Challenges of print media highlighted as Gemazo, Southern Eye & Zim Mail close

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Death is in the air. That’s what I think of every time I look at a news stand, or at an extensive ad campaign in print publications that can’t possibly bring its value’s worth for the company sinking money into this medium.

Anyone in media will tell you how challenging it is to run a profitable publication in an environment where costs of production are high, the traditional revenue streams are shrinking in size or shifting to more dynamic trends like social media, and the audience is finding more and more alternatives for consuming content.

What is alarming though is that these struggles usually translate into the death of publications, something that we have seen all over the world. The case is sadly the same in Zimbabwe.In the past 31 days, three publications have called it a day and officially ended their print run.

A fortnight ago Zimbabwe Mail called it a day, citing operational challenges that related to production costs. Today, the Herald reported that weekly football magazine, Gemazo, had just published its last edition and was imploring advertisers to follow the 3-year-old publication onto its digital platform. The shutdown of Alpha Media’s Southern Eye print edition, happening tomorrow, was also cited in the same article.

Which makes we wonder whether the death of print media has become even more immediate and apparent than was anticipated. It’s always been challenging to churn out copies of any publication, but now the economy is in the toilet and running any business is extremely difficult This means print media businesses have been dealt a double blow.

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Is there any salvation?

All hope is not lost though. The other publications that seem to be bucking the trend are obviously doing something right or did the right thing before a lot of other people got into media. Locally, the leading print stable, Zimpapers, has been integrating print efforts with online and digital media, something that Alpha Media has also been trying aggressively.

In between online editions, apps, and SMS news there are very deliberate efforts to embrace the digital route while coasting on the success of print edition legacies as well as a resistance by most advertisers to move to cheaper and more effective digital media.

In a presentation made at the Digital Future Conference, Darlick Marandure, the CTO of Zimpapers spoke of the attempts at finding  a sweet spot between online and offline/print media and the different business models that have been or are being tried locally. While admitting that print media is faced with uncertainty, he pointed out how it’s not completely dead.

You can listen to the presentation here

This sort of model seems to be a transitionary experiment though, and it is too early to tell if this will be used to effectively save all print publications. This is because digital media is another ballgame altogether, something that most seasoned print publishers realise when they try to cross over. It might be the future and the most obvious route, but approaching it isn’t so easy.

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