“South Asia has become the capital of the world’s news-on-paper industry”, these were the concluding remarks of Earl J Wilkinson, Executive Director and CEO, INMA, in the final session of the 4th annual conference of INMA held in Delhi on November 9-10, 2010. In his presentation, he delved upon the topic – ‘Driving value through content, platforms and audiences’. Wilkinson also put forward the world newspaper industry scenario and discussed that how the South Asian market was growing by leaps and bounds despite several hurdles.
Referring to a research on global newspaper markets, he said that newspaper or news-on-paper would become obsolete by 2039 globally, except in the South Asia market. However, he gave an optimistic forecast on South Asian print industry and said that the South Asian media companies would keep on printing newspapers even after 2040. However, industry is not exempted from the impact of global trends in technology and consumption and also the consumer behaviour. The industry need to plan for transition from news on paper to multimedia.
The industry is facing many challenges, including cultural, perceptual and leadership. He posed some questions to the media owners to contemplate upon and asked whether post economic slowdown, they shifted from editorial culture to market culture. Also, Wilkinson came up with some of the paradoxes that the industry had seen over a period of time, including more content and less time spent; content and relevancy. One of the biggest threats, according to him, was that newspapers did not segment and filter content for relevant audiences.
He put forward an interesting equation of value, content and audience. According to him, the value was equal to content plus audience. What can be high value content? He said, “Cover same news as everyone else, but do it differently.” Wilkinson also emphasised on the elimination of the marginal audiences and the focus on high value readers.
“South Asia is not immune from historical forces,” warned Wilkinson. He further said that the challenge was at the cultural foundation of the industry. South Asia newsmedia industry is the leader in social responsibility campaigns and this is the industry where one can see innovation, entrepreneurial and aspirations. Allaying the apprehensions of those newspaper owners who face challenges from the Internet news medium, he noted that online news readers had zero loyalty for the brands, while newspaper commanded higher loyalty.
Wilkinson’s presentation clearly pointed out the bright future of the South Asian newsmedia industry. However, he did not hesitate to advise the industry to get ready to face the challenges from the new media, which had affected the business of the newspaper industry in West and all around the world, barring South Asia, so far.