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Published on 12 May 2011

Online Is Stalking Print - Slowly, but Surely
By Andries Botha
01 Sep 2010

Latest News

ABC figures aside, print newspapers are feeling the pinch. The web is fast becoming the reading place for news. Print is caught in a generation gap it cannot bridge. It has an older readership that out of custom buys the newspaper every day.

Online, on the other hand, caters for a younger generation who is not interested in the sensation and arbitrary news reporting. It is a gap that print can never bridge.

The generation gap is as big as ever and will continue to increase. The gap between the twenty-something's and the teenies is already bigger than the gap between the thirty-something's and the forty+ generation. The generation gap print newspapers are apparently struggling with the above and below fifties. The gap is however more one of a mentality nature than age. Therefore, the terms of Baby Boomers and the X and Y generation are more appropriate. The Baby Boomers are fast becoming internet wise while the X generation is fully internet active with the Y generation going mobile.

The information print gets from SAARF currently is probably not going to help them. According to SAARF, print has increased over the past decade. The ABC figures tell a different story. So, there are more people reading a single copy of a publication than ever before. (Otherwise, print readership would have declined with the ABC figures)

The top dailies have a readership of more than 14 readers per edition. This should ring the alarm bells for print, as well as for the advertisers in print. How long is this going to last? To lose a reader who does not buy a newspaper, but gets it from his buddy means one less newspaper bought and one more reader per edition. It magnifies the problem as the mainstay for print should be its circulation figures.

Print will have to come closer to the buyers of their publications and serve their interest. They still have at least ten years left before they will be swallowed by the internet. Print's challenge is to generate pages of content so that they have space for advertisers.

First option should be to go for a smaller format to reduce the amount of content created by columns and columns of space. This will reduce print costs, as well as the size of the editorial staff required to produce a newspaper. Secondly, they should be more focused. Newspapers are trying too hard to be everything to everybody. Newspapers are about crime, political news, economic news and sports. The rest are well covered by the myriad of magazines already.

The bells have not tolled for print yet. It will be around for another decade or so and it will remain powerful as long as people love to see their name in print.

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