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Updated: June 7, 2013 13:01 IST

New media platforms hold out big promise for newspapers to grow

G. Ananthakrishnan
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A screenshot of a TweetDeck platform where newspapers post their news updates and readers respond online.
A screenshot of a TweetDeck platform where newspapers post their news updates and readers respond online.

Using the mobile platform to expand audiences and connecting with readers using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and even custom-built tools are important methods for newspapers to grow, speakers at the annual Digital Media Round Table of WAN-IFRA, the global organisation of newspapers and news publishers, said here on Monday.

Data from developed markets showed that the compounded annual growth rate for advertising on mobile phones was projected to be sharply higher than the rate for the Internet between 2008-12 in the United States and Japan. Surveys also showed that areas such as mobile TV and gaming would experience robust growth, Martha Stone, director, ‘Shaping the future of the newspaper project-USA,’ said.

The Round Table was held in connection with the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and the 16th World Editors Forum organised here.

Ms. Stone said the opportunity to exploit the mobile platform was before the newspaper industry, which should not “blow it.” Already, a failure to be aggressive in the early days of the Internet had handed over the advantage to non-newspaper companies, she added.

Newspaper companies in Europe, Japan and the U.S. were leveraging the power of the mobile to connect with audiences. They used Quick Response codes to lead readers from print to extended or new content on mobile phones, both in news and advertising (QR codes are two dimensional matrix codes that camera phones with specific software can read and automatically direct the user to content on mobile browsers). A report in a newspaper, for example, could be printed with the QR code, and readers could scan it with mobile phones to access extended coverage.

It was also significant that while mobile growth had shown saturation in the European markets, there was slow saturation in the developing Asian economies and North Africa.

The growing power of social networking was evident from the time spent by audiences on sites such as Facebook. In Australia, for instance, three million people spend, on an average, 22 minutes a day on Facebook, Professor Stephen Quinn, Associate Professor, Deakin University, Australia, told the audience. The time spent on social networking sites was growing three times faster than that spent on the Internet and represented a strong channel to connect with audiences. The question before newspapers was “How do we pay for journalism?” and the answer lay in finding an appropriate model suited to the particular publication.

In some cases, newspapers preferred to develop their own social networking tools. Highlighting the initiative of the A-Pressen group in Norway, its executive vice-president Are Stokstad said it had created Origo, a tool that helped audiences connect with the newspaper, and in turn strengthened both relevance and content in print and online publications. Narrating the way a story grew, he said it originated as a complaint posted on Origo by a woman in a remote community about boisterous youth parties in her neighbourhood. A single post snowballed into a major discussion that was ultimately highlighted on the front page of a group newspaper, engaging the entire community.

Origo, which connects users of Twitter and Facebook as well, “now strengthens print and online,” Mr. Stokstad said, adding, “the most successful newspapers are those that are relevant to their audiences.” As an illustration, he pointed out that 3,000 pages of the newspaper’s publications this year came from content generated through social networking, and that volume was expected to be 30,000 next year.

The decision to build a custom application for social networking that was fully within the control of the publishing house was taken to avoid “Facebook becoming the new Google,” Mr. Stokstad added.

The trends in multimedia publication require newsrooms to prepare for change. RIA Novosti of Russia found that the share of videos and infographics in content consumption was higher than their share among the products produced. There was a clear demand for standalone infographics, and the English website of the international news provider was preparing to launch a full-fledged infographics section. Newspapers had a lot to gain by training staff to meet the demand for multimedia products, RIA Novosti director Valerie Levechenko said.

In the final analysis, the goal before media organisations was to use the various media — mobile, online, broadcast and print — to communicate with audiences. Presenting options for newspapers to change their workflow to meet the evolving requirements, WAN-IFRA Director Dietmar Schantin proposed a ‘4.0’ concept — one that would create audience-targeted newsrooms.






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