Experts: Stroke-stricken newspapers won’t die

Panel discussion at the international conference in Berlin

Panel discussion at the international conference in Berlin

The newspaper business is a (fast) collapsing industry all over the world. Companies are cutting down on advertisements – the oxygen of newspapers – due to economic privation. Circulation has plunged. The new media – mobile phones, PDA and social networks – have reshaped the delivery and reading of news. It is cheaper and easier to read news now than 10 years back.

Conversely, experts contend that in spite of the enormous and staring threat to newspapers, it would still survive the challenges of the new media. But not without certain fundamental and crucial changes.

Speaking at an international conference in Berlin, Germany, panelists concurred the traditional media especially newspapers have a major role to play in this age of technology. “The traditional media need to be credible and fast to catch up with time,” Premesh Chandran of noted.

Dr Christoph Bieber saw eye to eye with Premesh but thinks managers of newspapers (traditional media) should fashion their strategies based on what the new media comes up with. He suggested: “They (managers) must pay attention to the new media and how it is growing.”

The international conference was themed: “Elections Times: Harnessing the power of new media”. The International Institute for Journalism of InWent and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung organized it. About 200 participants from different parts of the world attended.

Though newspaper sales are declining with accelerated speed and in some cases folding up in parts of America and Europe, Dele Olojede of NEXT (an online publication which has recently launched a print version) in Nigeria, claims the situation is the exact opposite in Africa. He said so far as the traditional media (newspapers) have a working business model they would stand the test of time.

“People still want to have their newspaper folded under their armpits… the traditional media should understand that there is the need to adopt a model. They have a role to play,” Olojede assured his colleagues. Professor Jan Faizullah of Pakistan totally agreed with him.

Another newspaper player, Werner D’Inka of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) shares in Dele’s line of argument. He added that the traditional media should not fret but continue pushing for the tough answers. “They should continue to ask the skeptical questions.”

Nancy Scola, an associate editor of Tech President, an award winning online publication based in the US, said the traditional media need to “step down from the mounted frame they have perched themselves” in order to catch up with the new media. Photo: Kent Mensah

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March 2009

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