World Newspaper Congress
Content continues to rule supreme

The 64th World Newspaper Congress, 19th World Editors Forum and Info Services Expo 2012, held for the first time in Kiev, Ukraine during September 02-05, 2012, with focus on the transformation of the news publishing industry in the digital age, drawing more than 1,000 newspaper publishers, chief editors and other senior newspaper executives from 88 countries.


Jacob Mathew
During the three-day event, the attendees witnessed enlightening and insightful deliberations by leaders of the media from all parts of the world, to meet the challenges in the media arena. The global summit meeting of the world’s newspaper industry opened with a call for the host country Ukraine to live up to the promise of post-Soviet revolution to ‘regain freedoms that sustain democracy and human dignity’. “We have gathered in this city to discuss and debate global as well as local events, and to show our solidarity with the entire media fraternity,” said Jacob Mathew, president of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), during the opening ceremony of the event. “There were voices that argued that Ukraine should be boycotted in view of its press freedom situation and other issues of concern,” he said, adding, “But we at WAN-IFRA chose exactly the opposite path. We said we should spend time in Kiev, understand the situation, and show our solidarity with the local independent media. Instead of turning our backs to the long-suffering Ukraine, we wanted to embrace this great country that we believe has the strength to re-assert itself and regain freedoms that sustain democracy and human dignity,”

The audience, which included Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, other dignitaries, and more than 1,000 publishers, chief editors, managing directors and other senior newspaper executives from 88 countries, was told that international media conferences in Ukraine “will give an exposure to the media an the society in the region to the best global practices in print and broadcast journalism.” “Our plea is to ensure that the laws which threaten any media are moved out of the way,” he said. President Yanukovych’s speech, which followed Mathew’s, was marked by a protest by a group of about 15 journalists who held up signs throughout his remarks that read, ‘Stop Censorship’. “There is a problem of inertia that law enforcement doesn’t react to some of the press’ complaints and claims about freedom of the press and independence of the media, but I can assure you that we are working diligently to improve this situation,” president Yanukovych said. A group of leading publishers and editors from around the world also met with Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and expressed concerns about the state of press freedom in the country and the urgent need for conditions that promote a strong, independent media. Jacob Mathew and Erik Bjerager, president of the World Editors Forum, presented the president with a report and recommendations that emerged from an international press freedom mission to Ukraine in April 2012.

‘Paid news’

Declining professionalism among journalists in some parts of the globe is a key concern in the media world, and one of the ugliest manifestations of eroding professionalism and journalistic ethics is the phenomenon of paid news. “This is the crassest form of unprincipled journalism, in which governments, political parties, corporations, NGOs or individuals pay money to media organisations to get anything published or even block out anything they dislike. This is a highly obnoxious practice, and editors and other media leaders should firmly resolve to eschew it,” said Mathew.



‘Re-moulding…structure’

Due to rapid strides in the publishing technology, newspapers are facing the greatest challenge of their lives. “Readers today spend a lot of time on the internet, looking for news and information, and the internet has redefined publishing cycles, which are now more immediate than broadcasting. To survive in the digital era, we must use new-age tools and re-mould our organisational and newsroom structure, and innovate to make money from the new mediums and devices such as smart-phones and tablets,” conveyed Mathew, suggesting, “We should also pay much more attention to creating, showcasing and disseminating video content.”

‘Charging for content’

“When in many parts of the world, newspaper circulations are under pressure in the digital age, and the revenues have shrunk, the irony is that freeloaders are profiting from the content we have worked hard to create,” said Mathew, emphasizing that newspapers all over the world should join hands and reach a consensus on charging for content, which is our greatest asset. And it will remain so. We have spent tremendous resources on creating this content, and there is no reason why we should give it away free or let others liberally help themselves to it. Consistant, Credible Content will continue to rule supreme, as the fundamentals of newspaper journalism are strong and would be most beneficial for all platforms.” Mentioning that some news organisations in the United States have collaborated to create a forum, for providing authorised access to original news content and for giving its members authentic data about how their news content is being used across the web, he suggested that they should devise similar strategies for protecting and charging for content and also think of creating a combination of pay models for digital and print. “Our future lies in finding efficient ways to licence the use of our content.”


Newspaper audience continues rising: World Press Trends

More people read newspapers than ever before, due to the many ways they now can be read, but publishers have not yet found ways to match that growth with revenues from digital platforms, the WAN-IFRA said in its annual update of World Press Trends. According to the data, more than half the world’s adult population read a newspaper: more than 2.5 billion in print and more than 600 million in digital form. That represents more readers and users than total global users of the internet. “The facts are hard to dismiss: newspapers are pervasive, they are part of the fabric of our societies. Our industry is stronger than many imagine,” said Larry Kilman, deputy CEO of WAN-IFRA, who presented the figures at the annual World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, the global summit meetings of the world’s press.

Newspaper print circulations continue to rise strongly in Asia and the Middle East, offsetting declines in print circulation in Europe, North America and Latin America. Global circulation increased by 1.1 per cent between 2010 and 2011, according to the World Press Trends update At the same time, newspaper advertising revenues have been declining as revenues lost in print have not been replaced by digital advertising. The study found that this decline correlates with a lack of ‘intensity’ when it comes to digital news reading – digital news consumers spend less time and visit fewer pages on digital platforms than they do in print. This lack of intensity is reflected in newspapers’ share of digital revenues. Newspapers in many markets are taking steps to correct this by finding ways to increase usage online.

“This is an area where publishers can lay the groundwork for increasing revenues from digital – finding ways to increase the intensity of the user experience is at the base of increasing revenues,” Kilman said, “At the same time, newspapers are changing, and must change, if they are to continue fulfilling their traditional role as watchdog, and as the provider of credible news and information that citizens need to make informed decisions in society. The problem is not one of audience. We have the audience. The challenge is largely one of business, of finding successful business models in the digital age.”

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