'Newspapers are up to online challenge'

Forecasters predicting the newspaper industry’s decline are making a ‘profound mistake”, the president of the World Association of Newspapers warned.

Speaking at the World Newspapers Congress in Gothenburg, WAN president and chief operating officer of Independent News and Media, Gavin O’Reilly, said: ‘Virtually every brokerage report from the investment banks appears to support a new conventional wisdom that newspapers are soon to be some relic of the past, and that newspaper companies are not up for the challenge, or indeed, the many opportunities that the digital world offers. What a profound mistake these commentators are making.”

‘All of us in the industry know the big strategic issues and challenges at play in the fast-evolving digital world, and, the really successful publishers are those who recognise and capitalise on the newspaper’s relative position in the busy media matrix. Happily, that is the majority of publishers today.

‘The fact is that newspapers are winning well in a world of heightened digital fragmentation. In properly assessing the performance of newspapers, one needs to calmly analyse the underlying audience trends for our industry, the quantum of our readership, and the quality demographic that we deliver, coupled with the incremental and growing audience that we garner from online.

‘And the conclusion is that our industry is extremely well-positioned at weathering the storm that is media fragmentation, guaranteeing as we do sizeable, reliable and relatively stable audiences.”

O’Reilly pointed out that, globally, newspapers are a $190bn industry, reaching 1.7 billion readers a day.

He said that newspaper advertising was expected to grow by 17 per cent over the next five years, which is faster than the past five years.

O’Reilly said: ‘Newspapers are a vibrant, relevant and commercial proposition for readers and advertisers alike. For investors, the investment in new technology and the delivery of new audiences produces an unrivalled cocktail of success: Strong, definable demographics, coupled with strong margins delivering consistent returns.”

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