With major U.S. newspapers going out of business or online only, it's no surprise that doomsday prophets of print show up everywhere. In our agency meeting last week, the representative of an online gaming company was raving about the death of print, which, he said, is to come in the near future. He didn't get the desired response, as resistance mounted in his Facebooked, MySpaced, YouTubed, Skyped, generally digitalized audience. A day later the agency intranet was filled with jokes about the guy's bold statements. The people in his audience were certainly "digital" -- but they could not live without those special design magazines piling up everywhere in the office. And more and more show up on the market: See for example the wonderful Ramp for automobile culture that was awarded best in class at the Lead-Awards 2008.
Print is as dead as painting was at the dawn of photography. That is: Print is not dead, there is a future. And you can glimpse that future in the German cities of Leipzig, Berlin, and Hamburg.
In February, Axel Springer Verlag, one of Europe's biggest publishing houses and the publisher of BILD Zeitung, announced the introduction of a fast-moving consumer goods-oriented print-pricing model. The idea behind it is to have a competing offer against TV and online for broad mainstream audiences that would normally be addressed by those media (only 8% of the house's ad revenue is estimated to come from FMCG). The performance is measured in ROI on invested media spend. With less performance, the price goes down.
Such a model implies changes that go far beyond the revenue stream. Imagine a publishing house with an inventory of contracted ads that now have to deliver a certain performance. This can have quite some impact on the configuration of content in a magazine or could even lead to special issues with specific performance-based ads.
Another print concept for today's times was launched in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. Jacob Augstein (the son of the founder of Germany's biggest and most influential political weekly magazine, Der Spiegel), relaunched the weekly newspaper Der Freitag as a newspaper that integrates on- and offline as well as reader-generated news into the product far beyond the "letter to the editor" page. It would be best described as a newspaper 2.0.
The third reinvention of the newspaper we'll look at also is going on in Berlin. The project is called "Niiu" of the start-up "Interti." "Niiu" will be a personalized newspaper that is put together based on individualized content and source profiles. Modern printing technology allows print to be as individualized as an online offer. Even the integration of the calenders of the reader and his or her friends is part of the concept.
Gunnar Brune is managing director of Lowe Deutschland in the lovely harbor city of Hamburg. He studied marketing and constitutional law. Prior to Lowe he worked at Zum goldenen Hirschen and Scholz & Friends in the fields of brand strategy and communication management. His current special interest is the evolution of cross-media communication strategies.