Newspaper Congress Ends With Optimism

By: An international newspaper congress ended Wednesday in South Africa amid optimism for the future of the industry, as long as it manages to combine print and online operations to inject new dynamism and attract readers.

A study presented at the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum predicted that online information would supplant television network news as the leading news source over the next five years and urged media outlets to adapt accordingly with more integrated newsrooms combining print, video and online operations.

The three-day conference of more than 1,600 editors and executives was told that newspapers should turn challenges into opportunities - for instance by embracing free newspapers to boost readership and expand advertising revenue, as has happened in many northern European countries.

Gavin O'Reilly, president of the newspaper association, said that circulations were rising, there was a record number of paid-for titles in existence, and capital investment exceeded more than US$6 billion last year.

He said the demise of newspapers in the digital era had been greatly

?While there is some indication that print circulation is dropping in
some areas, the percentage of people who look for their news on both the net and in their newspapers is increasing rapidly, and more than makes up for the loss of circulation in print media,? said Martha Stone, director of the association?s Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project.

A poll conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with the Innovation International Media Consulting Group and presented Wednesday said that newspapers could significantly upgrade their traditional print product by providing more in-depth reporting and analysis, more information directly relevant to their readers' lives, and more visual design.

It said that television news programs on traditional and cable networks remained the primary information providers for 30-39 percent of adults surveyed in seven countries, but it predicted a sharp increase in the role of online news information over the next five years, largely at the expense of television, with smaller inroads into the market for newspapers.

The poll found that 23 percent of people in Britain, the United States and Australia relied on newspapers for their news, and just 16 percent in France. It said that, on a scale of one to 100, newspaper credibility scored a low of 50 in Britain and a high of 67 in Germany. It interviewed 8,750 people in seven countries.

A separate study by the Poynter Institute and presented by Mario Garcia, who has redesigned 450 newspapers worldwide, found that people read more deeply and for longer online.

It said online readers were not into ?beauty? but rather prefer lists and navigation tools to photographs or pretty design elements. The role of newspapers is changing from breaking news to examining its implications. News of the event itself will generally be disseminated by cell phone or e-mail, it said.

?Online is where the action is. You have to move your journalistic resources there. Online is where the story begins and the story ends. Print is there to amplify,? Garcia said. He said that changes in the industry did not signal the end of newspapers, but a change in their role.

?No medium kills another medium,? he said.

Newspaper association president O'Reilly said the suggestion that the Internet was damaging newspapers was ?unfounded,? as long as the two were linked.

?The data shows that in markets where broadband penetration is at its highest, newspaper penetration is also high,? he said.


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