Print Media: Tradition in Transition

WE Communications Blog: Technology

— Charlie Stager, Sr Account Executive 

Change is a funny thing. We all experience it in our routines, our work and our lives. When abrupt enough, it’s a rocking experience, but gradual change has an ability to lull us to sleep.

Like the tide of the ocean, slowly pulling us farther from where we began, the incremental shifts of change over a stretch of time can breed complacency in our fight for relevancy, only to be noticed after it’s too late.

The media industry faces this change. As print-advertising declines and the growth of digital expands into new and vast domains, publications are pulling against the tide to adapt to an increasingly digital era.

A great example of this is The New York Times -- steeped in tradition and a beacon of journalism for over a century –the long-tenured publication must now demonstrate its agility if it hopes to reinvent itself in an industry that’s on the move.

Executive Editor Dean Baquet of The New York Times recently sat down with Public Editor Liz Spayd to discuss how the publication is evolving, presenting an illuminating look into the current state and direction of media. These were our biggest takeaways:

  • The impact of visual storytelling. There’s a growing de-emphasis on text-heavy media as publishers shift toward a generation less interested in long-reads in favor of quick takes and captivating imagery. With a growing emphasis on new mediums and channels, the importance of multiplicity is underscored; publications must continue to invest in their digital offerings to put themselves ahead of the growth curve and maintain the motion of their brand.
  • Mobile is evolving consumption. The phone is a completely different medium than print, and should be utilized as such. Mobile notifications, slideshows, interactive stories, 360 video – there are more ways than ever to get creative with content, but it takes commitment to adjust. The Times is investing in a “Digital Transition Team” as well as an “Innovation team” to navigate this trend, and we’re continuing to see others rethink how to digitally transform their businesses. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what other values can we create in storytelling? As new mediums and channels emerge, publishers will have to be meticulous and strategic in their execution in order to maximize the impact of their storytelling efforts.
  • The influence of a new administration. Publications are closely evaluating the impact of a President who shifts markets with a tweet, and the delicate balance between covering relevant information and recognizing the context of the information. Should a tweet represent a news cycle? Or supplement it? It’s a challenge the Times (along with the media industry as a whole) is currently facing, compounded by the management of journalists tweeting, and where to draw the line between representing an outlet (and a brand) and their own personal opinions. There’s tension between wanting journalists to interact with the public and not wanting them to take it too far.
  • The power is in the hands of readers.With print advertising on the decline, paid subscriptions are increasingly paying the bills for publications, putting more power than ever in the hands of the consumer. The prioritization of a subscription model is becoming more and more common as publishers claw against the continued decline of traditional revenue streams.


As the consumption and needs of readers continue to flex and evolve, the industry adapts, and so must we as storytellers. There’s a symbiotic relationship between communication professionals and the media, making it integral to recognize and understand the gradual epochal shifts that occur in order to navigate an industry in perpetual motion.


To connect with the author, Charlie Stager (WE Communications Seattle), visit his Twitter and LinkedIn.