Where do newspaper companies go from here?

Wilkinson_Strategies to survive the digital era: Where do newspaper companies go from here?_2010
Earl Wilkinson, executive director and CEO at International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA), speaks during the 11th International Symposium on Online Journalism on Apr. 23, 2010. (Knight Center/Flickr)

The third panel at International Online Journalism Symposium tackled the big one: how can newspaper companies survive in the digital era.

Session chair Earl Wilkinson, executive director and CEO, International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA), set the tone by talking about headlines predicting the death of newspapers.

But in his view, newspapers are facing an economic downturn, above all in the US and UK. As a result, the storylines on print are set by New York and London.

Whereas, Wilkinson said, newspapers were flourishing in countries such as India.

What is unique to the US and UK are debt-laden companies, high broadband rates, unrealistic profit expectation and an issue with the public perception of newspapers.

But, said Wilkinson, there are common issues such as capital tied up in printing presses rather than databases.

He urged professionals to find the linkage between audience, content and platforms.

Looking to the future, he said media should expect 100% broadband penetration, with faster and faster speeds and a market saturation of smartphones. The question is working out where print fits into this world. Wilkinson drew a laugh as he said we were moving from a era of mass media, where we talked to a forest, to an era of niche, where we talked to a tree, to a era of micro-niches, where we talk to the leaves, “and the leaves are talking to each other.”

He compared what print needs to do as comparable to converting from Catholicism to Buddhism.

Determining your content’s value is a top priority today, he stressed.

I had to go to class, but thank goodness for Alfred Hermida. He’s been blogging up a storm, so I’ll defer to his post regarding the panel analyzing where newspaper companies go from here.————

ISOJ 2010: Strategies to Survive the Digital Era, From Knight Center on Vimeo.