Papers urged to compete with new strategies as Internet expands

by Eric Johnston

and AKEMI NAKAMURA

Staff writers

KOBE — Technology, especially the Internet, will continue to cut into traditional newspaper sales, and new editorial and marketing strategies are needed to compete for readers in what is becoming a declining market, delegates to the 51st World Newspaper Congress here were told Monday.

Timothy Balding, director general of the World Association of Newspapers, outlined general trends in the industry, noting that international newspaper sales are generally declining.

At the same time, while advertising revenues are increasing in most countries, the share of advertising being won by newspapers is declining compared with other media forms, he said.

In the case of Japan, the news is better than in many other countries. “The Japanese newspaper market remains resilient among industrialized countries, and sales are up 1.1 percent since 1993 and 3.5 percent since 1997,” Balding said.

Outlining specific trends in the Japanese newspaper industry, Yutaka Narita, president of advertising giant Dentsu Inc., noted that more than 70 percent of Japanese over 18 years of age read newspapers on a daily basis, and that 93 percent of newspaper sales come through subscriptions. “Every day, more than 70 million newspapers are printed,” Narita said, adding that Japan has more newspapers per 1,000 readers than any country except Norway.

However, while the current situation for newspapers in Japan is favorable, the U.S. industry continues to lose readers to other media technologies.

William Bass, of the U.S. media research firm Forrester Research, said newspapers should prepare for lost revenues, especially in classified advertising, to the Internet. “In addition, in the future, editors will have to syndicate content to advertisers, a thought that may make many editors very nervous,” Bass said.

Content, and how it is gathered, was also on the minds of many who attended symposiums sponsored by the World Editor’s Forum, which is running concurrently here with the World Newspaper Congress.

Speaking at the forum, Roy Greenslade, media commentator on the British newspaper the Guardian, said nine months after Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales, died in a car crash, British newspapers have hardly changed the way they report on the private lives of celebrities.

With the use of slides, he explained that although the country’s media watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, had changed its self-regulatory code of practice, the privacy of stars had still been intruded on. He cited the British papers who printed photos of two famous American actresses when they were hospitalized in the U.S.