Internet has dented the profits of the print media globally.
Although many newspapers and magazines have shut shop worldwide,
the industry still has a bright future.
So said Lionel Barber, editor of Financial Times, at a meeting
organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here
Tuesday. But he made it clear that print industry's projected
future was conditional.
The two most important conditions, he said, were flexibility and
"We told our journalists to create more value with their work.
They had to go in front of the camera and speak about the big
stories, do short and long commentaries, team up with cable
companies to provide TV programmes," he said, explaining that the
new medium demanded new deliverables from journalists.
Barber talked about paid web content generating profit and the
various models Financial Times tried.
Besides the flexibility of journalists and subscription models,
the most important aspect was the flexibility of a newspaper
management, he said.
"Today, newspapers cannot stay confined to the print medium.
Journalists will have to be willing to create more value, and
newspaper managements will have to be flexible in terms of the
content platform. After the web, it was the iPad FT tapped into.
And in the last three and a half months, we have had half a
million downloads of the application."
Flexibility, adaptability to new mediums, improving skill set and
flexibility of journalists were the secrets to the survival of the
print media in the changed times.
Yet, at the end of the day, Barber believes that reporting has to
"We have a policy in Financial Times that we have to be right,
rather than first. It's nice to be first, but it's of no worth if
you are wrong."
It was in 2005-06 that Financial Times began this change, Barber
"We were struggling to become financially sustainable even as we
saw newspapers becoming casualties in a war with the web. We made
three big decisions.
"First, we were going to charge for content. Second, we will be a
premium product and not just a narrow British based publication,
and third, we had to distinguish ourselves as a brand to find out
what made us different."
The efforts paid off.
"Print is in relative decline but not in absolute decline. People
still want to read print. Though the proportion of advertising
revenue is decreasing globally, there are new forms of
advertising. It's up to the industry and individual newspapers to
rise up to the challenge," he said.
Instead of competing with the web, newspapers and the web can be
complementary to each other. That is the secret to a newspaper's
rising up to the challenge of the internet, Barber said.