The 62nd World Newspaper Congress and the 16th World Editors Forum, organised by the newly formed World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), are in progress at Hyderabad. WAN-IFRA represents over 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries and was created by the merger of the World Association of Newspapers and IFRA, a research and service organisation for the news publishing industry. The summit saw 900 participants from 87 countries and topics such as survival, the future of journalism and online monetisation formed the core of today’s discussions.
Guardian Reducing Staff
Chris Elliot, managing editor of The Guardian, on the first day of the summit, spoke on re-examining financial models and cutbacks by his media house. The Guardian plans to reduce its staff by 70 to 100 journalists by offering them voluntary packages. Elliot said that though newspaper success is not possible without a sound financial base, it’s also easy for them to survive with the backing of a financial partner. “We have to get on with doing the best we can with the resources we have,” Elliot said at the conference.
Pratibha Patil, the President of India, began the second day of the conference with her keynote, opining that people still continue to rely on newspapers. A podcast of her speech is available for download here.
Digital Payments: Les Hinton, CEO of Dow Jones took an anti-Google stance claiming the Internet giant was battling to make make money from free content on YouTube and was considering making quality content on YouTube paid. His advice: “Beware of geeks bearing gifts”. Hinton also said that print may have weathered radio and TV, “but this time it’s different” (from @vb2b) He claimed that his company’s portal WSJ.com was sold out for the last two months. He also talked about how newsroom expenditures continued to weigh down the organisations while the industry shrank, giving the example of the US newspaper industry falling from $60 billion to $37 billion while newsroom costs only dropped $1.5 billion.
Launching the 2009 Word Newspaper Trends report, WAN-IFRA CEO Timothy Balding said, “We must solve the digital payment issue”. From Twitter comes a first hand view on the happenings at the World Editors Forum – when a show of hands on who thinks newspapers cannot/shouldn’t ever charge online came up, only three people raised hands in full ballroom.
“Mobile consumers pay for ringtones, texts etc. Why should news content be free,” said Andreas Wiele, member of the board and president of BILD Division & Magazines, Axel Springer AG, a German media house with 170 newspapers and magazines and 60 online offerings.
Guardian’s Deputy Editor and overall head of news, business and sport, Paul Johnson, revealed that one third of Guardian’s site traffic is from UK, one third from US and one third from rest of world. He also said, “Twitter, blogs, citizen journalism, and the long tail of the web, that lets us reach the maximum number of people. That’s what journalism is about really, letting us reach the maximum number of people.”
On Journalism: “We (journalists) have taken our mission, and have surrendered it to advertisers,” rued Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of Bangladeshi paper The Daily Star. (via twitter). He admitted that 80% of the paper’s revenue comes from print ads and that ads are killing consumers. “Journalists,” he opined, “must regain the moral highground that society has placed us.”
Jaideep Bose, editor-in-chief of the Times of India, said that pieces (stories) that are eccentric, unpredictable and engaging to address the needs of a globally sophisticated audience have resulted in an “amazing” response so far and that people are ready to pay a higher cover price for such news bytes.
Golden Pen Award: Najam Sethi, Editor in Chief of The Friday Times and The Daily Times, Pakistan was awarded the Golden Pen. In his speech he talked about the aggressive corporate sector replacing the government as “both as the most significant source of media revenue and the concomitant political pressure that goes with it, often at the expense of the public interest.” A podcast of his speech is available for download here.
Stronger Copyright Laws: Wiele spoke of the need for new regulations, stronger copyright laws and new anti-trust laws to enable mergers that will help newspapers survive. He also informed the audience that 94 percent of online readers are not print readers.
Talking about Amazon’s e-book reader Kindle, Wiele said, “Kindle was invented for books not newspapers. WSJ has 30,000 subscribers on what he calls a “primitive” platform.
Advertising: Balding said that digital advertising revenues for newspapers are expected to fall by ten percent by 2013 and that and the hope for a digital “bonanza” seems to be clearly nothing more than a hope. But @3bucn reports another quote from the conference by Price Waterhouse Coopers as mentioning that digital revenue growth is currently 10% and expected to decline to 5% by 2013.
Balding adviced publishers to look elsewhere for revenue streams taking in the trend that digital advertising revenues have fallen 6 quarters in row for U.S. newspapers. However, mobile advertising may be the solution newspapers are looking for. According to @3bucn, there is $4 billion of advertising annually going to the mobile platform, and this is expected to grow. Another twit by the user says Google takes 65% of the $59 billion internet advertising and Yahoo and Google together control 75% of revenues, according to PWC numbers.