Is This the End?
No. Yes. Sort of. This is the last free bulk-printed issue of Little Tigers, but the magazine will be re-launched in the summer in a new format that suits the digital age. Why? Let me explain.
A Publishing Revolution
The publishing industry has been turned upside down in the 18 years that have passed since I started Little Tigers, and the turmoil is intensifying. The internet was only just starting to take off back then; it was easy to sell print advertising space because it was still an essential component of most businesses’ marketing plans.
Since then, there’s been a stampede to get online and everything has changed – how people read, how they look for information, how we all communicate, how businesses promote themselves and engage with their customers. Print advertising budgets have been slashed and are still shrinking year-on-year. Readers are buying fewer and fewer printed newspapers and magazines. With tumbling revenues, some print publications have managed to find new ways of doing things, many are struggling to survive, and a huge number have already been burned to ashes on a pyre of unwanted paper.
The Online Battle for Readers
A new digital business model has emerged from all of the upheaval. Many publishers now busy themselves with generating huge volumes of content all the time, posting and sharing and hash-tagging themselves into a frenzy, in an attempt to grab readers’ attention. They want us to notice their articles, photos and videos, follow them on social media, visit their websites and click on their advertisers’ banners and sponsored posts. This kind of reader response is measurable, and therefore valuable to advertisers. So, most digital publishers are essentially fixated on producing content that will generate views, visits and clicks.
The problem with this new (now normal) publishing model is that the online battle for readers’ attention is becoming ferocious. The tsunami of content available to us has become overwhelming, quality has given way to quantity and, let’s face it, much of what is out there is rubbish. We spend hours online but our eyes are being bombarded, our attention spans are getting shorter, we get distracted and move on so quickly that in the end we see nothing at all.
Publishers who play this game have discovered that advertisers now have so many marketing options available to them that even selling digital advertising space is not as easy as it sounds – so many of them still can’t make a living. And know this: Google and Facebook walk away with the lion’s share of the UK’s digital advertising spend, with only a tiny mouse’s share coming back to benefit the people in the form of tax on profits.
Building a Sustainable Business
Some (especially niche) publishing businesses can and do succeed in this challenging environment. More than ever we need to innovate, focus on our core strengths, and creatively embrace the opportunities that technology brings. We need to be as good at marketing as we are at writing. We need to actively collaborate, network and form strategic partnerships. We need to stick to our principals as journalists, and only tell the truth. Above all, we need to know our readers and keep them at the heart of everything we do.
This may be the last free bulk-printed issue, but it is not the end for Little Tigers. It’s not disappearing; it’s just changing. We will be back in the summer with a new website and an ambitious new editorial schedule of both free and subscription-based content. Our mission will stay the same as it always has been: To give information, ideas and stories to local parents, grandparents and carers; to give opportunities to talented non-fiction writers and researchers by commissioning and paying for original content; and to give free publicity to community-based groups and projects, charities, social enterprises, family-friendly places and arts organisations.
In the meantime, thank you for reading. Thank you to all of our loyal advertisers who have stuck with us. Thank you too to all of our wonderful distribution outlets, and to Iwan who has been cheerfully dropping off their copies for so many years.
By Alison Stodolnic