SmartPhones, Tablets and the Collapse of Print

Jeff Hayes
Mar 1, 2012

A couple items caught my eye this morning as I read the Boston Globe … on my iPad. I still subscribe to the paper edition of the Globe. I have enjoyed reading it over breakfast ever since I was a paper delivery boy back in the 1970’s. But it was raining quite hard this morning and I was running a few minutes late, so instead of going down to get the paper I pulled out my iPad and perused a variety of sites.

At the site The Atlantic was a blog titled “The Collapse of Print Advertising in 1 Graph“. After looking at the chart my reaction was - Holy Schlitz!

According to data from the Newspaper Association of America, inflation-adjusted print newspaper advertising revenue has dropped from a peak of over $60B in 1999 to about $20B in 2011. During the same period, digital advertising for newspaper publishers has grown from essentially nothing to just over $3B. The net result is that the newspaper publishing business is about 60% smaller than it was at the turn of the millennium.

Publishers are scrambling to regain lost revenue streams, but much of the business has slipped away to Google, blogs, and numerous ad networks and news aggregators.

In looking at the chart I am reminded of the precipitous decline in film-based 4×6 photo prints which dropped from 29.9B in 2000 to 1.5B in 2011. During that same period, digital 4×6 prints increased from 0.5B to 15.7B – leaving the total market at about half the size of its peak. Retail photofinishers are starting to question their long-term presence in the market, while much of the business has slipped away to Facebook and numerous ad networks and social media sites.

I believe smartphones and tablets will prove to be the undoing of most print markets, especially for consumers products like newspapers, magazines, books and photo prints. All the content is digital, most people have access to the Internet, and we are reaching a critical mass of consumers with a smartphone. Just today the Pew Research Center reported that 46% of all adult Americans have a smartphone – and 53% of adult Americans with a mobile phone own a smartphone. The percentages go up significantly for younger, more educated and more affluent consumers – the primary target of publishers and advertisers.

If your company is tied exclusively to print services or equipment the need to transform your business has never been greater. Your leadership team has to be open to change and willing to take some risks.


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