What is the future for print journalism?

It's a question that obsesses the news industry, and one that News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch tackled again this week.

In April last year, he delivered a milestone speech to US newspaper editors in which he accused newspapers of remarkable, unaccountable complacency in the face of declining readership, and said the industry needed to transform for the digital age.

Speaking on Monday at the Stationers and Newspaper Makers in London nearly one year on, he again urged the industry to take risks and to embrace the new era of technological change. And just two days after his 75th birthday, the media mogul said the industry needed to be inspired by "great seafaring explorers" such as Christopher Columbus and Bartolomeu Dias, sailing into the unknown.

"They consciously sought to expand the horizons of humanity, to risk their lives to find a new world," he said.

"That is where we are today."

Murdoch described the web as a "creative, destructive technology still in its infancy", but said "the history of revolution is not one in which the new wipes out the old". And he hinted at the vulnerability of his own media mogul status in a new era of empowered consumers.

"Power is moving away from those who own and manage the media to a new and demanding generation of consumers - consumers who are better educated, unwilling to be led, and who know that in a competitive world they can get what they want, when they want it.

"The challenge for us in the traditional media is how to engage with this new audience."

The only way to achieve this is to create and distribute dynamic and exciting content, he said, and that content has to be published across many platforms including the web and mobile devices.

"Traditional newspapers have many years of life left but, equally, I think in the future that newsprint and ink will be just one of many channels to our readers.

"Media becomes like fast food - people will consume it on the go, watching news, sport and film clips as they travel to and from work on mobiles or handheld wireless devices."

Much of the speech focused on the wider sociological changes brought about by new technology. He described a new generation of tens of millions, empowered by the knowledge revolution new technology and the web.

He used his recently purchased MySpace networking site as an example of this new information space. But he also said the skills of traditional media will be increasingly important in shaping this new landscape.

"Great journalism will always attract readers. The words, pictures and graphics that are the stuff of journalism have to be brilliantly packaged; they must feed the mind and move the heart."

While he said it would be 'folly' to try to predict the future, he was emphatic about the direction newspapers need to take. It means offering choice, and taking risks.

News organisations will survive by offering quality content across a range of platforms including the web, mobile phones, iPods, and hand-held devices.

"We must be prepared to take risks and accept that we will make mistakes, sometimes very large ones. Above all, we must have what those great seafaring explorers had in abundance: the courage to use the technological change that is unfolding around us to help make a better world.

"We are all on a journey, not just the privileged few, and technology will take us to a destination that is defined by the limits of our creativity, our confidence and our courage."

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