The two-day WAN-IFRA India 2010 annual conference began in Jaipur with keynote address on "The future of media business. Is the business model changing?" by Christoph Riess, CEO of WAN-IFRA.

It is time media houses looked for paid content models to monetise their digital initiatives since advertisement revenues from this stream would never match those of the print medium, said Christoph Riess, CEO of WAN-IFRA, the world association of newspapers and news publishers, here on Wednesday.

Delivering the keynote address on “The future of media business. Is the business model changing?” at the inaugural of the two-day WAN-IFRA India 2010 annual conference, Mr. Riess argued for introduction of the paid content models in view of the global trends of dwindling revenues of newspapers.

Outlining macro trends in the media industry, he said that since the 2009 downturn, television had increased its market share globally in terms of advertisement spending while magazines and newspapers had declined. Until a year prior to the downturn, newspapers had stable revenues. It is also to be noted that spending on Internet advertising is growing steadily, he added.

In Asia, there was still scope to push advertising particularly in classified sections. In India, advertising spending for television was forecast to rise, while that for newspapers could experience a dip by 2012. Internet penetration remained low but the mobile phone offered prospects to substitute online revenues. However, digital revenues would be less effective since the very model was based on low-yield levels.

“It would, therefore, be prudent to look at paid content models.”

“Encouraging trend”

Based on figures available from the Registrar of Newspapers, print media in India was showing robust growth, from 1,874 titles in 2005 to 2,700 in 2009. This was an encouraging trend for the country. Making a comparison between mobile and internet media, Mr. Riess said India could leapfrog to the mobile platforms without undue reliance on Internet growth. While the Internet penetration in the country had been low, mobile telephony penetration was extraordinary, and 3G was likely to bring in new prospects.

It should also be borne in mind that mobile users were happy to pay for content, although they did not like to receive advertisements on their devices. The reverse was true for the Internet users. The outlook to the future should, therefore, cover different devices such as e-readers, mobiles, tablet PCs and traditional laptops and personal computers.

Answering the question of what publishers should do to shape future businesses, the WAN-IFRA CEO said they should invest in print and explore new ways to reach readers.

The Managing Director of The Hindu group of publications, K. Balaji, in his welcome address, said 300 delegates from 15 countries were participating in the conference. He recalled that Asia was showing quick signs of recovery from the economic downturn. Magdoom Mohamed, MD of WAN-IFRA South Asia, proposed a vote of thanks.