New PANPA CEO Mark Hollands, not long into the job, presented a well-considered and ultimately positive assessment of the Australian newspaper industry when compared with the industries of Europe and the UK, and especially the USA.
He pointed out that newspapers still enjoy the largest share of media advertising revenue, and perhaps more importantly, they still set the social and political agenda. Major investments by Fairfax and News Ltd have renewed technology in important centres around the country and personnel re-deployments promise to “use people better” than previously.
He also pointed to the declining demand for newsprint in the USA, whilst in Australia the demand is marginally higher than last year.
Keynote speakers at the plenary sessions were headlined by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who failed to ignite the audience with a largely irrelevant speech for the audience of newspaper and printing industry professionals, although he did recognise the major shifts in media usage by Australians and the impacts of this shift on the news industry, and indeed, on his own profession.
If delegates needed a good news story, they got it from Brian Tierney, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who told tales of a moribund newspaper brought to salvation and eventual success through the innovative use of new technology, and much more importantly, new ideas on the role of newspapers.
“Get over it,” he told delegates on their best response to lower circulations and tighter margins. “The idea of one newspaper for everyone is over. You have to go out there and get it.”
Reinforcing the point was Juan Senor, who presented World Newspaper Association trend information to the conference. He urged the audience to “rediscover our soul” by bringing sensuality, omnipresence and lightness to newspapers.
“Our greatest competitor is time,” he said, referring to online news services. “The business has not changed, but the business model has. Innovate or die.”
“We need to take the word ‘paper’ out of newspaper.”
After a video about the transformation of the Daily Telegraph‘s operations in the UK, Senor previewed a prototype newspaper that WAN has assembled on the basis of worldwide feedback. It was much smaller than current newspapers, about A4 in size, and more focused on imagery than words, with a magazine style in layout.
A much smaller audience, barely filling one-quarter of the auditorium, listened to developments in environmental initiatives by the industry. It was perhaps a clear indication of how the newspaper industry really feels about the subject, although the speakers begged to differ.
Technical sessions will take prominence on the last day of the conference, followed by the PANPA-Norske Skog Newspaper of the Year & Marketing and Technical Excellence Awards.
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