News Limited chief optimistic of print media future

THE printed newspaper will be here for a good while yet, predicts News Limited’s optimistic chief executive officer Kim Williams.

Speaking to members of the Melbourne Press Club at the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex on Wednesday, Mr Williams outlined several major points of the new business model for the media and journalism.

News Limited CEO Kim Williams, centre, with The Fiji Times business editor Geraldine Panapasa, left, and The Post Courier business journalist Ancilla Wrakuale. Picture: GERALDINE PANAPASA

“My first point is a prediction which shouldn’t really surprise us but it still sometimes does – the printed newspaper will be here for a good while yet. It may not comprise the whole ‘newspaper’ market as it once did but it will remain vitally important because consumers love it,” he said.

“News Limited alone sells more than 11 million newspapers every week and we distribute an additional five million community papers a week. Together, our Sunday newspapers are read by at least five million people every Sunday.

“The fact is, when it invented the iPad, Apple did not un-invent paper. Many people continue to love printed newspapers.

“Despite being an early adopter of the iPad and an absolute devotee of online publications, I still regard a crisply printed newspaper as a thing of great utility, even beauty and certainly a total pleasure to read.

“Our 11 million weekly buyers suggest I’m not alone. It is after all a very user-friendly technology and a great way to read fine journalism and for advertisers to have a very real impact.”

Mr Williams said when it was revealed recently that business strategists at The Guardian in the United Kingdom had discussed the possibility of axing the paper’s print edition, Mayor of London Boris Johnson was quick to defend the importance of the print media.

“Don’t do it. It would be a national tragedy if we lost the paper version – the wood pulp and ink version – of this historic publication. It’s no use telling us that the content would all be there online. Everything is online,” Johnson was quoted as saying.

“When we see that doomed institution, the cinema, thriving two generations after the invention of the VHS cassette, we know that human beings’ decisions do not necessarily move in a linear direction along with technology,” Mr Williams said.

“To the discouraged young, not only shouldn’t you give up hope of seeing yourself or your words on a screen, you shouldn’t give up seeing your words and your photo by-line on a printed page.

“The end of the newspaper may indeed be coming but it’s not possible to say with certainty that the iPad will bring down the printed mastheads the way a giant meteorite brought down the last of the dinosaurs. The extinction of the printed page is not a given.”

Mr Williams said young people are inventing their own journalistic future. But a journalist’s job will undoubtedly be different to the job of print journalist 20 years ago.

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