Why print business models are in trouble

This excellent piece by Philip Meyer gives an overview of why newspapers (and this extends to magazines) are struggling, and what they can do about it.

The central problem is the ‘unbundling’ of content, the effects of which are going to change everything about business models for newspapers and magazines.

The old world Distribution involves huge expense – trained staff producing the content, outlay on printing costs, then the cost of putting the product on lorries and shipping it around the country (or the world). This is offset against the fact that the available channels for consumers to receive this content are limited, and the consumer knows that even if they just want to get one bit of information (eg. the crossword puzzle) they have to buy the whole ‘bundle’ (eg. the newspaper).

Magazines in particular respond to this by bundling together a diverse range of sections (restaurants, homes and gardens, motoring, fashion), knowing that readers who want any one section will have to buy the whole bundle.

I like reading the Guardian daily supplements (G2, Media Guardian etc), so I buy the paper – but I rarely read the actual news bit, which I check online instead.

The new world There is no need to buy the bundle – online you can go straight to the exact piece of content that want, and disregard the rest. This means that bundling is redundant, as are the huge and expensive distribution machines that went alongside it.

While Meyer’s piece suggests localised coverage, the other alternative (particularly for magazines) is strict subject-based specialisation – focusing on a (potentially global) community unified around an area of interest rather than a geographic area. That’s kind of where Shiny Media went with their blog empire.

More on what this means for individual journalists later.

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