Singleton Sees Bright Future For Newspapers

By: John A. Bolt, AP Business Writer

(AP) Despite predictions to the contrary, newspapers can have a bright future as technology-driven information companies, a top industry executive told editors and publishers.

Acknowledging that “things are getting very strange out there” economically, W. Dean Singleton, vice chairman and chief executive of MediaNews Group, said Friday, “It’s time to charge, not retreat. … I’m a believer that the payoff on the Web is there, it’s just waiting for us to discover the right models.

“We are well-positioned as the cornerstone of media convergence when the chains of cross-ownership are released next year,” he added, referring to expectations that the Federal Communications Commission will remove restrictions on joint ownership of broadcast and newspaper outlets.

“It is indeed a delicious irony that the oldest communications medium is emerging as the most modern, most high-tech, and most successful,” Singleton told attendees at the annual convention of the West Virginia Press Association.

Some have predicted that the Internet and the Web would undermine newspapers’ future.

Denver-based MediaNews is the seventh-largest newspaper group in the United States and owns the Charleston, W.Va., Daily Mail, as well as The Denver Post. Singleton also is chairman of the Newspaper Association of America and a member of The Associated Press board of directors.

Singleton pointed to studies that indicate Web users are also newspaper readers and that Web use even leads to newspaper purchases.

The Internet “is a massive transfer of power. As more people have access to more information, the relationship with those who used to own and dispense that information is dramatically altered, and I don’t care whether that’s your doctor, your president, or the publisher of your local newspaper,” he said.

“We need to be part of this shift,” he said. “We need to be so immersed and intertwined that we are both a driver of change and a beneficiary. And we do that by accelerating and refining the synergies between” the Internet and print.

“Peer-to-peer computing, digital newspaper, new generations of mobile computing, all of these are part of the next wave,” he said. “If we don’t put them to work, someone else will and we’ll be scrambling to catch up again.”

While newspapers need to aggressively try new things, he said, they cannot forget what they do for a living, “which is to serve readers.”

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