“The report of my death was an exaggeration,” said Mark Twain in 1897. Much the same can be said of speculation that the print media is in its death throes.

It is true that digital channels are growing in popularity as brands look to platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, their own websites and blogs, as well as dedicated industry bloggers and online-only publications. These channels are essential parts of the communications landscape and, thanks to their highly-specialised and targeted nature, they can be extremely effective ways to communicate with key audiences.

As a result of this seismic shift towards online communication, people could be forgiven for thinking that we are witnessing the end of the print media in favour of digital platforms.

But recent circulation figures from key magazine publishers show that print media should not be discounted as a vital communications vehicle:

  • NewsLink Media is the number one digital magazine publisher, selling more than 3.8 million copies (both digital and print) of its magazines last year. Titles include Super Food Ideas, ABC Delicious and donna hay magazine. In a recent Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (emma) report, the company’s CEO, Nicole Sheffield was quoted as saying that digital sales are “small comparatively”, indicating that print sales remain dominant for NewsLink Media’s titles.
  • Similarly, Pacific Magazines director Peter Zavecz said that print was still the “key touch point” for its titles despite online and television tie-ins. Pacific Magazines publishes three of the top five highest-selling magazines in Australia: New Idea; WHO; and that’s life!. Another title, Home Beautiful, just recorded the biggest circulation growth of any Australian magazine, year-on-year. And Better Homes and Gardens now sells approximately 340,000 digital and print copies per issue. 
  • Bauer Media, publisher of magazines including real living, Australian House & Garden and belle, has reported strong circulation growth across all titles and plans to launch a new print magazine called homes+. 

Within these magazine properties, the proportion of digital’s contribution to circulation figures is increasing but overall circulation numbers are still growing year-on-year, which is encouraging for publishers.

Newspaper circulations, on the other hand, have continued to decline according to Roy Morgan Research figures. Every major newspaper across the country, including The Australian, the Australian Financial Review, the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun and The Age have recorded declining circulations. However, the Herald Sun, Australia’s most-read newspaper, still attracts more than a million readers on Saturdays and only slightly fewer during the week.

The lesson for marketers and communicators is that print is most certainly not dead. Choosing a medium to suit the message is still the best advice for those wanting to communicate with target audiences cost-effectively.

Homemaker, food and lifestyle magazines are still growing strongly with high readerships. Newspapers remain a valid way to communicate with large sectors of the public based on geographic location. And yes, digital and online channels will continue to be vital for the success of most campaigns.

We will continue to watch carefully as the way consumers seek information continues to evolve. It seems likely that print media will not die a spectacular death. Instead, it will probably slip quietly away in time, leaving in its wake a broad range of platforms and opportunities for brands to communicate with customers and vice versa.