Print and newspaper industry live to see another day

Despite apocalyptic predictions, the death bell is far from sounding on the print and newspaper industry, a report has said.

In the “The Future of News and the Internet” report the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that “large country-by-country and title-by-title differences and the data currently do not lend themselves to make the case for the death of the newspaper. In particular if non-OECD countries and potential positive effects of the economic recovery are taken into account.”

 It said that after very profitable years, newspaper publishers in most countries face declining advertising revenues, titles and circulation. It blamed the economic crisis for amplifying this downward development.

In a survey of countries about 20 out of 30 were found to be facing declining newspaper readership. Newspaper readership is usually lower among younger people who tend to attribute less importance to print media.

The organisation also found that general, regional and local press have been hardest hit and 2009 was expected to be the worst year for newspapers, with the largest declines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Canada, and Spain, but had a much smaller impact on countries such as Austria, Australia.

But in emerging economies, for example, the average daily paid newspaper circulation has been growing for a number of years by about 35 percent from 2000 to 2008, most notably India with a 45 per cent increase in circulation between 2000 and 2008, South Africa (34 percent) and China (an estimated 29 percent). Other countries and continents, including Africa and South America, are also gaining readers.

The report also found that although people are reading news online they are doing this in addition to reading papers. It said in some countries, more than half of the population read newspapers online but at the minimum one in five people do so. The willingness to pay for online news is low but increasing, it said.

A journalist we talked to, who requested not to be named, told TechEye: “In my experience people are not willing to log on and pay for news. It’s always been a means of  ‘free reading’.

“We have in the past tried subscription based material but it’s never been welcomed. People would rather spend their money on a magazine or paper and read it leisurely, after all in many cases they are already paying a broadband subscription to read news online,” he added.  
The drivers of online news include technology, changing media use, new business models and new internet intermediaries, and social factors such as increased mobility and participation in the creation of online content. The report said that in the area of technology for news production, digital content management systems allow editors to produce content directly in various formats and to adapt to increasingly integrated newsrooms.

It said that the rapid advances in mobile technologies, wireless networks and new reader interfaces have enabled mobile news delivery and the introduction of smartphones and e-readers. This and other similar multimedia devices and business models will allow readers to access constantly updated, interactive news in real time, and within a global, Internet-enabled context. The OECD said this could eventually “empower a targeted news experience”. Whatever that is.