By: Doug Mellgren
As readership and revenues shift onto the Internet, experts said on Tuesday that top news media executives must seek new digital opportunities without neglecting their traditional print publications by rushing headlong into cyberspace.
The second annual World Digital Media Trends report, released at a meeting of the World Association of Newspapers, said the digital platforms of newspapers are growing at a double-digit rate worldwide, as the world increasingly goes online. The report, compiled with the help of 71 research groups, said digital and mobile advertising revenues are expected to increase 12-fold from 2002 to 2011, to about $150 billion worldwide.
The report said the number of wireless device subscriptions is expected to increase threefold to 3.4 billion from 2002 to 2011, the number of homes with broadband is likely to rise 10-fold in the same period, and the mobile telephone customer base has increased from 945 million in 2001 to 2.6 billion in 2006.
The report said one study says that in some countries “the Internet will become the primary news and information source within five years, while newspapers will lose the dominating position they have held for more than a century.” Newspapers cannot count on their print editions alone to keep them solvent, the report said.
However, association President Gavin O’Reilly warned that newspapers should not rush unprepared into new mobile and Internet markets and said about 60 percent of the new revenues goes to two companies, the search engine giants Google and Yahoo.
“The Net is a wonderful place if you know what you are looking for,” he said at a panel debate about digital media’s impact on newspaper revenues. “But we run the risk that running headlong into digital will turn our dollars into pennies.”
Newspaper companies must also continue to invest in the medium they know best ? printed editions ? since there are few accurate overviews of the impact of Internet revenues on newspapers, he said.
But O’Reilly dismissed the notion that newspapers would soon be a relic of the past because they “are not up for the challenge ? or indeed, the many opportunities ? that the digital world offers.”
“All of us in the industry know the big strategic issues and challenges at play in the fast evolving digital world; and, the really successful publishers are those who recognize and capitalize on the newspapers’ relative position in the busy media matrix. Happily, that is the majority of publishers today,” he said.
At a separate panel debate for newspaper editors, Jim Roberts, editor for digital news at the New York Times, said “I expect our print edition to be around for a long time.”
Even after newspapers generate enthusiasm among their traditional print staff for new media, they still have to find and provide the resources and qualified personnel for doing both, he said at the three-day meeting 1,800 publishers, editors and other senior newspapers, which started Monday.