People Seem to Accept The Prediction That Tangible Media Will Disappear


What’s the future of print media? In new business meetings, I mention that I’ve seen predictions that the majority of tangible media — especially print newspapers and magazines — will transition to online-only in the next five years. So far, no one has doubted or pushed back on that statement.

In a recent Forbes article, Where’s Media’s Silver Lining? The industry is in its demise, but there are opportunities to be had, Scott D. Anthony, president of Innosight LLC, an innovation-strategy consulting firm, and Clayton M. Christensen is the cofounderof Innosight, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the author of a half-dozen books on innovation, raise some interesting questions that they suggest media executives should ask themselves:

“What business are we really in?” The best way to answer that question is to understand what consumers and advertisers want. What job are they trying to get done? Do they want mindless entertainment? To be part of a community conversation? The answer can lead companies to focus resources on a few, well-chosen innovations.

But Anthony and Christensen don’t provide a real answer.

“Media companies still have ample opportunities to create and capture value around localized information,” they write, while noting that “Many small businesses spend nothing on advertising, either online or off.”

The real challenge is that an online-only business model has not proven to work yet. Sure, online-only news organizations don’t need printing plants or the workers who print and deliver the papers.

But paid-subscription models seem to work only for the Wall St. Journal and Consumer Reports. The New York Times’ subscription plan failed, as did the Financial Times. Ads placed around editorial do not (yet) bring in enough revenue.

I think most print will transition, but many will continue to struggle because, as Anthony and Christensen write, “Big media’s problem is that it was built on scarcity: one newspaper in a city, three broadcast channels, ten radio stations. Now anyone with an opinion, fact or photo can self-publish.”

The real question is how do you get online consumers to value editorial content so much that they’ll pay for it?

By the way, the same is true for magazines.

Although it makes money through its conferences, Forbes had better find an answer, too, to surviving in an online-only world.

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