Why #FakeNews could be good news for print media
By Richard Jebb, Davies Tanner
In December 2016, for the first time ever, vinyl records outsold digital music downloads in the UK, with sales reaching £2.4m compared with £2.1m for digital music purchases. Not bad for a music format that was all but declared dead in recent years.
The record industry is thrilled about the resurrection of vinyl, not just because of the enjoyment and experience created by listening to vinyl, but because it cannot be copied, downloaded or digitally reproduced. The lower cost or free digital versions are easily available for download online, but people are choosing vinyl because of one key factor: vinyl feels authentic. And in 2018’s world of cheap copies, peer-to-peer sharing and the cringeful barrage of fake… everything, a product that has just a dab of authenticity is like a breath of fresh air.
So why is it that we haven’t (yet) seen a similar revival for print media? As the table shows, since 1997 the national newspapers have seen a 57% decline in circulation. That decline will have hit ad revenues hard.
The table below shows a number of major print media outlets, and how their circulation numbers compare from 1997 (first) to 2017 (second). Next to this is the percentage by which circulation has fallen in those 20 years:
The Sun 3,877,097.00 1,666,715.00 57.01
Daily Mirror 2,442,078.00 724,888.00 70.32
Daily Mail 2,344,183.00 1,511,357.00 35.53
Daily Express 1,241,336.00 392,526.00 68.38
The Daily Telegraph 1,129,777.00 472,258.00 58.20
The Times 821,000.00 451,261.00 45.04
Daily Star 729,991.00 443,452.00 39.25
Daily Record 703,090.00 155,772.00 77.84
The Guardian 428,010.00 156,756.00 63.38
Financial Times 326,516.00 188,924.00 42.14
The Independent 288,182.00 – 100.00
Total 14,331,260.00 6,163,909.00
* figures originate from the Audit Bureau of Circulations and show average circulations for January of each year
Which brings me to President Donald Trump’s most reviled nemesis – fake news. Or, more to the point, how fake news can lead to a vinyl-style revival of the traditional print media.
The continued existence of reliable sources of trustworthy news reporting is a vital component of healthy democracies and free market economies. It’s vital to our way of life. And by hindering the way democracies and the free market operate, fake news is a threat to all of us.
We need trusted news sources that authentically reports stories truthfully, without blatant bias and without making up lies.
The magic of authenticity
With authenticity on its side, the traditional print media is well positioned to own this space. Yes, in the 24-hour news-cycle printed news is old news, but immediacy only matters for what’s happening right now. Deep, intelligently thought-out and presented analyses of influential stories are what decisions are made on. Reading about news the day, or even weeks, after it has happened gives you a much fuller picture, especially when the article is written after enough time has passed for the full ramifications to be thoroughly considered.
And, don’t we all like the feel of reading from printed paper. Like listening to music on vinyl, printed newspapers and magazines feel special: Newspapers are rugged, awkward and have a nostalgia-inspiring smell, but there’s something wholesome about all that. It feels like you have to work hard to get your news and that makes it seem all the more worthwhile and valuable. Magazines, with their bright glossy covers that reach out to grab your attention offer all that is hot and exciting about the topics they cover right now.
Reading print is so much more engaging than reading from a screen, because print has the magic of authenticity.
It’s the kind of authenticity that people crave, because in a world of fake news, reading a quality printed newspaper or magazine shows you to be more discerning than your click-bait chasing counterparts.
The opportunity for survival I present to the print media is to brand their medium as like wearing a badge of honour. Conceal print readers within a special club of wise people that know better than to trust their news consumption to flakey-fakey digital.
Like listening to vinyl, going old school by calmly strolling to the station with a quality daily under your arm is cool; it’s the mark of someone who’s confident and aware. While sitting on the train obsessing over a tablet or phone screen, could be seen as just a wee bit, well, you know, sad.
Now, I’m not saying either of those statements are true. But they illustrate my point, which is to say that with a cleverly applied PR and communications strategy, print media could be rebranded as the choice for no-nonsense, intelligent and desirable people.
If it’s done well, in this era dominated by untrustworthy news outlets, we could see a major print revival that rivals the success of vinyl. With so much at stake for print, I predict that’s the strategy this industry will follow.