Should Publishers Let Print Perish?

Last month, the Audit Bureau of Circulations announced that newsstand sales of newspapers and magazines continued to slide in the first half of 2012. The news came just after Barry Diller told the press he’d “maybe” fold Newsweek’s print edition in favor of an all-digital publication. Digiday asked its Publishing Summit speakers: Is print’s extinction a natural step in the digital evolution? Should publishers try to lift newsstand sales or just move on?

“It’s a pretty natural step. Why go to a newsstand when all one has to do is connect to a hotspot?”—Jim Spanfeller, founder, president, CEO, The Spanfeller Media Group

“If you’re looking in the rearview mirror, you’re going to crash your car. Ask Kodak, FedEx or UPS, Blockbuster, the music industry. If you’re not looking ahead to the next iteration and figuring out how to monetize it, you will become obsolete.The only constant is change, so no matter what business you’re in, you’re in the business of change management. Know what’s coming next and figure out how to translate your product to that medium and how to monetize it.This thinking is how The Weather Channel has thrived. We were the first, and pretty much the only-ever, cable network focused on weather. We snagged the Weather.com URL right at the dawn of the Internet and launched a site. We launched our mobile business in 1999. We launched our tablet app with the iPad and launched with Kindle Fire as well. And we will be there for whatever the next platform will be.”—Curt Hecht, chief global revenue officer, The Weather Channel

“Phasing out paper for most traditional pubs seems inevitable. That being said, a small specialty market will likely exist at a higher price point for years. My father used to work at Xerox, and for years everyone predicted the death of paper copiers and printers, and the “digital” office would kill paper. The problem was that, as my father told me, people didn’t think of paper as a product with certain features: the ability to store X amount of data, lightweight, no power required and, most importantly, can be used easily on airplanes. Paper magazines have a future, even if as a small niche.”—Todd Sawicki, chief revenue officer, Cheezburger

“We should be thinking hard about what the audience wants and how the audience behaves.”—Vivian Schiller, svp, chief digital officer, NBC News