On 20 May, AOP attended an executive roundtable organized by strategic consultancy MTM London on the future of newspapers in a Digital Britain. Here is a summary of the key conclusions of the debate:
News consumption at an all time high
Few doubt that the demand for news consumption is higher than it has ever been, or that the increase in real-time delivery online and the growth of citizen journalism have changed the rules of engagement for traditional publishers.
However, print media is faced with declining sales, and advertising moving from print into cheaper and more accountable online alternatives. That situation is unlikely to change, even when the economy picks up.
Widening of news generation sources
There are of course some exceptions, but fundamentally news publishers need to move to new business models as the traditional model based on advertising revenues to fund editorial delivery is threatened.
A major challenge for the news industry is making online brands ultra-relevant to their audiences, for which embracing communities and democratising news creation are pivotal factors.
Debate may rage over the effect of the web on quality journalism, contrasting the output from trained journalists with enthusiastic amateurs, but the appetite for instant news and relevance to communities inevitably means a widening of news generation sources.
Paid content opportunities
Questions remain however as to how to make a viable business out of the changing culture of news delivery.
Subscriptions and micropayments for content are of course back on the table for discussion. While financial/business/B2B news specialists have built successful paid content businesses, the appetite for subscriptions among other news providers (and more to the point, their users) is still unclear.
Most believe there are still opportunities to develop digital business models that include paid content, but how, where and what readers will be willing to pay for in online media remains to be seen.
The news landscape in 2015
Finally, the panel was invited to offer a view of what the news landscape of 2015 will look like. It was generally agreed there will be some casualties and consolidation, leading a smaller sector with fewer bigger brands and the emergence of new online-only brands.
Consumers will access content across many platforms, relevance and quality will be key, and brands will continually need to reassess how they engage with audiences.