Print media giants adopt video to protect their legacy publishing brands

PRINT MEDIA: When print giants The New York Times, Financial Times and The Economist opt to invest heavily in video, assume digital disruption is here to stay. They disclosed their radical plans at Digital Media Strategies 2015.

During the event, speakers from the three heavyweight global news titles admitted the days of depending on only their print-publishing brands are over.

Digital media’s onslaught against declining newspaper circulation, mostly in the developed economies, is not news. But print has not died either. Evidence indicates print news publishing has been more resilient in the age of social media, YouTube and digital native consumers than originally predicted.

The World Press Trends survey by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers states: “Print circulation increased 2% globally in 2013 from a year earlier but declined by 2% over five years. Around 2.5 billion people around the world read newspapers in print and 800 million on digital platforms.”

Yet, at the Digital Media Strategies (DMS) conference, The Economist Group’s president Paul Rossi hinted at the future video strategy for The Economist (pictured above). A few days later on 16 March, the company launched Economist Films, a stand-alone studio that will produce long and short-form documentaries and current affairs to complement the iconic global newspaper originally founded in 1843.

Starting from September, Economist Films, which will initially be funded via sponsorship, will be screened across The Economist Group’s digital and social-media platforms. Currently, there are a few videos on The Economist’s Facebook page.

However, Rossi made it clear the move does not mean the company believes print media’s value is falling.

“We don’t have a chief content officer because it isn’t content, it is editorial. It is very valuable and takes a lot of money to produce,” he said. “And we migrate the same value from print media to digital media; one platform should not be cheaper.”

At the same event, Meredith Kopit Levien, The New York Times’ executive vice president, advertising, explained the commercial benefit of T Brand Studio, the newspaper’s autonomous film production unit launched in January 2014.

T Brand Studio was set up to enhance the digital native advertising and branded content (called Paid Posts) produced by the New York Times for its advertisers.  Among Paid Post clients are US fashion brand Cole Haan, Internet TV platform Netflix, and automaker Volvo.

The investments in Paid Posts and T Brand Studio have helped boost income generated from marketers, Levien said. “We earned US$180m from digital advertising revenue in 2014, a10% increase from the year before.”

In its quest to discover new filmmaking talent, The New York Times has also launched The Selects, a global competition to find five aspiring film directors to produce videos for T Brand Studio.

Like Rossi, Levien declared print is not over. “We’re still running a US$1bn print business” as part of an ambition to become the “preeminent digital media brand for the 21st century”.

The Financial Times (FT) was among the first international print brands to take bold digital risks. But, whatever the platform, the content has had to pay for itself via quality journalism, said John Ridding, the FT’s CEO, and president of Pearson Professional.

By boosting its use of data analytics to understand its readers’ habits, “content (revenues) overtook advertising in 2014”, he stated. “The doom and gloom phase (associated with print) has passed.”

That has not stopped the publishing giant from entering the video realm. “We’re pretty excited about video and (investment in) video doesn’t need to break the bank,” Ridding declared. “Hollywood standards and value are not necessary for us to create shareable video that can be powerful.”

At a time when a global digital brand like Airbnb has launched its own print magazine, a travel quarterly called Pineapple, the media business might need to read a lot more into the print format (pictured below) than it currently does.

For more details about the Digital Media Strategies 2015 debates, which took place at Kings Place, London, on 10-11 March, click here and here.