For the print media, digital subscription appears to be its main solution in the future. Changes in the way people choose their sources of information in the digital era have also changed their lifestyles, the way they consume news. Editor-in-chief of the Kompas Daily, Sutta Dharmasaputra, said that the era of pandemic era provided the right time for the media to change their policies in how they publish information.

“The print media are beginning to fall down along the way, making us very concerned. Kompas’ circulation has also gone down by around 60-70% today compared to the golden age of the Gulf War era (1990). This decrease represents a huge figure,” Sutta said in the interview with Maverick Indonesia for People Behind the News.

Even though it has seen a significant drop in terms of circulation, the Kompas Daily can now boast of a much larger audience for its digital version, with 1.3 million people. This figure represents Kompas’ readership from its digital subscriptions, far exceeding that of its print media since the daily first was published.

Digital subscriptions have two advantages that most print media in general appears to have failed to realize. Kompas was the first media to initiate digital subscription in Indonesia in 2017. Digital subscription has a function that all print media can adopt. Through digital subscriptions, print media can easily maintain the existence of the newspaper itself. Maybe even develop it more because they will also be able to better understand the needs of their readers.

“Newspapers are disrupted by two factors, by platforms and by content that is deemed as irrelevant. Irrelevancy  can be resolved by developing digital subscriptions. The only thing that remains to be faced by newspapers is the disruption of the platform, whether there are people who currently still read newspapers,” Sutta said.

Looking at overseas print media that have changed their concept, it can be seen that around 70% of mainstream media have developed digital subscriptions and have succeeded in increasing their audience. The New York Times for example, saw its initial readership drop from two million to 800,000 but managed to boost it to eight million by developing its digital subscription development. After nearly a century of existence, the New York Times achieved success in just 10 years through the development of its digital subscriptions.

“Through the development of digital subscriptions, print media can better understand the preferences of their readers, what should be carried by newspapers, what by e-papers, and what online. So, for the print media (in Indonesia), let’s all experiment. And hopefully with this experiment, information (domestic news) could also reach other countries,” he said.

Revenues from digital subscriptions have indeed not managed to reach the levels achieved by newspapers and this cannot be expected to change in a short time. But the greater audience of digital subscriptions can also lead to better quality journalism with the presentation of deeper information achieved through investigative coverage and covering a wider sector. Quality journalism is also believed to be able to produce news that are not solely aimed at drawing a higher click bait level but also present data-backed information.

The Covid-19 pandemic is forcing the print media to make immediate changes and respond to the challenges from a society which is in desperate need of various information in this time of crisis that is mainly a health crisis. This momentum should be well responded because digital disruption has provided the answer to questions from the print media 10 years ago, about which way the media would go in the future.

“10 years ago we were like in a parked bus. We did not know where we were going to take this bus. Now we have found the direction, and it is time for us to play total football to counterattack. If in the past we were only in parking mode, the mainstream media is now in the digital subscription media business, meaning that it is time to ‘make news room great again’,” Sutta said. (*)