December 2014
Volume 34 No. 7

December 2014
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The publishers’ share of faults is hard to swallow, but at least print media should stop commiserating its ills and think about all the good things it has to offer.

By Dom Serafini

Print media is going through tough times and the difficulties are often attributed to digital media, but not everyone agrees. In my view, the problems lie within print media itself.

Let me offer an example. Recently, a long-established newsstand in the Westwood Village section of Los Angeles closed down (photo below) and now the university town, which houses the UCLA campus, is left with no newsstand and no bookstore.

As far as I know, no print publication has done anything to save the newsstand, most likely attributing its demise to “modern times,” or the “economy,” or to “new paradigms,” or to the “matter of time” or “inevitability.”

“Print publishers don’t know how to leverage their strengths and enter into new areas. Here the modus operandi should be: ‘follow the money.’”

Granted, publishers could always say that many stores throughout the UCLA Village carry newspapers and magazines, but a newsstand remains the symbol of print media and through their inaction, the publishers are resigning themselves to what they are made to believe is the eventual demise of print media. And if publishers don’t see the value of symbolism, they should think of newsstands as valuable publicity billboards or local profit centers.

In this case, key L.A. publishers, like the Times or the Daily News, should have teamed up to save the newsstand with incentives by offering, for example, to sell subscriptions on their behalf with pick-ups at any newsstand.

Another problem that publishers have to face is distribution. Nowadays independent distributors do not help newsstands. In New York City, for instance, newsstands don’t carry certain print publications because they can’t get a percentage of the sale.

To solve this problem, publishers should form not-for-profit cooperatives to distribute print publications in a way that also benefits newsstands and encourages them to promote print media.

Then there is advertising. The constant complaint is that print advertising is migrating to digital media, but without providing any general benefits to that media, and thus it is not a solid source of revenue for either media.

This is happening because print publishers don’t know how to leverage their strengths and enter into new areas. Here the modus operandi should be: “follow the money.” And where do companies spend their advertising money? At consumer fairs, that’s where: automotive, fashion, foodstuff, electronics, etc.

Digital media is effective mostly before the fairs start, but at the shows themselves, consumers don’t have the time to be informed online, and that is when the printed publication comes in handy. It would be relatively easy for print publishers to produce show dailies, which can also be incorporated into their regular editions.
Another issue to solve is the editorial offerings. For example, the sports section of dailies like

The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times insist on focusing on sporting events that the tabloids cover much more extensively. At the same time the broadsheets tend to neglect sports that the tabloids don’t cover well, such as football (soccer), cycling, Formula 1 auto racing, motorcycling, sailing and so on.

On the financial side, publishers should stop relying on Wall Street money and instead, like they did in the early years, go for wealthy individuals who don’t insist on the Street’s annual returns in the order of 25 percent.

Finally, like presidents and CEOs, the roles of publishers and editors should return to the olden days when they were combined: the new challenges demand different forms of operational synergies.

In conclusion, yes, digital media is proving a tremendous challenge to print media, but the latter, so far, refuses to change, adapt and respond, preferring instead to commiserate its ills