Does the death of print signal the death of PR?

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

It's no news that print media, as we all know, is in big trouble, and the decline of newspapers and magazines has been both widely debated, and reported.

The number of New Zealand newspaper readers declined from nearly 1.5 million in 2009 to fewer than 900,000 in 2014, with the New Zealand Herald tracking steadily downwards to its current figure 127,000 papers sold every day. At its peak, in 1992, it sold more than 250,000 copies daily.

Here in Aotearoa, just like every other part of the world, the industry has seen plummeting advertising sales, the loss of classified advertising and damaging drops in circulation. 

Traditionally speaking, print is PR's bread and butter - it's what we found ourselves on and it's what keeps our clients happy. The changing media landscape suggests a new wave press that PR teams are scrambling to get on board with. While the future of print media faces uncertainty, we have to ask; are our days numbered?


While traditional PR relies on the promise of print media, we're seeing a new wave of agencies (us included!) that manage their clients reputations from behind a computer screen. And the digital era doesn't only affect the publications we target - more and more we're seeing agencies that do their showrooms, marketing and reporting through an entirely digital medium. 

Print is great, but its results are near impossible to measure. Digital press on the other hand benefits from tools such as Google Analytics that allows us to analyse the effectiveness of every piece of coverage that brands get, meaning that PR Agencies are able to provide more accurate reports to their clients and continue to reach out to publications that have been proven to work. It also allows us to please our clients in a shorter amount of time - with printed lead times being painfully long, online coverage allows for 'quick wins' that get brands noticed quick.


Print media comes with many perks, but like most things it also presents problems. With print, potential customers have many hurdles to jump over before actually making it to your website. They may see your product in a magazine and make a note of it for later but as we all know life gets in the way and they inevitably forget. Print also has an expiry date, and your coverage only lasts for as long as the issue is in stock.

Digital press, on the other hand, is great for brands as it plays on customers' impulses - you see something you like, you click on the link and hey presto it's in your hands a few days later. Even if digital coverage doesn't immediately lead to sales, it's proven to have an impressive impact on website traffic. Plus digital coverage will last as long as the internet does (no more yesterday's fish and chip paper), and by the look of things that's not going anywhere any time soon.

Click-through coverage puts brands at the fingertips of the internet's savviest shoppers. Sales make happy brands, and happy brands make happy PR agencies.


The decrease of print publications has more of an impact on pride than it does purchase. There's a certain prestige that comes with seeing your business story in the Herald or any established publication that you just don't get from online press, and some brands have difficulty in separating pride from impact. The reality is that even though it’s a great feeling, it doesn’t necessarily lead to successful PR. So while print dying doesn't necessarily hinder PR agencies, it does make their on-boarding process a touch more difficult, as they can't promise print coverage in the same way that they used to.


So what now? In 2019 brands need a much more 360-degree approach to PR – having your brand featured in a magazine isn't enough. PR is so much more than products on a page, so it's high time for brands to open themselves up to maximising social media, influencers and digital marketing.