At a recent meeting of the World Association of Newspapers, one of the topics of conversation included the results of the second annual World Digital Media Trends report, which revealed that digital platforms of newspapers are growing at a double-digit rate worldwide, as the world increasingly goes on line.
The report, compiled with the help of 71 research groups, reported on the increase of digital and mobile advertising revenues, which are estimated to "increase 12-fold from 2002 to 2011, to about $150 billion worldwide". No doubt this is all aided by the substantial increases expected in the number of wireless device subscriptions, the number of homes with broadband, and the mobile telephone customer base.
Don't Count on Print to Pay the Bills
As a result of these dramatic, but not surprising surges in online media and advertising the report cited studies that indicated in some countries "the Internet will become the primary news and information source within five years, while newspapers will lose the dominating position they have held for more than a century." To add insult to injury, newspapers are strongly encouraged not to "count on their print editions alone to keep them solvent."
Don't Throw Away the Printed Newspaper Yet
After the meeting attendees were scraped off the ceiling, association President Galvin O'Reilly softened the blow with a cautionary note. He warned that "newspapers should not rush unprepared into new mobile and Internet markets" and that "newspaper companies must also continue to invest in the medium they know best — printed editions — since there are few accurate overviews of the impact of Internet revenues on newspapers".
While nobody is suggesting, at least not publicly, that newspapers as we know them will be gone forever, the World Digital Media Trends report is correct in calling attention to the "big strategic issues and challenges at play in the fast evolving digital world". How publishers respond to these trends will be the crowning moment for an industry at a crossroads.