No, print media is not dead
There's a misguided belief that only older adults still read print titles. Research says otherwise
As modern technology consumes more and more of our traditional media channels, our way of working and our very way of existing, many have been wondering: “is print media dead?”
The answer to this question is “no, print media is not dead”.
As storm after storm hits the print media market, from the pandemic panic three years ago that saw magazines being pulled from store shelves to the AI tools today that promise to write entire e-books for us, local print media has stood its ground.
Local papers are the cornerstone of the print market in SA. Filled with community news and locally relevant shopping information, paging through the local paper has become an entrenched behaviour in our homes. It is woven into the very fabric of being South African — always has been, and always will be.
US playwright Arthur Miller once said: “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” This speaks to print’s longevity; it connects people to each other, whether they be newsmakers, community leaders, celebrities, or just everyday people like you and I.
Print media became an important way of sharing news and stories when paper and ink became more accessible. It is also a powerful storytelling medium. In an age when everyone has a story they want to share, the power of print to convey people’s emotions, their words and their truth, should not be underestimated.
There is little threat of fake news when a story is read in a reliable print media title with an upstanding reputationRob Fedder, Caxton and CTP group executive
Print requires no Wi-Fi, no charging, no electricity to be read, and the stories it contains are believed and trusted. There is little threat of fake news when a story is read in a reliable media title with an upstanding reputation.
Readers know this. They know they can depend on their local paper to help them separate fact from fiction, and make sense of the world around them.
In SA, 6.9-million adults (18 years or older), from Polokwane to Plett, read a local paper each week. For many of these people, their local paper is an absolute lifeline to what is happening in their community and the issues affecting their lives. It is their only source of reliable community information.
There is a misguided belief that the only people reading these and other print titles are older adults. The research tells a different story.
Audiences engaging print media content are well distributed throughout all age groups. More than 50% of average issue readers of print media are below the age of 35. According to Fusion (PAMS & Nielsens) 2022, 24% of print readers are aged 15 to 24; 28% are aged 25 to 34; 27% are aged 35 to 40; and least of all, only 21% are aged 50+.
In fact, this research shows that 55% of magazine readers, and 52% of newspaper readers, are younger than 35 years. In addition, almost 50% of people using advertising pamphlets or inserts for shopping decisions, are younger than 35.
Research shows that 55% of magazine readers, and 52% of newspaper readers, are younger than 35 yearsRob Fedder, Caxton and CTP group executive
When it comes to reading local papers, the stats are even more impressive: 68% of adults younger than 35 read their local paper and 60% of them use the advertising inserts in their local paper (ROOTS 8.0).
International research tells us that the public’s appreciation for journalism has also increased.
A Newsworks Study (2020) shows that 66% of people appreciate and value journalism more since the pandemic began, rising to 77% for those under the age of 35. Younger people are increasingly using trusted news brands to check what they see on social media. People younger than 35 are also more likely to change their opinion or behaviour after reading a news story, the research reveals.
There’s one more thing that print has going for it: the benefits it offers advertisers. Print ads generate a 20% higher motivation response (R.C. Brayshaw, 2020) than their digital counterparts, and deliver higher levels of brand recall (77%) compared with digital ads (46%) (Newsworks, 2020). According to Marketing Sherpa, as many as 82% of consumers trust print ads when making a purchase decision.
Connections, conversations, the stories that built a nation and that made us who we are ... they all started with print.
Since 1800, when SA’s first newspaper debuted, until today in this strange new world of an emerging metaverse, we are united through print media.
From our most-loved local papers to our favourite family magazines, we find common ground in the shared words we read.
There is a heritage there, and that will not be as easily erased as today’s chatbots would have us believe.
Spark Media is proud to be a sponsor of the MOST Awards, which celebrate the media industry's leading players in the areas of service delivery, knowledge and innovation. The 2023 MOST Awards took place on September 14. For more information, click here.
• About the author: Rob Fedder is a Caxton and CTP group executive.
This article was sponsored by Spark Media, a division of Caxton.