Tough economic conditions, falling advertising revenues and ever increasing popularity of new media have put a tremendous pressure on the print media companies worldwide. While some struggled, there were a few for whom it was a battle for survival. However, the adversity also brought about changes which will stand them in good stead in the long run. The session on the theme, Shaping the future of newspapers, focussed on the strategies to ensure survival and success in the changing scenario.
"We are in an investment mode, a growth mode and we need to make investments in people and other resources," said Martha Stone, director, Shaping the Future of the Newspaper (SFN) project of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). She spoke at the presentation of strategy reports of SFN's research project at the 62nd World Newspaper Congress underway in Hyderabad.
The discussion took note of the fact that one of the noticeable changes in the strategies of newspaper companies has been to outsource work to other companies - not just within the native country but also beyond borders. This is akin to what happened in the IT space a decade ago. However, the decision to outsource a function or process should be based on whether it is appropriate to do so.
Typically, the most common functions to be outsourced are IT and administration, the least preferred being editorial. "But it does not mean it hasn't happened," said Francois Nel, director, Journalism Leaders Programme at University of Central Lancashire.
Newspaper companies are now grappling with the impact of websites such as Twitter and Facebook on their businesses. A majority of them do have groups using the medium to disseminate information. However, the panel stressed on the importance of appointing 'social media editors' to monitor what is passed on through these media.
The panel emphasised that the Internet is important as it helps the newspapers to be in touch with the grassroots. Going forward, it will be very important for newspapers to integrate print and online, something which is already being done in the developed markets. It is also important to do so in manner that helps them maximise returns.
Another trend that will gain momentum in the coming years will be the newspaper companies adopting the 'Smart Publishing Model', wherein they not only produce papers but also look at businesses such as events and conferences to boost their revenue streams.
"Publishers expect to expand their portfolios," said Stone. Indian newspaper companies are already quite active at this. Most of the big groups such as HT Media and the Jagran Group have events, OOH and other businesses which have given them good returns and bolstered their revenues.