Print is still the largest growing revenue sector in the newstrade, according to four chief executives of major publishing companies.

Speaking at the Professional Publishers Association 2018 Festival in Tobacco Dock, London, last week, senior figures from Bauer Media, Immediate Media, Hearst UK, and Shortlist Media reflected on the continuing health of print compared to the muted growth of digital, which they said had not delivered to the extent publishers had expected.

“I consider our company a content-first platform. Print is the biggest part of our business,” said Rob Munro-Hall, chief executive of Bauer Media.

“There is no point launching a product that’s not going to the newsstands. Launching titles is harder than it has been, but in five years, we launched eight magazines and all are still going.”

Immediate Media’s Tom Bureau agreed. “With three or four million customers who buy from newsagents, print is still a growth platform for us. Ads are important, but 85% of our revenue doesn’t come from them.”

Speculating on the future, all panellists seemed less confident about the direction of print going forward, but remained adamant it was currently an “essential” part of the business and emphasised the need to connect with consumers on a more personal level.

“Our plan is turning casual readers and users into loyal consumers,” said James Wildman, chief executive of Hearst UK. “With the media in crisis and decline, there are innovations going on all the time, so we want to become more consumer-centred instead of ad-centric.”

Mr Bureau agreed: “People are such a finite resource, so our plan is to entertain, educate, and only then transact. A company falls apart very quickly if it can’t take risks.”

Ella Dolphin, chief executive of Shortlist Media, added: “One thing I’ve learned is to look three years into the future. Things have a lot of oxygen in year one, but they don’t always work out.”