two sides of a coin
Credit: By Jamie McCaffrey on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

As the journalism industry continues to lose print readers in favour of digital news, publishers are being forced to find ways of effectively monetising their content online whilst holding onto their audiences.

Editors at yesterday's panel discussion 'Newsprint - it ain't over yet!' at City University London believed that print is not dead, nor will it ever die, but its role is simply changing as the popularity of digital content grows.

Jane Singer, professor of journalism innovation at City University, noted that as well as the free titles, the 'elite' press, such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, will survive as long as its approach changes towards favouring more longform content such as analysis and interpretation.

"There is an elite audience that will continue to want a print product, but it is becoming much more like a magazine – the format is changing," said Singer.

The Times has just significantly updated the way in which it delivers online journalism on its website and smartphone apps.

These new products favour in-depth analysis rather than "the flim-flam of passing news" which can be found online elsewhere.

"What we don't want to do is knock out the kind of quality journalism that we produce in favour of quick wire stories which, frankly, you could find updated somewhere else," said Sarah Baxter, deputy editor of The Sunday Times, speaking on the panel.

The digital platforms still include global breaking news, but focus on providing more longform content, updating in editions around 9am, 12pm and 6pm when there is a spike in readers.

The power of news companies is derived from their journalists not the mediumChristian Broughton, Independent Digital

News UK has refused to scrap The Times paywall, believing that the subscription model it holds for its quality titles is working well financially.

With more than 170,000 people paying to read content across the various digital platforms, Baxter notes that The Times is now making money for the first time in decades.

"We believe that news is worth paying for – that is the sustainable future of journalism," she said.

"We are not the dinosaurs of print. We are saying that the readers are in charge – if you want it as a paper to spread out on the kitchen table, be our guest, but if you want to stand at read it at the bus stop, you can do that as well. "

She noted that newspapers are still a good vehicle for covering a variety of topics that do not "narrowcast" the audience into one subject or interest, which social media and blogs can often do, she noted.

"We are all trying to find that sweet spot. As more and more people transition to mobile, where's the sweet spot where we can continue to make money?," said Baxter.

"We have got too hooked on free news, but is it a trusted source?"

The Independent charges nothing to share its content, but the outlet's website, which has 70 million visitors a month, is profitable, reporting a 50 per cent year-on-year growth in profit and expecting to continue to see revenues grow this year.

Printing of The Independent and Independent on Sunday ceased last week, following a significant drop in sales, in favour of embracing an exclusively digital future.

Christian Broughton, editor, Independent Digital explained that the move will enable the publication to fund its journalism and the subsequent expenses, such as hostile environment training and putting journalists on the ground around the world.

"It's not the end – the power of news companies is derived from their journalists not the medium," said Broughton.

The organisation relies heavily on advertising revenue and has launched a subscription app which now has more subscribers than the print Independent had.

"You have to make money from all the opportunities that digital brings, it is changing very fast and you have to be open to new forms of revenue," said Broughton.

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