Print v/s Online Media: Here’s The First Proof

Part 1: Print Media: The Need To Change

Harold Wilson once said – He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery. These are the kind of words that should be heard, read and heeded by the publishers of print media, because if these words fall on deaf ears, the print media will surely and gradually plot its own extinction.

Think about it: Once upon a time human beings had never ever imagined they could fly from one place to another; when airplanes came into the picture, humans couldn’t ever imagine that one day humans could land on the moon. And now, we are talking about colonizing Mars!

Similarly, people never imagined that computers and the Internet would change their life so drastically. And even when computers came into our lives, no one had an inkling that soon we would have an operating system that could enable common folk to access computers, followed by the power of the Internet to communicate worldwide. Did you know that around the mid 1950s, IBM was considered a typewriter company!

Even today we don’t know what the next big this is going to be – it can be prediction technologies or it can be simulation models. No matter what’s going to come to us, the fact remains that the whole world – or at least, the savvy side of the whole world – is going online.

However, many companies who publish the printed word across the world do not have a “respond” model. They do not know that the next-generation architecture of multicore processors, with their phenomenal processing abilities, can take on and process massive amounts of data. They do not realize that the power of “online” will change the way we live, the way we think and the way we conduct our business. They do not want to move away from the comfort of their “mental cubicle”, and they would focus on what they are doing rather than waking up to foresee the catastrophe that’s about to hit them.

Computers are going to talk to you, they will start understanding your voice, recognizing your face, make it possible for you to interact with another person in a godforsaken part of the world, and so on. Given this scenario would you still stick to reading books and newspapers only? Some purists might, because all purists are like dinosaurs – they do not change and when change hits them, they complain that their tribe and their ideology are going extinct and the world is turning into a lousy place.

This article, then, is a wake-up call for all print companies who do not realize or know about the power of “web development and the online media”. May the force be with them.

Part 2: Online v/s Print: The Face-off

Printing gained major prominence and acceptance after World War II when a whole lot of stimulated minds put their thoughts and ideas into print and that sort of revolutionized the print industry. Production of newspapers, novels and books boomed and since then, there has been no looking back for the print industry.

Up to now

You will be aware that online text readership is expanding phenomenally. There are billions of web pages for approximately one billion users online and the number is growing by the day. Search engines, niche portals, online shops, emails, messengers have made the world a much, much smaller place and it is just a matter of time before most businesses go online. This online revolution is much bigger and faster than the print revolution and, by the looks of it, the print media will be in for a whole lot of trouble if they do not adapt to the changing scenario.

Here is a comparative analysis of online v/s print media:

1. Costs: Online publishing costs are incomparably lower than printing costs (labor, machinery, paper, color, distribution, etc.) and, with newer technologies and faster processors flooding the markets, the online machine publishing (blogs, forums, etc.) costs will keep going down, while the “human” costs may remain the same or become lower than similar costs incurred by the print media. For example, a printing unit will need several technicians to produce a newspaper and organize it for distribution. Comparatively, an online publishing unit does not need even 1% of the workforce that a print unit requires.
2. Distribution: Online distribution is literally free. Once a publisher has rented a server space, then all he needs is a programmer and designer to upload his content. There are no printing costs involved, no paper is used, no print run is needed, and no ink is required. But there are publicity costs involved – the online publisher has to promote his website to get people to read his content. Online marketing is done by registering the site with various search engines and then by optimizing the site using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Normally, a publisher should appoint a web development company to market and promote his site online and this entails a cost. Where newspapers are concerned, they too pay a certain commission to their distributors or they have to set up a separate distribution department.
3. Editing: Editing is very easy when it comes to online publishing. Once a mistake is noticed, a correction can be easily made within minutes. The print media offers no such luxuries. Of course, online media is not error-free – publishers should take care to see that there are no broken links, badly programmed pages, etc. However, corrections can be made in online documents, but for a printed document once a document is printed then correcting it is impossible – you would need to reprint.
4. Time: Print publishing is a time-consuming affair, whereas online publishing is fast, instant and depends on the publisher’s web development team. News can be uploaded in online media immediately as it breaks – there are no “publishing” delays.
5. Audience Preferences: People are used to the printed word and it is going to take time for them to make online media a “habit”. But experts and futurists feel that this will surely happen and it’s just a matter of time before online media overtakes the print media.. Ask yourself this question: What was the usage of land-lines before mobile technology invaded the market? The answer is there right in your mind – the question is whether realization has struck you yet!
6. Profits: As of now, print publishing makes a hell of a lot of money than online publishing. Again, this is because of people’s habits, and as we have discussed above, habits will change eventually. But, again, experts feel that all this will change – good sites with news are already attracting hordes of advertisements, specially targetting the yuppie and middle-age groups, and many niche content sites have a subscription model going for them. Given the rapidly expanding Internet audience, it is just a matter of time before massive profits start rolling in for the online publishers.

In the end, assuming you have great content, you must go online if and only if:
(i) you are sure about making money out of it;
(ii) you have adequate working capital; and
(iii) you are backed by an experienced, cutting-edge and consistent web development team. If you meet these conditions, then you are certain to make a living out of online media – something that you may not be able to do if you work with the print medium.

Online media, also called new media, provides unique and new opportunities that have yet to be fully explored. A publisher who perseveres will discover the real potential of publishing online like no other. So, if you have it in you, go for online media and start learning how to make your buck out there