New life for newspapers on internet

Aoraki Polytechnic diploma in journalism students from Dunedin, with tutor Lea Jones (right),...
Aoraki Polytechnic diploma in journalism students from Dunedin, with tutor Lea Jones (right), take notes as speakers, including Otago Daily Times editor Murray Kirkness, discuss the future of news at Otago Museum's Hutton Theatre last night. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The days of printed newspapers on doorsteps might be numbered, but not the demand for local news delivered in new ways, a Dunedin audience heard last night.

Instead, the future for many newspapers would be found online, but the key issue to be tackled was still finding a way to make websites pay.

That was the challenge dissected at last night's "The News: What's the Future?" panel discussion at the Otago Museum's Hutton Theatre, chaired by Otago Daily Times editor Murray Kirkness.

Alongside him as panellists were ODT assistant editor Simon Cunliffe, Southland Times editor Fred Tulett, Fiordland Advocate editor Kirsty Macnicol and University of Otago applied sciences senior lecturer Dr Mark McGuire.

Mr Kirkness pointed to the publishers of Britain's The Guardian newspaper, who had lost 33 million ($NZ64 million) in a year despite operating one of the most popular news websites in the world.

The biggest reason for their decline was a drop in advertising revenue, particular from situations vacant, as advertisers moved away from print to online, Mr Kirkness said.

In New Zealand, newspapers were also shedding readers and advertising revenue, although Mr Tulett said both the Southland Times and ODT remained strong and profitable. He predicted they would be among the last daily titles printed.

However, Mr Tulett believed the future for printed newspapers was small, community-focused publications such as the Fiordland Advocate, while larger operations with higher costs gradually moved online.

The key to online success would be to continue offering what others did not - strong local news - and attracting enough readers to convince advertisers to support the online product, he believed.

Dr McGuire believed the model of news transmission was now more focused on sharing, through social media in particular, but much of the content still traced back to newspapers and traditional journalism.

"It's not that the internet is killing the newspaper. It's that the newspaper is spreading out and filling the internet," he said.

Mr Cunliffe agreed, arguing the "brave new world" of online media would still rely on good-quality journalism.

"Good journalism will prevail, and will be provided, and will be necessary, on whatever platform it's delivered."



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