What does the social revolution mean for printed media?

All industries are faced with a cultural shift resulting from the social revolution. Publishing and printed media in general are turning digital and interactive, as well as social and communal. The industry needs to evolve quickly to adapt to the new reality.


News Corp Chairman Rubert Murdoch has predicted the death of printed media. “Instead of an analogue paper printed on paper you may get it on a panel which would be mobile, which will receive the whole newspaper over the air (and) be updated every hour or two”. So in a sense printed media is not dying, only the medium it is printed on is evolving in to a digital format.

2010 is the year of e-readers, net books and tablet PCs, with the launches of the Nook, iPad and numerous Windows tablets. News publishers are studying ways charge fees for digital content on these platforms, but this is essentially copying an old business model onto a new technology. Charging for source aggregation, priority access and in depth editorial content are all bridging strategies. Even when a consumer pays for source aggregation or priority access, they are paying for convenience and not content. We need to understand that the social revolution is not about a simple transformation from analog to digital communications.


Bonnier Corporation is a leading international publishing house with a large portfolio of brands. The above slogan perfectly sums up the future of news corporations and printed media. As was noted earlier, media is not dying; just the medium it is printed on is changing. With regard to a publishing house like Bonnier, with multiple brands, we are talking about a community ‘platform’, with multiple individually branded sub-communities. The role of the publishing house is no longer to generate content, but to connect people with their passions, providing a framework that enables them to generate content.

The web has a democratizing effect on media. We talk about User Generated Content (UCG). iReport is a news media phenomena, where every consumer with camera enabled cell phone becomes a live action news reporter. With the introduction of micro-blogging news agencies will always be behind the curve in reporting live action events. So is the role of news reporting evolving into trend analysis and expert commentary based on in depth research? In his book Socialnomics, Erik Qualman tells the example of an Idaho iReporter Jane, who beat the New York news reporters with real time coverage and local in depth research. So is there any role left for left for the news professional?


As in any community the role of the alpha brand is to facilitate and the same applies to news media. Ultimately the role of the editorial staff is not to generate content, but to stir, accelerate and moderate discussions. In the short term editorial staff can still provide in depth analysis of events and even charge a fee for that value content, but over time even that will be overrun by amateur experts.

The main success metric of any publication is its readership. In a community passive subscribers are empowered to be active members. In addition to contributing content, their role is to share their passions (evangelize) linking their natural social networks with the community. Social networks grow virally, through the act of sharing our passions, at a much faster pace than subscription sales and at a fraction of the cost.

With digital real-estate, our ability to monetize is vastly greater, as we can cater to a wider range of advertising needs and models. Additionally every event on a digital platform is recorded. By employing social analytics we can analyze trending within the community, which is of high value to our advertising partners, as well as inputs for the guiding editorial staff. Services such as eHow offer a commission on advertising sales to community members for the pages on which they have generated content.

The smart phone is the predecessor to mobile platforms, such as e-readers, net books, and tablet PCs. As we consider the future of printed media, we should consider the evolution of the smart phone and the monetization schemes that the platform employs. A part from calling and data plans, digital media content and applications are major revenue streams. More capable devices, such as tablet PCs, will make applications even more enticing consumers. What if a news paper had its own app store? In addition to being able to aggregate and filter content from a number of affiliated sources, I could also inject low cost widgets into my customized digital paper. In addition to reading about my favorite sports team, I could see real time results from a game. As I read the financial section, I could get a real time Bloomberg feed. Sometimes we read about a product that we want to buy. It would convenient to be able to click on text and images with an automatic list of sources from Bing, Amazon and/or eBay.

In summary, we need to see beyond the analog to digital conversion in to the new business models that a digital platform and framework enable. Change will not happen overnight, but we need to start moving in an interactive, as well as social and communal, direction.

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One Comment on “What does the social revolution mean for printed media?”

  1. […] Also read: What does the social revolution mean for printed media? […]

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