Is Print Media Really Dead?

E-reader’s, iBooks and generally reading books through online sources or written articles from publications are on the rise, and the textbook market is shifting toward customisable digital products to deliver exciting content with just a click of a few buttons. However, does the rise of digital media cause the decline of print media?

A new study from City University London has now shown that an average of at least 96% of the time spent with newspapers by it’s UK readers was done so in print, excluding use of any ‘apps’. The brand new research also points the question of whether the transformative effects of online readers from overseas, and of tablet and smartphone ‘apps’ come into play. While analysing popular trends throughout a four year period, the study, conducted by Dr Neil Thurman from City’s Journalism Department, showed that only one newspaper (The Guardian) saw an increase in the total time its domestic readers spent with the brand in print and online. Across the 12 titles, that meant that combined print and online reading time fell by an average of more than 4% per year.

Published in the journal Digital Journalism, the study is now recognised as one of the most comprehensive of its kind and clearly demonstrates the ongoing importance of newspapers and magazines in print editions and how they work daily in capturing and holding their readers’ attention.

However, one of the study’s most surprising discoveries is that for most newspapers their overseas audience still spends more time with the printed paper than with the online equivalent, even if it was deemed more easily accessible. The study’s main online reading data did not track readers’ consumption of smartphone and tablet ‘apps’, but the browsing of their regular websites via mobile devices was included.

“Although the overseas audience does account for a significant proportion of newspapers’ online reading time, they have not off-set the attention lost from dwindling domestic print sales” said Dr Thurman.

“There has been very little information the consumption of newspapers’ ‘app’ editions. The best we can do is estimate that ‘apps’ boost newspapers’ online reading time by between 20-25%.” he added.”Unfortunately, for most newspapers, such a boost from mobile platforms has not countered losses in reading time due to falling print circulations” said Dr Thurman.

The study concludes that even with the numeric value of ‘apps” factored into the results of the study, over 90% of newspaper reading time still derives from print media.

“Newspapers still get over 85% of their advertising revenues from print. Give that ‘time is money’, we shouldn’t be very surprised that a similar amount of the temporal attention newspapers receive is also from print” said Dr Thurman.

Additionally, many studies have been conducted to show that learning from print-based media could actually be more beneficial to it’s reader and increase your rate of comprehension. Thanks to s forthcoming study from the City University of New York asked that question and found that, like previous generations, at least some Millennials still prefer reading long texts and academic selections in print. Several researchers have argued that increasing exposure to technology, with its emphasis on speed and multitasking, may encourage a shallower kind of processing that leads to a decrease in deep comprehension in digital environments. Current evidence also supports the claim that mere experience with digital technology does not improve students’ comprehension skills, but instead has a detrimental effect.

This view leads to the alternative hypothesis that the paper advantage over digital media increases with time. If true, this would be a call for researchers, policy-makers, and education professionals to join forces to develop methods to support effective digital-based reading and learning.

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