For decades the media community has been debating the future of print media. How necessary is it? Will it survive under the pressure of digitalization? Can newspapers compete with websites that can be edited and published instantaneously? While this is debatable, the printing press is experiencing a new set of challenges – prices for printing paper are rising exponentially. There are different ways to survive this crisis, and each is risky and painful in their own way. We researched this topic, and asked experts and editors how they planned to tackle this issue.
Abul-Hasanat Al-Siddique is the Co-Founder and former COO & Managing Editor at Fair Observer (FO). The publication is digital but considered taking a step back and pprint it as well. However, they scrapped the idea due to a number of reasons, some of which you can hear more about here.
Listen to Mag. Patrick Mader, who works with the communication's department at austropapier, take us through how paper prices have evolved in the last four years:
The pandemic hit in 2020. That meant that the demand for paper fell drastically. Due to schools and universities closing, there was not a big need for graphic paper. With no demand, the price increased.
In 2021 the demand for paper exploded, which meant that paper mills couldn’t keep up. This further increased the price for paper.
The war in Ukraine broke out in the beginning of 2022. With the war followed increasingly high energy prices, which affectsed and still affects the price of paper since the making of paper is highly reliant on energy.
STRIKE IN FINLAND
A five-month long strike at the Finnish UPM factories resulted in the paper supply being very low. That too, caused the prices to climb further.
We asked experts and editors from Ukraine, Armenia and Austria.
Local History is a monthly Ukrainian glossy high-end magazine that has been established in 2018 and can be purchased online and in bookstores nationwide. The price of the magazine has only increased by a small percentage over the last four years - it starting price was at 2.5 euros, and now it costs 2.8 euros. As the global price of paper surges, the editor-in-chief Vitaly Lyaska says that in order to counter this rapid increasee, they will opt for a a cheaper quality of paper.
If we talk about the cost of one copy of the magazine, about 50% of the price is for printing. Last year, out of the 2.8 euros that the magazine costs, we spent 1.37 on printing. And now we spend 2 euros on printing. We must understand that such a magazine is definitely not about business, but rather about enlightenment. Therefore, we cannot set a high price, because we will lose the number of readers. But this magazine is actually worth at least 8.5 euros. Currently, we can cover the printing itself at the expense of readers, but in general, we attract both grant funds and patrons for the development of the project, – explains Vitaly.
Now the magazine is printed on the remnants that existed before the war. The issue is not only that the cost per paper increases, but there is also a big challenge with the logistics processes, which are also not cheap. Currently, the editorial office cannot plan the prices for end of this year as it does not know how much printing will cost.
But we are calculating various options. Probably, if we have to find compromises, then we will switch to a slightly lower quality paper, it will be a regular magazine paper, not the glossy paper. But it still has to be high-quality paper, because all the illustrations we have are exclusive. They must remain of good quality, – says Vitaliy.
However, if the quality of the paper is lower, the editors will consider the possibility of increasing the number of pages in the issue. They also want to publish a magazine in English soon, because interest in Ukrainian history has grown significantly since the beginning of the war.
The Armenian daily newspaper "Aravot" was founded in 1994 and launched in 1995. In Armenia, newspapers are usually published daily except for on Sundays and Mondays. "Our print media never stopped its publication:" says Aram Abrahamyan, editor of the "Aravot" newspaper. According to Abrahamyan, previously "Aravot" print media's page numbers were 16, however now it's been reduced to 8 pages. "Print media brings in some money which not only covers the printing costs but also contributes to the company's business. So, it's not beneficial to stop the print media publications also from socio-economical point of view." states the editor.
- Did the number of readers decrease because of Covid or 2020 War?
- The audience has decreased and there is no more space for decreasing anymore. It didn't decrease because of the mentioned latest situations, however during both the pandemic and the Nagorno-Karabakh war, social networks have affected our print circulation. "Development of social networks such as Tik Tok and Instagram affects the circulation of our print media:" states Abrahamyan. According to the editor, nowadays, people often prefer shorter articles to longer ones when it comes to news.
- What about the future of the newspaper? Will the print "Aravot" newspaper exist in the future?
- I think "Aravot" print newspaper won't be closed as it is also regarded as a business.
- What content should print media include so that young audience will also be interested in reading magazine?
- We can't force youngsters to read books or magazines, instead, we ought to be more innovative in simplifying the information using both video and audio to tell the story.
Aram Abrahamyan made it a point to state that though readers who prefer to read the paper are rarer these days, they are indespensable to the company's business model.
President of the Ukrainian Media Business Association Oleksii Pogorelov says that war killed all media revenue. They cut every expense they can cut. He is convinced that for local media will be the easiest to cope with the crisis.
Today, the key issue for the media is survival. It is necessary to survive literally and figuratively. Many editors are forced migrants. Just one example, the Popasnian Herald - which is both a printed newspaper and an online publication, with groups in social networks - has recently been relocated to Sumy. Accordingly, this is a completely new edition. The same media that are in the rear territories, all efforts today are directed towards being useful to their communities. This is the most effective way of social transformation in the present time.
He says that the easiest way for the media to survive is to close print versions and stop incurring expenses.
But we are talking about a mission, about solving certain problems, about creating a product (and service) useful for people, right? Therefore, it is not about the smallest losses and the easiest ways. This conversation is about a paradigm shift, about completely new tasks for local media. It's about "being effective for your communities." And it works! Because people need it, and local media workers are strong and often the strongest in this. Because they have the skills to work with sources of information and with a large arrays of information. They know how to search and check it. They know how to find answers to difficult questions. And all this is very necessary for communities to develop. That is why local media should and can become such intellectual centers for their communities. And this is the best way to develop both the media itself and the communities for which they work.
"Tagebuch" is a printed media that issues four thousand copies over the span of ten months. According to Samuel Stuhlpfarrer, editor of "Tagebuch" newspaper, the situation with paper prices rising will have a negative impact. We are talking about a price rise of up to 30% since the beginning of this year.
Tagebuch has ways to deal with it:
"POTOP", Ukraine's printed media, started its history as online media. They have a site, telegram channel, and podcast. ''POTOP'' got the printed version from march 2021.
Now it will be the third printed issue of ''POTOP''. Firstly, ''POTOP'' was good as an online media with podcast and telegram channel, but the editor had an idea of printed media.
As the good old times in the 1990ies or 2000ies. So firstly, they wanted to have a published version and found resources. In Ukraine, printed media is almost about politics, so it's hard to find money and readers.
The money was the biggest problem, but Jägermeister Ukraine paid for two media issues and now will fund the third. Also, one Ukrainian popular culture media ''SHO'' was closed cause its sponsor, the owner of Fozzy group UA, decided not to give money. It is hard to have stable funds in Ukraine.
Statments from interview with co-founder, Serhiy Voronov:
Adrian Slywotzky wrote the book "David wins: The Discipline of Asymmetric Competition". The idea of the book is connected to startups and small businesses, which have advantages agains big companies.
If we extrapolate this idea into the media realm, we see what both media teams had to say. Large media do not have such opportunities to adapt to changes. At that time, small print media is very adaptable and flexible. They have a chance to reduce circulation, staff, the number of pages, and many other options to survive and make a profit.