Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Field Day for the Sundays

It seems that the printed press is in terminal decline. Ever wondered why? On Sunday we reported the monstering that the Daily Mail have given Great Bakeoff contestant and master baker Richard Burr. The Daily Mail are no mugs and they think they know their audience. If you look at the circulation figures they've lost 350,000 readers since 2010. They are not alone. All papers have seen massive fall offs in readership. As a father of teenagers it is noticable that my children never pick up the papers for a quick read. When I was a teenager I was an avid reader of the papers. My parents used to buy the Guardian and the Sunday Express. This is a habit I've maintained.

What strikes me as odd is the way that the printed press has seemingly given up on trying to attract younger readers. I cant help that feel that when the last of todays 30 year olds passes away, the last traditional newspaper reader will have gone. The only time I've ever seen my son even glance at a paper is when there is a catching headline concerning Manchester City. Even then it's a passing glance. He has an Ipad and he doesn't want to wait until a paper comes out to find out what he wants. There was a song by the Rolling Stones "Who wants yesterdays papers?". For todays generation, it is not yesterdays papers. Attention spans are much shorter. By the time the paper plops through the letter box, for todays generation the news might as well be centuries old.

I was thinking about this challenge. I don't believe that papers are obsolete, I just think they haven't followed the golden rule of Darwinian evolution. To survive you have to adapt. Papers can't compete in the information war. So they need to find a way of delivering some sort of eperience that digital media can't. It may seem hopeless, but there are ways to repackage and remarket seemingly obsolete products. One example of this is the resurgance of sales of vinyl. If I was a newspaper owner I'd start by condsidering what the brand means. Newspapers like the Times, The Guardian and the Telegraph still have strong recognition and  reputation for quality. The tabloids also have a strong image, but perhaps are a little bit more anachronistic in todays world. This is exemplified bythe sun losing nearly 800,000 readers.

I happen to think that the issue is that the editors of the papers don't really understand the young people of today. I suspect that there are many tricks they are missing. Take my son and his love of football. When he picks up the Express, he is simply reading regurgitations of match reports etc that he read the day before on his iPAD. Often what fills the back pages is tittle tattle and rumours. reports of what Arsene Wenger said at his press conference or what Jose Mourinho said after the match dominate the Sunday papers. The return of Mourinho has been  a field day for the Sundays. But given that this was all on the telly, is that really what will inspire a 14 year old to buy a paper.

It amazes me that the papers coverage of football hasn't changed in a generation. The Sun trademarked the heads on turnips and the inflammatory headlines. But I don't believe this has any appeal for the digital generation. I believe that they would be more successful with more interesting and detailed reports into the background, training tactics etc. There is still a place for the match reviews etc, but how about articles about coaching techniques etc

Another thing that amazes me is just how bad coverage of music is. I think papers should champion and showcase young talent. We get endless stories about the latest X factor starlet, whilst they ignore hard working up and coming artists. When I was a teenager I used to read the NME to find out who the up and coming bands. I've always been mystified as to why the papers simply ignored rock and roll. Teenagers can be obsessed with music so why do the papers not use this to build new readerships.

Then there is coverage of art. Again I think the coverage is rubbish. Many young people chose to do A level art. It intrigues me why the papers don't take notice of this and use this to build readerships through articles which would help young people with their studies. It seems to me to be blindingly obvious that if the papers could become part of the syllabus, then they would reverse their decline. 

No comments: