Daniel Cohen, Trimedia: There's life in print media yet

The Daily Telegraph's handling of the MP's expenses story has renewed interest in the power of print

More than 40 years ago the BBC aired a programme that signalled fundamental change in the way consumers perceived broadcast media. That Was The Week That Was (aka TW3) shook the establishment to the core with its satirical bite and, critically for the BBC, attracted a younger and more cutting-edge audience that was previously disaffected by the corporation's perceived cosiness.

Fast-forward to 2009. The financial crisis and, in particular, ‘expensesgate' may just as well have given us ‘This Is The Year That Was'. We all know how The Daily Telegraph laid the establishment bare but, critically for traditional media, it has renewed interest among younger audiences in a format almost resigned to extinction and previously ignored in news and commentary.

Certainly there are those who continue to sound the death knell for traditional media. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, recognised as media person of the year at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June, said there was no question all content would be consumed digitally in future; the only debate was whether it would be within one, two, five or ten years.

Looking at the list of recent fatalities and redundancies in the print media, it would be easy to concur. Over the past year, media owners in the UK have turned their worlds upside down. Job cuts at the Mirror Group (1,200), Nat-Mag (100), Newsquest (40) and BBC Magazines (30) are just the tip of the iceberg. And we have waved goodbye to Arena, Eve, BBC Good Homes and Maxim among others, although the latter still breathes without purpose online.

But a simple forecast of life without printed news seems a tad premature and ignores consumer appetite for quality content delivered by trusted sources in a reassuring format. What is undeniable, though, is how ‘expensesgate' has affirmed the power of the duality
campaign within the news environment - in other words, a campaign that uses trusted content sourced by quality journalists to deliver rich experience via a choice of channels.

Circulation of The Economist is up 3.1 per cent in the UK and 6.4 per cent globally, a sure sign of consumer appetite for features and analysis with substance in a tried and tested format. Would we be as excited by an increase in traffic on its website? And would clients be clamouring for editorial inclusion in a purely online version?

The big question with The Telegraph's expenses story is whether it would have had as much of an impact if it had been broken online. Whichever side you're on (I'm in the ‘No' camp), you can't fail to be impressed by the fact that one million extra sales have been added across the daily and Sunday versions of the paper since the story broke.

But of equal interest is how the story was consumed and played out across different media platforms. It showed that not only is there room for both traditional and digital media, but that they can feed off each other in a way that enriches consumer experience.

People were able to satisfy their need for content, detail, depth and analysis through the paper and, accordingly, younger audiences were drawn to a ‘dying' format. But without digital outlets, the story would not have taken on such a life of its own. Nor would we have been able to relish the satire heaped on the establishment from every corner. The brilliant spoof ad, Make MPs' Poverty History, showed the spirit of TW3 duo Ned Sherrin and David Frost, et al, continues to flourish.

One story living, breathing and evolving across traditional and digital channels, serving to educate, inform and enhance knowledge, understanding and the consumer experience. This is duality in harmony and this is the future, for now.

Views in brief

Which brand has best caught the public mood in its communications
during the past six months?
T-Mobile. It has delivered a series of experiences
across all channels and disciplines that have increased brand relevance while
catapulting affinity scores - you can't help but smile. The antithesis would
be RBS.

Has your attitude to using celebrities in campaigns changed over the
past year?
No. Celebrities are still one of many powerful tools within our
armoury. But, unlike many of the others, they come with their own unique set
of attitudinal and behavioural risks.

Daniel Cohen is a director at Trimedia

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