Newspapers must embrace digital future to survive

Newspapers hoping to retain their readers and survive in the technological age must venture into the online and mobile phone spheres, a World Association of Newspapers (WAN) meeting heard on Tuesday.

Speakers at a workshop said the newspaper was a dying breed but could avoid extinction by modernising its approach and extending its digital reach.

"We have to learn that online is where the action is, and we have to move our journalistic resources there," Mario Garcia, chief executive of the United States-based Garcia Media Group, told delegates to the WAN’s 60th world newspaper congress and 14th world editors’ forum being held in Cape Town.

He described the new path of news, starting with an e-mail or mobile phone alert of a breaking story, followed by reading it online and ending in its publishing in a newspaper the following day.

In such a scenario, he said, there was little point in newspapers repeating the news hours after it first broke. They would have to learn to present readers with new, forward-looking story angles.

"Nowadays, you have to assume that the reader knows more than you do," he said.

Martha Stone, director of the WAN’s "shaping the future of the newspaper" programme, told delegates the time has come for news organisations to cross-train journalists to tell a story in print, radio, television or online.

"Many newspapers experience today their circulations going down, but their reach into the market place with the internet is surging," she said.

Leonard Brody, chief executive and co-founder of NowPublic.com, a website for "citizen journalism" with over 90,000 contributors in ordinary people worldwide, believed the monopoly of traditional media was being challenged by camera phones and other technology enabling anyone to find news.

"We are moving very quickly into an era where everything is being recorded," he told the meeting.

On Monday, a WAN report said newspapers around the world saw a 2.3 percent rise in circulation in 2006 and a growth in advertising revenue despite the rise of digital media.

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Newspapers must embrace digital future to survive