Although readers and advertisers continue to flock to the Web, print products still have a place in the digital age, according to a panel of media research executives that met last month in Leesburg, Va., for Outsell's annual Go! Conference.
There are numerous Web sites that grew out of print products, but the future most likely will bring a reverse trend, the panelists said.
"Print can be a legitimate spinoff from the Web and can be customized for a particular audience and its subgroups," said David Worlock, chief research fellow at Electronic Publishing Services, which is owned by Outsell. "Print will become much more specialized."
Chuck Richard, VP and lead analyst at Outsell, said, "Print will not die," and pointed to several print publications that have been created by IT media company TechTarget.
Media companies, Richard said, need to step up their tracking of readers and decide which medium is most suitable for them. "We're in the age of the `attention economy,' " he said. "Everybody is scattered, and you have to do everything possible to get your audiences and advertisers."
Ken Doctor, an affiliate analyst at Outsell, added: "What works best online doesn't work in print. But don't go crazy and just start to flip from one medium to another."
While Outsell analysts scoffed at the notion that print is doomed, the focus of the two-day conference was on how information-based companies can better prepare for an increasingly electronic world.
The 185 attendees, many of them business development executives, were given advice on how to get a handle on digital platforms ranging from wikis to blogs to Web 2.0, a catch-all phrase that describes the ongoing transition of the Internet from a collection of Web sites to a computing platform serving Web applications to end users.
Matthew Roche, founder and CEO of Offermatica, focused on how information companies can improve the performance of their Web sites?particularly when goals outstrip budgets. "Most Web sites look exactly like they did in 1999, and the user experience is getting calcified," said Roche, whose clients include BusinessWeek, CNET Networks, Fortune and FT.com. "There are lots of good ideas that are cropping up on how to take advantage of Web 2.0. You need to tap into the younger generation and lead by listening."
Another recommendation from Roche: Lose the editorial calendar online. "You're driving the editorial agenda [electronically] less than you think," he said.