Good news (maybe) for print media

By Erik Arvidson

AdAge recently published some interesting stats about how affluent Americans consume media, and the results seem to show a strong interest for “traditional” media formats (giving hope to those of us who’d like to see print media survive and thrive).

The study by Ipsos Mendelsohn, known as the Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer, surveyed 1,000 people with at least $100,000 in annual household income on how they consume media. When respondents were asked how they typically read magazines, 93 percent said they read the hard copies, 27 percent read them on the computer, and 9 percent saying they read them on their smartphone. Reading newspapers was similar, with 86 percent reading the hard copies, 39 percent on the computer, and 14 percent on a smartphone.

The key point by the study’s authors, Bob Shullman and Stephen Kraus, was that people tend to consume media in its traditional form, though they are increasingly willing to read it across other platforms (tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc.)

Is this good news for traditional media outlets? It may not reverse years of lost subscriptions and declining revenues, but the research may give old fashioned print media some cause for hope.

To me, there is an underlying message in stats like these that consumers enjoy still reading their favorite magazine or local newspaper offline, where there is less noise and fewer distractions that our connected lives put on us.

It’s fun to flip through gorgeous-looking magazine on an iPad, and it’s usually more time-efficient to quickly check headlines through Google News in the morning rather than picking up a newspaper.

That said, I find that when I’m reading something in print, I spend more time with it. As a PR professional, I find I can get a deeper understanding of a publication’s focus and break it down further by reading it in print.

While technology is changing the way we want to consume news, there is still a strong desire for print media, even if the revenue those outlets earn from the printed version is only supplemental to the Web and other formats. How traditional media outlets can change their business model, create new revenue streams and deliver what today’s media consumers want would be the subject of a much longer blog post.