Media Management : The Web Is Not All; Are Newspapers Being Swept into Oblivion by the Internet? Ian Grant Explains Why the Rumour of Their Imminent Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Article excerpt

Byline: Ian Grant

Conventional wisdom is that newspapers are doomed a[euro]" going the way of the dinosaurs in a brave, new electronic world. This belief is firmly fixed a[euro]" as so many things are a[euro]" on the American experience where newspapers, including illustrious and time-honoured titles, are crashing like pins in a bowling alley.

But, as is also often the case, the American experience is of limited relevance elsewhere. Reasons why the daily press is in deep trouble in the United States include: ownership by debt-ridden conglomerates in largely self-inflicted financial straits; owners with little newspaper history much more interested in bottom-line than in quality journalism; regional and local TV stations that a[euro]delivera[euro] cost-effective audiences to advertisers; competing morning and evening dailies in markets where there is no longer room for both; poor management that has panicked over the internet while producing stodgy newspapers and slashing newsroom staff a[euro]" their lifeblood.

Take a global perspective, and the newspaper business is not on its deathbed. The World Association of Newspapers reported in late May a 1.3 percent increase in newspaper circulation world-wide in 2008. While most of that growth was in countries like India, digital delivery was also increasing total readership in the developed world. The reality is that newspapers are going to have an increasingly symbiotic relationship with the internet.

How to compete or cooperate with website babble and blogger bedlam are continuing issues a[euro]" but ita[euro]s a matter of adaptation rather than surrender. It was, after all, not so long ago that television was going to bury newspapers. The Americans seem to have had no online strategy: they put everything on their websites, the public said a[euro]thank youa[euro] and stopped buying newspapers. There is now an argument raging about whether online content should be paid for or free a[euro]" long after that particular horse is happily grazing several paddocks away.

More relevant says Tim Pankhurst, former Dominion Post editor and newly appointed head of the Newspaper Publishersa[euro] Association, is how to manage the mix of newsprint and online content.

a[euro]Because radio and a number of internet websites will be doing it, it makes sense to get a[euro]breaking newsa[euro] up on your site as quickly as possible,a[euro] says Pankhurst. a[euro]But it makes even more sense to hold onto exclusive stories no-one else has a[euro]" investigative pieces or even local court and council reports a[euro]" for the next print edition.a[euro]

How well are New Zealand newspapers surviving? Evening newspapers have largely gone and today, there are five main centre and 17 provincial dailies in a country with a population half the size of the Chicago metropolitan area, which has two dailies, both recently filing for bankruptcy. …

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