85% newspaper editors hopeful of the future

27 March 2007

The vast majority of newspaper editors world-wide are optimistic about the future of their newspapers, according to a new global survey released today that provides an insider’s view to newsroom attitudes and strategies.

The “Newsroom Barometer,” conducted by Zogby International for the Paris-based World Editors Forum and Reuters, found that 85 per cent of editors are very optimistic or somewhat optimistic about the future of their newspapers.

The survey found that:

# 40 per cent of editors believe on-line will be the most common way to read the news ten years from now;

# 35 per cent believe print will reign supreme;

# two-thirds believe opinion and analysis pages will grow in importance;

# half are convinced that the quality of journalism will improve;

# half believe that shareholders and advertisers present threats to editorial independence.

The survey of 435 editors-in-chief, deputy editors and other senior news executives from around the world, and of whom half are from Europe, provides a picture of an industry in transition, but one that is rapidly adapting to the new media environment.

“Eighty-five per cent of senior news executives see a rosy future for their newspaper, and it’s quite a surprise,” said Bertrand Pecquerie, Director of the World Editors Forum (WEF), the organisation of the World Association of
Newspapers that represents senior newsroom personnel.

“Editors recognize competition from online sources and free papers, and in turn are making efforts to adapt to 21st century readership,” he said. “They know how to effectively make the transition to online journalism without reducing editorial quality. Editors-in-chief realise that content matters more than ever and cutting newsroom resources is not at all an effective solution: the reshaping of news will take place with journalists, rather than at their expense.”

Monique Villa, Managing Director of Reuters Media, said: “The Newsroom Barometer survey reveals an industry ready and willing to face dramatic change. Training journalists in new media skills has emerged as the most
popular method for senior editors to increase editorial quality in their newsrooms, and 51 per cent believe that the general quality of journalism will improve over the next decade.”

This optimism builds on deep changes in the way news is consumed. Many editors view news as a ‘conversation’ with readers rather than a ‘lecture’ from journalists, and the perceived increase in the importance of analysis and opinion pages shows newspaper editors realize that they must change their content offering in order to survive and prosper,” Villa added.

The results of the Newsroom Barometer survey, released at a news conference at Reuters headquarters in London today, are contained in Trends in Newsrooms 2007, the annual WEF report on the latest editorial developments
from around the world.

The Newsroom Barometer, a partnership among WEF, Zogby and Reuters, will be conducted annually to assess changes in attitudes and strategies in newsrooms around
the world.

The survey found:

# An overwhelming number of respondents—85 percent—say they are very optimistic or somewhat optimistic about the future of their newspaper. Even among newspapers whose circulation decreased over the past five years, 80 per cent of respondents remain optimistic.

# Forty per cent of editors and news executives believe online will be the most common platform for news ten years into the future, while 35 per cent believe in print’s supremacy. One in ten say mobile devices will be the most common platform, while 7 per cent cite e-paper. And two out of 10 respondents say it will be technologies that are still in the emerging stage.

# Half the respondents believe that journalistic quality will improve over the next 10 years, versus one-quarter who think it will worsen.

# Eight in ten respondents view online and new media as a welcome addition.

Those with high volume web traffic—more than 200,000 unique visitors per day—are more likely to view new media positively, but the majority of editors at newspapers with modest traffic or no web sites also viewed new media positively.

# Three in ten respondents view free newspapers as a threat to the market, while the majority take a more benign view—34 per cent view them as a welcome addition, and 28 percent consider them negligible. Smaller newspapers are more likely to see free papers as a threat than larger newspapers, perhaps because larger newspapers have the resources to fight off free paper competition, as well as produce their own free papers.

#Respondents are almost evenly split over whether they think that the majority of news, both print and online, will be free in the future.

# Three-quarters of respondents view the trends toward increased interactivity between news organisations and their readers as positive for quality journalism, while only 8 percent take the negative view.

# Fifty-four percent of editors think shareholders and advertisers pose the principal threat in the future to editorial independence of newspapers.

Nineteen percent of respondents, mostly from the developing world, cite political pressure as the main threat.

# Two-thirds of respondents say that the number of opinion and analysis pages will increase in coming years.

# Training journalists in new media is cited most often by editors as a priority to increase editorial quality. Hiring more journalists is the second most frequently cited priority.

435 respondents participated in the Newsroom Barometer, which was conducted between October 8 and December 7, 2006.

Full details of the survey can be found at http://www.editorsweblog.org

More on the Trends in Newsroom report at http://www.trends-in-newsrooms.org

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