Why are newspapers still being printed?

Why don't publishers just let the printed newspaper die?

Margit Stumpp, the media policy spokeswoman for Alliance 90 / The Greens, is sitting at the last Monday Heinrich Böll Foundationin Berlin and tells what made her cancel her home newspaper's print subscription. One day the newspaper just wasn't as usual at 6 o'clock sharpin the morning in the mailbox. The delivery person had changed his route, which is why the sheet did not end up with her until a later date. The deliverer could not be persuaded to turn back, and even good persuasion did not change that.

"If the newspaper is not delivered until after six o'clock, then I don't need it anymore," then it is already on the way, says Stumpp. You have therefore decided to Heidenheim newspaperfrom now on read as an e-paper.

The example illustrates what this Monday afternoon was all about: the future of the print market and local reporting, and whether it wouldn't make more sense if the publishers let their printed newspapers die. Instead, they call for government aid.

Since the introduction of the statutory minimum wagethe cost of delivering newspapers has risen immensely - also because more and more people are no longer subscribing. In sparsely populated areas in particular, the routes for deliverers are getting longer and deliveries are becoming less profitable. So wouldn't it be better if people would all switch to e-paper? This would save paper and eliminate printing costs - one Win-win situationfor both sides, readers and publishers. But it is not that simple, the market researchers have found out.

On behalf of the ZMG (Newspaper Market Research Society of German Newspapers)their investigation appeared. The study is based on around 1220 Cati interviews that took place in two waves in 2019. The result: Yes, the optimal delivery time for newspapers is 6:30 a.m., and a little earlier for working people. This agrees with Stumpp's description and his own experiences. At about 70 percentof the subscribers, the newspapers are actually in their mailboxes at this time. Nearly 55 percenthave already started reading your paper by 8 a.m.

There is therefore a certain time buffer for delivery by 8 a.m. That would make a lot of things easier, because the deliverers could bring along other goods in addition to the newspaper or carry out contract services. At least in theory it would be.

The market researchers also found out: Would the newspaper first after 8 o'clockdelivered, this would result in a massive loss of existing subscribers. A risk that no publisher wants to take in view of the dwindling circulation anyway.

But what would happen if the printed daily newspaper no longer existed one day because delivery was simply no longer worthwhile?

According to a study by the ZMG, only a quarter of those questioned would be willing to read the newspaper as an e-paper.

The answer to this question is the core message of the ZMG study: Three quarters of print userscould therefore not imagine reading their subscription newspaper only as an e-paper. In other words: the danger that the loyal paper readers would say goodbye to the newspaper would be immense. The number of those who are particularly dependent on local information is increasing. All the more so since even public radio and TV broadcasters are nowhere near as deeply involved in local reporting as newspapers. The legal mandate forbids them to do so. The risk of getting information from dubious sources also increased.

This is precisely the main reason why the Bundestag has given publishers for 2020 Subsidies of 40 million eurospromises. The money is to be used to secure the delivery of newspapers to the most remote corners of the country. The sum is not high and in truth it does not help. Less than a cent would be used for each copy delivered.

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State subsidized newspaper delivery

Breaking a taboo for less than a cent

In order for advertising papers and newspapers to end up in the mailbox in the future, money will soon be flowing from the public sector. It doesn't help anyone. Why the publishers break the taboo anyway.

Even so, publishers want to depend on state supportgo. They hope that the 40 million euros could one day become more.

But how does the supposedly negative attitude towards e-paper fit in with the numbers from the circulation statistics of the IVW? The information community for the determination of the circulation of advertising media is checking the actual sales of newspapers and magazines and has only just realized: The paper circulation may decrease. However, e-paper sales rose again within a year, by 17 percent for newspapers and by as much as 20 percent for magazines.

The ZMG study resolves this contradiction: Younger readerstherefore regard the e-paper as a useful facility. However, with increasing age, acceptance decreases. This group is sticking to printed paper, and print subscribers tend to be older.

Of the over 50-year-oldsjust say 22 percent, you could basically imagine reading the e-paper of a daily newspaper.

The affinity to print increases with age

Margit Stumpp, who was not yet familiar with this study last Monday, said at the Heinrich Böll Foundation that she basically does not see why politics are doing this Transport of papershould subsidize. After all, it is not about saving an outdated carrier medium from ruin. Rather, the goal must be that Future of journalismto secure local and supraregional reporting - regardless of how it is disseminated.

One participant at the conference agreed. The tazdo it, she said. In fact, the taz has announced that in the foreseeable future it will forego the printed weekday newspaper in favor of its digital edition and only appear on paper on weekends. However, it has it easier than other newspapers, because its readers, many of whom are members of the taz cooperative, see their newspaper not just as an information medium, but as a social project, for which it is necessary to engage in solidarity. You have to force the readers to switch to the digital newspaper, said the conference participant.

But can a customer nowadays be forced to do something he doesn't want? Amazonhas done everything in recent years to deliver goods as promptly as possible. Customer Centricityis the keyword. For Jeff Bezos, customer satisfaction is a priority. Not out of altruism, but economic self-interest. This is how the book supplier became a global e-commerce giant. At the same time, the demands and expectations of customers increased. Forcing readers to re-educate is not very promising. Especially since the printed newspaper still forms the economic basis for keeping editorial offices alive financially. usi