Despite internet, newspapers here to stay: editor

Last Updated 12 October 2010, 13:11 IST

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 adaptability.  "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 be ethical.  "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 explained. "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.

(Published 12 October 2010, 13:11 IST)

Follow us on