What Does Making The Transition To Digital Mean For Print Publishers?

How do print publishers know when they have successfully “made the transition to digital”? Here’s Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons:

“We’re not looking to move our publishing company out,” Time Warner Chief Executive Richard Parsons said at the Merrill Lynch media conference in London.

He added, “It can be in a 8, 9, 10 percent growth business for a long time, if we successfully make this transition to digital.”

So Parsons thinks legacy print brands that have successfully transitioned to digital can grow 8-10%. But how exactly does the math work? If I were an investor in a company with print publications, these are the questions I’d be asking:

  • Are print and digital growing in tandem? If so, is the print growth rate greater than or equal to digital growth, our so small as to be insignificant?
  • Is digital growth so high in the face of declining print that it yields a net positive growth rate?
  • Is the growth driven by continued lay-offs and cost control?
  • Or does it mean shutting down the print publication entirely and riding the digital growth wave?

You can’t blame the CEO of a public company for being vague, but you have to wonder whether behind closed doors they even know the answer.