Money on the table: Readers ‘will pay for premium print’

Mar 20, 2024 at 03:32 pm by admin

Print’s continuing ability to amaze and influence has left industry leaders asking whether the march to digital media is leaving “money on the table”.

It started with an interview with Schibsted senior vice president editorial Fredric Karén and Bonnier News chief executive Anders Eriksson in trade journal Dagens Media, and was further prompted by our newsletter headline last week.

Karén’s comment that “the printed newspaper continues to amaze us” brought a response from Per Östlund, chairman of Swedish editorial software developer Roxen. It follows research into demand for the print version of one of Schibsted’s biggest daily newspapers. Factors such as journalistic quality and delivery were ranked highest. Price, on the other hand, came far down.

Despite new technology reducing the cost of production, Östlund says printing and distribution are becoming increasingly challenging in a LinkedIn post.

“However, continued demand should be reason enough to look curiously at the paper's future and explore new formats that meet both the changing conditions of media companies and the needs of readers who value the unique qualities of the print format.

“Maybe we need to find new directions for the paper, where instead of delivering yesterday's news, a reduced frequency and increased format can be utilised to deliver more in-depth coverage for the reader to indulge in. Or perhaps we need to revitalise the e-paper and change our view of it as a necessary evil to something that improves the reader experience and trust?”

Östlund says – “as Karén and Eriksson point out” – the printed newspaper should continue to be seen as an essential product among many for reaching all readers with journalism.

“Because just like in any other segment, the different formats that make up a product mix should do just that – appeal to various target groups in order to enhance the brand's total value.”

He points to the “significant credibility markers, which to many symbolise the craft of journalism.

“In other words, having a strong paper also strengthens and brings credibility to the digital product. If we don´t take advantage of this, we possibly risk undermining the value of the whole segment.”

Östlund told GXpress he had been in touch with Missouri School of Journalism professor Damon Kiesow following the publication of his digital-focussed book on “news product management”.

“I found we are in agreement that the days of the print edition as a mass market product most likely are over, at least in the mid-term, but that there probably is a role for a physical paper to deliver quality, in-depth journalism, curated and layouted for a discerned group of readers – that are prepared to pay a premium for this service,” he said.

“And as such would well defend its place in the future product mix, together with other packaging of journalism – such as podcasts – where every product addresses relevant segments of readers/subscribers and contribute to the financing of editorial and journalistic operations.”

He said he hoped future might investigate if and to what extent, the presence of a high profile product contributes to the strength of the brand and thus influences the general audience’s brand perception and thus, the propensity to pay a premium also for digital subscriptions, when compared to digital-only news outlets.

“Lately, media companies have invested heavily in a portfolio of digital products but maybe not so much in researching the opportunity for physical premium products… where, according to Fredric Karén, there is little price sensitivity.

“Are we leaving money on the table?”

Östlund also refers to a 2021 paper, ‘The Values of Print: Affordances and Sensemaking for Newspaper Consumers’, written by Kiesow with Shuhua Zhou and Lei Guo, which he says, “points to some more or less unique “affordances” of print that are hard to mimic digitally.

“To me, the million dollar question is which of these uniquenesses are valued to an extent that readers are prepared to pay (a premium) for them.”

Peter Coleman


or Register to post a comment