Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Will Mobile Help Save a Dying Industry?

Last year in November, I posted my blog entry on how mobile is breathing new life into a dying industry: print. Back then, the word "iPad" had not yet been unleashed on the marketplace. Interesting to note that here we are a half a year later and my prognostication is proving to be correct. Once again, Apple proves that it has the uncanny ability to take existing product concepts, perfect the experience, and knock it out of the ballpark.

But first: a presentation of evidence to what you probably already knew. The U.S. newspaper industry continues it's 10-year tailspin. A simple search on Google using the keywords "declining newspaper industry" turns up almost 140,000 results, with about 4800 results for articles written in the past ten years. According to an April 27th article carried by The Sydney Morning Herald, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported that the average daily U.S. newspaper circulation declined 8.74 percent during the six months ending on March 31 compared wiht the same period a year ago. Circulation dropped even more the previous period with a 10.62 percent drop.

Magazines aren't doing any better. According to the Veronis Suhler Stevenson Communications Industry Forecast 2009, consumer magazines will suffer a compound annual growth rate of -2.8% in the 2008-2013 period.

The plain and simple reason for the decline is that people's consumption of media has changed from print to digital. Unfortunately, the heavily-unionized print industry has been slow to adapt.

So while I was partly right back in November with my prediction, I was also partly wrong. Back then, I saw netbooks as the consumer devices that would help breathe new life into the dying print industry. Wrong. But six months ago I didn't know about the iPad. Knowing what I do now, I believe that the iPad will both breathe new life into the print industry while at the same time greatly crimp the growth of netbooks.

All major U.S. newspapers and magazines have either already launched iPad versions of their content, or are quickly on the way to doing so. Publishing giant Conde Nast has already introduced iPad versions of GQ, Vanity Fair, and Wired. Softbank Corporation of Japan announced last month that they will be offering more than 30 magazines and newspapers to their iPad subscribers.

But not everyone is under the spell of Jobs' Reality Distortion Field. Disgraced former equity research analyst turned blogger Henry Blodget in his March 25th entry states a strong case as to why the iPad won't save the print publications' asses. (His words, not mine.)

Nevertheless, there are progressive minds at work in the crusty halls of Old School media. Marketers are starting to combine print media with instant interaction via mobile devices.

Mobile Marketer reports that Macy's has teamed up with magazine digitizer and distributor Zinio to present their traditional print ads for presentation within Zinio's iPad application. A two-page advertisement has a link-away to Macy's Spring/Summer Journey catalog.

Since catalogs are expensive to produce, Macy's has to be highly selective as to who they send it to. But with the iPad, Macy's can distribute digital versions of their catalog and also get real-time feedback.

Consumer electronics giant Best Buy is also starting to build mobile into its print campaigns. One of their circulars includes a QR code that enables readers to view a special trailer for a soon-to-be released video game. The print ad also includes call-to-action encouraging consumers to text the keyword BBYAPP to the short code 332211 to download the QR code reader application.

Slowly the print publication industry is recognizing that our collective preferences have shifted towards mobile devices. That is how we choose to consume our media and that's the way we been choosing it for the past ten years. We listen to music on mobile devices. We watch videos on mobile devices. We take pictures on mobile devices. We take movies on mobile devices. We get directions on mobile devices. We communicate with one another on mobile devices. We surf the web on mobile devices. We make purchases using mobile devices. We even read our email on mobile devices. Now, thanks to mobile devices like the Kindle, eReader, iPad, and others like them, we choose to consume our print media the same way. Let's hope the print publishers wake up in time to save themselves and realize that mobile is what will breathe new life into their dying industry.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think mobile will save the print industry? Will the iPad and similar products be the boost that they are looking for? Post your comments.


  1. In my opinion the iPad (aka giant iPod touch) and mobiles aren't saving the print industry in any real sense.

    We've had web based news for quite some while now. Phone based apps just make it more accessable on the go.

    The problem is they're all basically free and paying people to write costs money. Yahoo.News uses Associated Press articles just like the newspaper does, any local news is dependent on feeds from the local papers, and they don't currently receive much in the way of stipends from yahoo for that privilege.

  2. Vlad, your point about free vs. paid news is absolutely spot on. Only a few sites have been successful with paid content - The Wall Street Journal being one of them. Will the iPad bring an experience for consuming news in a manner compelling enough for us all to pay for it? The jury is still out on that one, I agree.