International editors meet in Paris p.21

By: Robin Hunt THE GLOBAL NEWSPAPER perspective presented to the delegates of the second World Editors Forum in Paris was not auspicious.
Introducing the conference, Timothy Balding, director general of FIEJ ? the Federation Interationale des Editeurs de Journaux ? told members of the World Editors Forum, held in conjunction with the World Newspaper Congress of FIEJ, a sorry tale of falling circulations, lost advertising share and falling revenues.
While there were some success stories ? Brazil, India, Latvia, Peru, Singapore and Malaysia all showed readership and advertising revenue growth ? the imperative for newspapers around the world to come to terms with, and exploit commercially, the new media was made ever more vital.
Balding described a newspaper world in which the daily circulation of newspapers fell in 1994 in 23 of the 40 countries for which FIEJ has data (See related story on page 20).
Print media also continue to lose out globally to other media. In 28 of the 37 countries for which FIEJ has information, newspapers now take less than 50% of advertising revenues, in many cases, far less. In Italy, the press takes a 22.1% share; the U.S. takes just 22.8%
The pessimism was dismissed by Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Negroponte offered a "blue sky" vision of a media sector with 10% growth in some sectors. He was speaking of the Internet, a potential money-spinner for publishers who understand its particular demands.
The key message of Negroponte's address was that the net is growing far faster, and far more broadly, than official statistics would suggest. He claimed that 80% of U.S. teenagers have a PC at home, and that while last year only 5% of these had a modem, now that figure is closer to 65%.
He also discounted claims that as a result of home PCs, newspaper circulation is declining because young people are now less likely to consume news from print.
He suggested that being online is a prime opportunity to target this market by offering young people an opportunity to appreciate words.
Birger Magnus of the Scandinavian consultant firm McKinsey & Co, described how newspapers must embrace the digital world and serve "multiple segments."
Magnus addressed fears of profit squeeze from the "gateway" providers of electronic media, by suggesting that "overcapacity in distribution may force the telephone companies, cable companies and satellite broadcast companies to use the entry into the gateway industry as a vehicle to increase traffic in their own pipes."
In this case, he said, "the content providers will be the winners."
"If the future is going to be dominated by mega gateways, the content providers need to invest piles of money and establish alliances to become successful players," Magnus said.
United Kingdom online consultant, Ray Hammond, predicted that while printed newspapers ? and their particular "point of view" ? will not disappear, they will evolve away from hard news toward entertainment.
"I hate saying this because I love prose, but I do believe that the younger generation has a shorter attention span," Hammond said.
Ken Paulson, vice president and executive editor of Gannett Suburban Newspapers, warned that while most journalists are "enthusiastic about the potential of online communications . . . they're less eager to be participants themselves."
Paulson emphasized the need for training. "The smoothest possible transition for an online service occurs when a newsroom staff views it as just one more edition of the regular newspaper," he said.
This was a point confirmed by Tim McGuire, editor and general manager of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
"If you're going to create transformation and shake the foundations of the organization, you must have staff informed," he said.
James Drummond, electronic publishing manager at the San Diego Union-Tribune offered a word of caution.
"In San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego more than 45% of the population own personal computers," he said, adding, "the key thing to watch is just how deeply into this society [online subscriptions] goes over the long-term. Just how many people will be regular users after the hype dies down will be the true test of the medium."

Hunt is an associate editor at Wired magazine in the United Kingdom.
(See Paris on page 33)


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