Rupert Murdoch has had a revelation: on-demand digital news and blogs are critical to the future of newspapers.

Grappling with some of the biggest concerns facing the newspaper industry - and dishing out some uncomfortable criticism - Mr Murdoch told the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington on Wednesday that many newspapers have been "remarkably, unaccountably complacent" in the face of declining readership.

He admitted that he did not explore new technology as much as he should have during the late nineties internet boom.

But even those newspapers that have explored online news are not taking maximum advantage of the medium, he said. Many newspapers are guilty of what he described as "a bland repurposing of content" and a complete transformation is required.

He encouraged newspaper editors to experiment with blogs as a way of increasing readers' engagement with sites, adding fresh perspectives to issues and complementing straight news coverage. He also outlined the potential for news partnerships with video content providers and podcasters to help sites remain competitive.

Pride and prejudice

Speaking with a sense of urgency and revelation, Mr Murdoch told the conference that the enormous opportunity of the internet required a change of attitude.

"We need to free our minds of prejudice and predispositions," said Mr Murdoch.

"It is a monumental, once-in-a-generation opportunity but it is also an exciting one because, if we're successful, our industry has the potential to reshape itself and to be healthier than ever before."

Date with death

Around 50 per cent of Americans now read a newspaper every day compared with 80 per cent in 1964. Quoting from Philip Meyer's book the Vanishing Newspaper, Mr Murdoch said that following the current rate of decline US newspaper readership will die out completely in April 2040.

He also referred to recent research carried out by the Carnegie Corporation among Americans aged 18-34. Forty-four per cent of those surveyed said that they read news on the internet every day, compared with just 19 per cent who read a daily newspaper. In addition, only nine per cent of respondents said that newspapers were a trustworthy source of information.

Teenage kicks

Expressing the generational divide apparent in the industry, Mr Murdoch described himself as a "digital immigrant". A new generation of "digital natives" want on-demand news, opinion and a platform for their own point of view.

By thinking like today's teenagers, the industry can learn how to reach this new news audience. Newspapers need to explore and exploit new technologies and to overhaul their online products for this new digital generation.

"Sites need to offer compelling and relevant content. Deep, deep, local news. Relevant national and international news. Commentary and debate. Gossip and humour," said Mr Murdoch.

"We have the experience, the brands, the resources and the know-how. And most importantly, we have a great new partner to help us reach this new consumer - the internet."

Read Mr Murdoch's revelations in full on the News Corporation website.

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