Byline: By Simon Newsam Western Mail
What future is there for newspapers? I wish I had a euro for every time I had been asked that in the past four years.
Well, finally there is an answer, of sorts, though it's neither the one that some of my newspaper colleagues wanted to hear, nor one I particularly agree with.
It comes from the UK-based media consultancy Rightscom and a Finnish business school and was paid for by that visionary temple of all human understanding, the European Commission.
Among its findings; 13% of the time consumers devote to the media is currently spent on newspapers, compared with 10% online, but that is changing fast.
Magazines have already been overhauled in the 'media hours' league table by the internet, though TV is still way out in front with 41% of our time.
And, the report adds, just as the internet has eaten into newspaper audiences, so too has it chomped into its share of advertising revenue.
Indeed, online advertising is forecast to grow faster than any other, taking up to 15% of all advertising revenue in some countries in the next two years. All this and broadband too!
The report concludes that newspapers must jump aboard the internet quickly and innovate - or be doomed.
Another poll in the last week or two reveals that in the Netherlands people already prefer reading their news online to reading it from a newspaper by a ratio of almost two to one.
And, of course, there is the public perception of current affairs (which should never be totally dismissed). If I had a pound for every time someone told me 'the internet - that's the future of publishing...'
With such mounting evidence, albeit either old hat or unsubstantiated, are reports of the print sector's demise premature? Will newspapers disappear up their own obituary columns?
Neither the Commission- sponsored report, nor anyone of any authority, is prepared to go that far. But the tide of opinion does regularly send a shiver down the backbones of my newsprint colleagues.
As for me, I couldn't give a monkey's.
It's not that I'm callous, vengeful or want to rule the world. I just find it a tad irrelevant. The internet, newsprint, TV ... each is just a different medium in which publishing groups operate. As the popularity of one shrinks so another grows.
The key to survival - and success - for any publisher is to be prepared to make changes. Like all businesses, media groups must predict and react.
A specialist magazine business, aptly named Future Publishing, illustrates this well. …