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Plus Report - By Thomas Baekdal - January 2023

What is the role of print in 2023?

Several years ago, I published an article proclaiming that, as a media analyst, I would no longer focus on print. I did this for two reasons. First, it was pretty obvious where the trend was going, but secondly, and more importantly, I needed to help you focus on the future and print often got in the way of that.

For instance, I have been involved in several projects with publishers, where we had many great discussions, and good ideas for how to do something, only to see it undermined because "it had to also work for the print magazine or newspaper". This has been a source of many frustrations.

So... if that is my definition of print, why am I suddenly writing about print now? Well, it's partly because I keep getting questions about it, and partly because things have actually changed.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that print is returning, and I'm not saying that a monthly print magazine or a morning newspaper will somehow magically work again. Neither am I saying that I have a solution to the current price problem, with a massively increased cost for paper, ink, and distribution. Overall, I do expect the inflation to drop down again, but from a trend perspective, I don't see the production of print getting cheaper.

But, I do think print has a role to play again.

Let me explain.

To put it simply, the future role of print is the same as your other formats, like your newsletters, your podcasts, and other specific things you are producing to make yourself relevant to your audience. In other words, the future of print is to create a form of publishing that fits into something people need in a specific way.

This, for instance, is why podcasts are growing. It's fundamentally a very specific form of media, very narrowly defined in its use and need, but with this, it's really useful to people who need it at that moment.

But, in order to understand how this works, we need to define what moments and use cases print is good for, instead of just defining it as a general format as it exists today.

So, let's do this. But first, we need to talk about what not to do, and to do that, we need to talk about why the old definition of print no longer works.

From everything, to a specific format

Print has been going through the most dramatic change of all our formats. We started with print being the only format for distributed publishing. In the 1800s, you either had to go somewhere to get information, or you could get a print newspaper. In other words, in the beginning, "publishing" equaled "print". Those two words were essentially the same.

Then came the day when print had to share dominance with another channel, namely radio. This didn't really have that big of an impact on the day to day news, but in terms of time spent and public awareness, people started spending more time listening to the radio each day then they spent reading a newspaper.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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