomorrow. Having said that, it pays to keep an open mind. If you can imagine a future with a much reduced newspaper print industry, we can counter with a vision in which print newspapers remain an important medium.


We don’t however consider it an idle process to think about the media landscape of tomorrow. We might not create media plans based on future developments, but we do intend on still being around and being as well informed as we can be. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.


Glass half-empty


The internet isn’t going to unhappen. Being able to measure clicks and website visits might not be the holy grail we were promised back in the late 90’s (what with non-human traffic, click fraud and all that), but the digital landscape has so fundamentally changed the way we consume media it can’t help but have a similarly game changing effect on the ad business too. Ultimately, it’s hard to go back to finding and paying for physical media when you can get it, usually much more conveniently and for free, online.


Media Briefing Paper Readership


Image via:


This is clearly backed up by readership (and projected readership) figures. We’ve mentioned media/tech future writer Clay Shirkey on the blog before, but it’s worth reiterating part of his (normally prescient) vision of the future: the moment it becomes too expensive to deliver a paper to non-metropolitan regions, overall readership drops off a cliff, and advertisers disappear wholesale too. Since not every paper will have a Jeff Bezos figure riding over the hill to save it, this vision delivers a severely depleted print output as firms go online or just go under. Which (speaking as a consumer) is terrifying, as it might lead to the complete victory for that most insular of titles: ‘The Daily Me’.


Glass half-full


Newspapers aren’t sitting still and simply watching readers disappear online. A very active fightback is in process – on the one hand featuring a mix of digital/print subscription models (papers need to find a way to supplant lost print ad revenue, since it’s not being recovered online), and on the other promoting the very real benefits of print over digital to both advertisers and consumers alike. We consume media differently in print than we do online, and that includes ads. It would be an odd brand that didn’t want to take advantage of a more mindful consumer. And while print adverts are an accepted part of the furniture, online ads are still trying to find a method that works for brands and doesn’t infuriate consumers.


What we can say for sure is that print adverts work, and that we don’t need a crystal ball to know, unless the audience disappears, that this won’t change. We will happily keep recommending it, particularly when used as part of a bespoke media mix, so long as it keeps offering our clients value for money.


By Oliver Brown