Steve Rubel: A ‘Perfect Storm’ for Newspapers

It’s an overused analogy, but apt nonetheless. Edelman Digital marketing EVP Steve Rubel thinks high gas prices, environmental factors and other concerns add up to a “perfect storm” for newspaper publishers:

For starters, as gas prices go up, so will the distribution costs. This could have a significant impact on margins. However, there are larger societal factors at bay here too.

Second, there’s a greater awareness among consumers of their environmental impact. At the Forbes Online Brand Summit earlier this year, Jeff Cole from USC Annenberg predicted that as this broadens, consumers will cut back on print in favor of digital media. I think he’s right.

Last but not least we have the growing popularity of speedy 3G-enabled smart phones, including the new iPhone 3G. The devices are declining in price while offering a lot more sophisticated experience for reading news.

When you combine these three trends the future for print doesn’t feel bright.

Of course, I disagree that the future isn’t bright. The Internet affords newsgatherers great storytelling, interactive and marketing opportunities. The trick will be whether print publishers can make the digital transition by adopting an entirely new business model that moves the newsgathering business from paper to online.

That, of course, is the obvious question. The solution remains elusive.

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