Newspaper publishers keeps hopes alive despite challenges
BANGKOK—The news business is not a dying industry, but newspapers have to provide good and relevant content, journalists and media owners told an international media conference on Monday.
Despite uncertainties brought about by digital challenges, the future of the news publishing business looks promising, experts said at the opening of the 65th World Newspaper Congress here.
Patrick Daniel, editor in chief of the English and Malay newspapers of Singapore Press Holdings, whose profit margin reached 35 percent last year, said readership and demand for news had remained high.
“The news business is not a dying industry,” Daniel told some 1,500 participants from 70 countries gathered at The Bangkok Convention Center in Centara Hotel for a three-day meeting. “We probably have the highest newspaper margin in the world. I’m happy to say that.”
“Print circulation is not dead, just redefined and more focused,” said Michael Chalhoub, chief executive officer of Sports360 in the United Arab Emirates. The key, he said, “remains to provide good and relevant content” to readers.
Sports360 is a provider of sports content on a variety of platforms around the world.
Both Chalhoub and Daniel issued similar assessments in summing up the global media trends, the topic of the first session of the congress, which also coincides with the 20th World Editors Forum and the 23rd World Advertising Forum.
‘Keep print alive’
Daniel said the challenges facing the industry were twofold—“readers are moving to digital at a rapid rate” and “digital revenues can’t support the cost base.”
“We must keep print alive. Adopt a strategy,” Daniel said, pointing out that through “digital paywalls, we can [increase] our subscription revenue.”
He called for a “transformation” of the newspaper industry by building “integrated, multiple platform newsrooms,” redefining jobs and wages, and finding a new revenue stream.
He called for a “new vision for a different future.”
“If we succeed, (newspapers) can remain a high-margin business,” Daniel said, stressing it was hard to find a business as profitable as newspapers.
Golden Pen of Freedom
Publishers, editors and reporters opened the conference by honoring Than Htut Aung, a publisher from Burma (Myanmar), for standing up to military dictatorship.
Amid applause, Aung received the 2013 Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers for using his media outfit—the Eleven Media Group—as a “force for change” and “symbol of protest” in his country.
Aung said the award “is not for me but for my struggling people.”
“I understand that after 50 years of dictatorship the road to democracy may not be a smooth one. We are still living under pressure and fear. We have to resist. We have to fight,” he said.
“This Golden Pen of Freedom Award to me means that I am not walking alone. We, the people of Myanmar, are not walking alone. This award means you are with us,” he added.
The World Press Trends, an annual survey on trends in global news publishing, pointed to a bright spot in the newspaper world—print circulation is rising in Asia although declining in the West.
It said increasing “audience engagement” would be the future for the news media and noted that digital advances had even increased the audience for the newspaper online content.
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