Newspapers and Change

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Newspaper publishers should be doing much more to counter the perception that print is bad for the environment. Consumers associate printed newspapers with waste, but correcting this impression doesn’t seem to be a priority for the newspaper industry. This has to change, even though publishers may have other things on their minds like the precipitous decline in print sales.

Printed newspaper sales have suffered for obvious reasons, such as the rise in mobile computing and electronic media. And business models have changed in the face of competition from alternative news sources and new media. Newspapers whinge about falling revenues from print sales in developed markets, but mostly because they miss the meatier profit margins on printed ads. They are so much higher than for online ads, revenues for which are also slowing.

But print ad revenues have also declined because newspaper publishers have been unable to come up with compelling reasons for consumers to choose print. Too few newspapers have done enough to add value to printed editions. Even fewer use transmedia models, linking advertising to content delivered across integrated media. Tied with ad sales models that exploit a newspaper’s ability to taylor print products to specific communities of interest, ad profits can return. Publishers may be producing fewer printed copies of each edition, but overall a transmedia approach can lead to rising sales and less waste. It also leverages a newspaper’s unique relationship with its readership, as a media independent broker between brands and their target markets.

A bespoke transmedia model is ripe for exploitation by newspapers. Consider super highspeed inkjet imaging married to a conventional newspaper press chassis and printing upwards of 83,000 newspapers per hour, each fully customised for a specific set of interests. Data rates and print quality still have to improve substantially before newspapers can fully exploit transmedia technologies, but the technology is there to make a start. The model is good for business and good for the environment because it means less production waste and less post consumer waste. Optimised and leveraged for the target audience, printed content has higher value so it is more likely to be retained for longer.

So far newspaper professionals have done virtually nothing to counter the perception amongst consumers that printed newspapers are bad for the environment. It’s time for the the newspaper industry to take responsibility for its impact on the environment and to remind readers that printed newspapers consume a sustainable and recyclable resource.

Wholesale change isn’t easy, but newspaper publishers could start by considering environmentally coherent business models. They could also start by celebrating print’s environmental credentials.

– Laurel Brunner

The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Epson, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

Please also include the Verdigris logo and a link to this website. If you don't already have our logos, you can get them by downloading the "Publishers Bundle" from our Archive page. And don’t forget terms of the Creative Commons license at the footer of the site. Enjoy!