Time Spent With Print Still a Compelling Argument for Advertisers
It's always kind of fun when some disruptive news drops that shakes up the "print is dying" narrative. This week, it was a research report from McKinsey and Company, which found that in terms of time spent, digital products (tablets, smartphones and computers) make up only 8 percent of news consumption.
As reported by Rick Edmonds in Poynter, 35 percent of time spent with news still belongs to newspapers and magazines, 16 percent to radio and 41 percent to TV. Smartphones and tablets together account for 4 percent of time spent, and computers, an additional 4 percent.
This seems shocking, but the first thing to remember is this measures time spent with platforms, not the raw numbers of people using them. Also, when total media usage is measured (not just news consumption), digital platforms grab more than half of total time spent. Paid Content's Matt Ingram sets up a bit of a straw man in cautioning "publishers who might see this as reason for unbridled optimism" (is there a news publisher alive who is feeling "unbridled optimism" about print?), going on to note that large numbers of consumers prefer to get their news in short bursts. Besides, he says, most advertisers are not looking to specifically target news consumers.
Before we dismiss this report let's reflect on those numbers for a moment. If accurate, you have a staggering amount of time still devoted to legacy media, and when you think about it, it does not seem far-fetched. How many people do you know who listen to NPR in their car? Put on CNN or FOX for a big breaking story? Lots of young people get their news from The Daily Show, and if Jon Stewart were considered part of the time spent on news consumption (I assume he isn't, since he's on Comedy Central), those legacy numbers would be even higher.
As for the 35 percent of time devoted to magazines and newspapers, I assume this is due to a minority of consumers who spend a lot of time with print news, while a majority spends very, very little total time with digital news, scanning headlines and summaries throughout the day. Most people these days get their news on the fly.
While advertisers might not target news consumers, they do presumably love "lean back" readers, who are more likely to take the time to notice their advertising. News browsing via Twitter and Flipboard does not lend itself to noticing, reading and clicking through ads.
So this report does provide a bit of manna for publishers looking to convince advertisers that's it's too early to abandon print. Heck, we may even be entering an era where print stabilizes and TV becomes the new whipping boy for disruptive doomsayers. Time will tell.