The future of the press industry: The lesser but opposite retrend

Ask my flatmates and they will tell you that my favourite comedian must be Stephen Colbert, based on the fact that whenever they come home that is what I am watching, doubled over laughing.

Well they are right, Colbert is definitely my favourite at the moment. Primarily because he is much smarter than the average bear, and has a way of getting right to the heart of an issue to find its comedic value.

Like in this recent interview with John Sturm, the President of the Newspaper Association of America.

Stephen interviews John Sturm, President of the NAA

Colbert comes out with probably the best line I have ever heard in relation to charging for online news:

“Don’t milk a horse that has left the barn”.

As funny as this interview is, it has a core truth in it. As digital becomes more and more ubiquitous, there inevitably will be a decline of the press industry as we know it.

But to get on my soapbox, according to Newton’s third law of motion:

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

I would like to propose an extension to this theory that for posterity we will call Maloney’s first law of trends:

“For every trend, there is a lesser but opposite re-trend”

What I mean by this is although the majority will shift to getting their news digitally over time, there will be a significant minority that will desire paper based news even more than they ever have.

We have already seen an example of this law of trends with the renaissance of urban, community shopping strips in the face of clinical, mass market shopping malls. 

The challenge for the press industry and marketers will be identifying this profitable segment and tailoring content, and advertising to their needs.

The reason this re-trend will come about is the ingrained need to arouse the senses. We are given five senses, one of which is touch.

Digital can never replace the feeling of thumbing through the newspaper, late on a Sunday morning on a sun drenched balcony.

And don’t tell me eBooks where you can virtually flick the pages, or touchscreens where you can pinch, spin or expand, will be a satisfactory alternative to the newspaper touch sensation. Because they wont. At least not for the current generations of news consumers.

But the i-Generation, of course, will learn everything digitally, and will not have the newspaper touch sensation hardwired into their brain.

So the day they grow up, will be the day the paper based press industry dies.

But we have plenty more balcony years ahead of us before then.


The press industry has now revealed another secret weapon: Video in Print

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Categories: Psychology


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5 Comments on “The future of the press industry: The lesser but opposite retrend”

  1. Henry
    June 1, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    For a music lover I’m surprised to left out the retrend of the music world at the moment – vinyl! With music collections quickly becoming hard drives people seem to switching back to the good old sound of the record.

  2. chrismaloney
    June 1, 2009 at 11:42 pm #

    Totally agree. Apart from the warmer analog sound, like newspapers I think it also has to do with the touch sensations involved with vinyl, feeling the gooving, putting the needle on the record etc. Much more ritualistic and engaging than a few clicks of the mouse.


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