Each Friday, Points North gives a senior media figure a platform to air their views on a topical or relevant issue.
This week it’s Sara Schwartz, Account Director at Havas PR in New York. Giving an American’s view on the region’s media scene, Sara finds herself “shocked” by the UK’s continued fascination with print.
Anyone will tell you that digital’s growth spurt has continued past its adolescence and the upward trajectory doesn’t have any inkling of slowing down. In its wake, publishing houses have closed and editorial teams have experienced lay-offs.
To a millennial PR executive living in New York, dog-eared pages could seem like a memory. Bookmarked is translation for favourite website and it would be safe to say that reading the Sunday morning paper over a cup of coffee has been replaced with easily digestible, synthesized, digital news bites and enjoyed on a subway ride.
I’ve come to find that the UK, while embracing the new story-telling capabilities that digital has to offer, remains committed to tradition. And after my visits to MediaCity, the Manchester Evening News and Key 103, I’ve seen first-hand how the region’s media scene has this unique mix of innovation and heritage.
One thing that shocked me was the resilience of print. With over 10 national newspapers, plus the recent launch of The New Day, UK print media is still thriving, just maybe not as much as before. The variety provides readers with a range of content from hard news to sports (a major driver of readership), tabloids and popular products. This selection allows readers to choose a publication not just based on its coverage, but also its tone and political view.
In comparison, the handful of national US newspapers focus on highbrow coverage of politics, business, international affairs and cultural style and features reporting. They also probably skew older when it comes to print readership. Overall, the US has far fewer national newspapers, but compensates with an abundance of online media including the counterparts to those newspapers, which have incredible traffic, despite subscription policies.
Distribution strategies have helped to maintain print businesses in the UK as they work to expand digital departments. Some distribute free papers on select days of the week, maintaining readers and advertisers. Others distribute free of charge daily, like the Metro. While we have similar papers in the US, all of them are local.
Why this commitment to print? Maybe it’s that the UK culture is simply one of tradition, embracing the new and innovative, without closing the door on the past.
For example, despite the rise of the coffee industry and increasing popularity of brunch, Brits will always fancy tea. Some will even travel with English tea bags because nowhere else can do it just right.
And while anyone here would admit to regularly streaming American TV shows, Manchester can’t seem to part with Coronation Street – the soap whose plot has seemed to survive eight decades.
And lastly, even the pioneering MediaCity has brought the BBC, one of the most traditional media companies, to Manchester.
Part of why I love New York so much is the accessibility to the latest, but my visit to Manchester has been a wonderful reminder that new doesn’t necessarily mean better and that continuing to pay homage to the past may prepare you for an even brighter future.