Every month the UK ABC figures tell the same story. Print sales are down, digital audience is up. The narrative hasn’t changed significantly since ABC added website figures in the middle of the last decade. It’s like a soap opera with the same old boring storyline.
But two statstics are worth mentioning:
— Newspaper circulation in the UK has dropped by 1.4 million in the last 12 months. That’s 1.4 million fewer people trotting off to the newssagent for their Telegraph or hearing a Sunday Times land on their door mat. (ABC, July 2013).
— Subscriptions to digital film service Netflix has grown to 1.5 million in the UK alone in less than 18 months after launching here (via Guardian.co.uk).
A coincidence? Maybe. On-demand TV and films are hardly substitutional for newspapers. But what this shows is there is a vast audience out there willing to pay for digital content. As desire for print media falls, enthusiasm for paid-for digital services grows.
Here are the grizzly details of year-on-year declines in print, if you’re interested.
It’s clear which way printed media is heading. But is the demand for digital media translating into a burst of new money for the Artists Formerly Known as Newspapers and Magazines? Not yet. as the 2013 Reuters Institute Digital News Report found (full report, pdf):
Almost 10 percent of the UK public has paid for digital news – that’s not insignificant. But the modern consumer has an ever-increasing range of media products to keep them occupied.
And the kind of products the Artists Formerly Known as Newspapers are competing with are on another level when it comes to marketing, product development and new features.
Just yesterday Netflix announced users can save programmes to watch later, a small but useful feature that makes the £5.99 a month subscription slightly better value:
News UK’s titles adding football highlights to digital products this month was a major advance not just for News Corporation, The Times and The Sun, but for newspapers generally. It was admission that to compete newspaper brands must offer more content and value than they have before.
Whether it will pay off in the long term for News UK remains to be seen – but the product works very well for £2 a week. Whether people would pay that money just for access to The Sun website, with infinite free competition, is a resounding ‘no”.
News UK boss mike Darcey knows this well from his time at BSkyB, where he went head-to-head for consumers’ attention against the likes of the BBC and ITV.
There is limited consumer attention and even less discretionary spend out there and it’s clear that good product mix and good marketing is the way to get both.
This is all assuming that you have some products for sale of course…
Slider image via BinaryApe on Flickr via a Creative Commons licence