Can I have your attention please…

Will print media survive our digital age? You’re asking the wrong question, says Sarah Bartlett, senior account executive at Freshwater.

The latest research from the National Readership Survey found that 36 million people pick up a paper each month and spend more than an hour reading it. News brands’ mass audiences increase further – to a whopping 46 million – when you take consumption of their digital versions into account.

These statistics were sourced by Newsworks, a newly-created collaboration between the UK’s six largest national newspaper groups. Its ethos, in their own words, is to ‘remind people of the unique role newspapers play for advertisers, readers and society,’ and have done so by launching a £3 million advertising campaign.

In its latest print executive, Newsworks’ campaign shows a woman completely absorbed in the broadsheet in front of her – despite a King Kong-esque gorilla peering in at her from its ledge on a skyscraper. ‘Nothing works like news works’ it claims and, in an age of (what it calls) ‘media butterflies’, print newspapers are better than their digital cousins at catching and keeping our attention.

Not that the big news brands are turning their back on digital. Other campaign executions show a man and a woman reading side by side – one on an iPad, the other holding a printed broadsheet. The point here is that the news groups, as varied as The Guardian and The Sun, aren’t trying to simply survive in print – they are working to keep existing print readers happy while gaining loyal readers on digital platforms too, by offering new and enhanced content.

When investor Warren Buffett acquired 63 US local newspapers against a backdrop of booming social media platforms in 2012, people said he was making a mistake. Warren bought two more this March and continues to thrive. The chief executive of his media buying group said of the digital versus print divide: “the truth is the model that’s most likely to work is customer first.”


Our chief executive, Steve Howell, wrote on this topic for WalesOnline almost three years ago, and it seems that his conclusions are reinforced by Newsworks now – the media channels that will survive are the ones that respond to consumer needs, whether via print or digital channels.

The media and PR industry can often fall foul of neglecting certain communication channels and platforms over another – constantly looking for the next new fad. At Freshwater, we prefer to look closely at a brief, and work out who you need to reach before taking a holistic view of which channels are best for your audience – whether it’s old media, new or a mix of the two. In our experience (and we’re sure Newsworks would agree), adding in some olds to supplement new tricks is rarely a bad idea.

Freshwater delivers public relations and marketing campaigns across private, public and not-for-profit sectors.


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Impact Report 2017

Impact report 2017