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Newspapers: how the Internet is forcing innovation

By David Myton - posted Thursday, 10 May 2007

The UK Guardian, ever in the vanguard of innovation, last year launched a new web service which allows readers to download and print out a rolling version of the newspaper that is updated every 15 minutes. G24 is an eight- to 12-page PDF covering news, international news, economics, sport or media stories. It is aimed at the lunchtime and evening commuter market who may want an updated print product to read on the train or bus.

The Guardian’s ability to innovate is resonating with readers. Its online presence, Guardian Unlimited, announced record user figures for January 2007. The Guardian's website was visited by 15.7 million people internationally in January with 5.3 million UK unique users in the same month. International page impressions were up 14.8 per cent from January 2006 to 153.4m in January 2007. UK page impressions rose 12.3 per cent year-on-year to 67.7m.

Back in the United States, newspaper consumers are drifting to the Internet to get their news and information. By the end of 2005, more than 90 million American adults got news online during a typical day, a big increase since 2002 when around 27 million did so.


It is much the same story in Australia, with advertisers spending big online. A report from technology analysts Frost & Sullivan showed that spending on Internet advertising climbed nearly 50 per cent in 2006 to $605 million, with the report's author, Foad Fadaghi, predicting 25 per cent annual growth for the next four years, bringing total online advertising spend to more than $1 billion a year in Australia by 2009. He said Internet's share of spend will top magazine and radio advertising by the end of next year, catching up with newspaper revenue in 10 years and commercial television in 15 years.

However, there are those who believe newspapers that adapt to the digital age can survive and attract advertising. Newspapers such as the UK’s Telegraph “are not media brands shuffling quietly to their graves”, says Simon Marquis, an advertising industry consultant and a former chairman of Zenith Optimedia.

A survey organised by the World Editors Forum and Reuters found that 85 per cent of senior news executives see a rosy future for their newspaper. They accept competition from online sources and free papers, and in turn are making efforts to adapt to the 21st century readership. According to the survey, they know how to effectively transition towards online journalism without dismissing editorial quality.

In the words of Murdoch MacLennan, the Telegraph Group's chief executive: "Beware the Jeremiahs of doom. During the past 70 years newspapers have survived despite the radio and television revolutions and the throttling grasp of the trade unions. Today, newspapers are fatter, more diverse and more entertaining than at any time in the previous century."

Proprietors and editors also know they have to adapt to the online world, or slowly fade away.

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About the Author

David Myton works in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at Macquarie University and is also a PhD candidate in the Macquarie Institute for Innovation.

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