Typin' fingers at the ready, I'm at the Online Publishers Association (OPA) London conference today and tomorrow. Stunning venue and a superb line-up including (to name a few) Martin Nisenholtz of the NYTimes, Emily Bell from Guardian Unlimited, Jeff Buzzmachine Jarvis, Neil Budde and a stack of others. My keys will surely be sweaty by the end of today.

The OPA is not to be confused with the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), although it is a partner organisation for this event, or the Online News Association (ONA).

OPA Europe president Julien Jacob of CNET Networks opened by saying there are 60 US delegates, 100 UK delegates and 100 delegates from Europe and Asia, which bodes well for a mixed international discussion.

The conference itself is sold out, which must mean there is a serious commitment from major publishers to explore and understand all the increasingly complex issues of online publishing.

Protectionism and surrender will both fail

Tom Glocer, CEO of Reuters, warned publishers not to be protectionist about their traditional business models in the face of the challenge from "the punk revolution" of citizen media.

"Protectionism doesn't work, but neither does total surrender," he said of the "Gutenbergian transformation" of the media landscape.

"We have access to a rich world of creatives, talented writers, photographers, film-makers, would-be journalists, actors, musicians - let's not run away from this potential but understand and unlock it.

"User-generated content is now part of the media mix but is not the sole component.

"We need to understand, encourage and recognise that if we act now, we might just make it to Web 3.0."

Mr Glocer focused on the challenges of incorporating this user-generated content and competing with an increasingly diverse array of media sources.

He explained his three-pronged strategy for meeting these challenges: publishers must be "seeders of clouds", offering an original, quality space that users can react to and incorporate in their digital world; they must provide tools to allow their own content "to be at the crossroads of audience consumption"; and that editing and filtering will define the role of news organisations in the second decade of this century.

Rupert Murdoch's much-discussed purchase of Intermix and its MySpace site is already seen as a turning point for the industry.

"$580 million is a lot to pay for a company with barely $20 million in revenue," he said.

"But Murdoch now has access to 54 million users - including Tom Glocer. He has marketing data most of us would kill for and an early warning system of brand choices in the world youth market."

Citizen media threatens revenue, not content

Citizen media is a bigger threat to the revenues of media organisations than to their content.

"Without a doubt it is attracting younger readers that, like it or not, will just not go on to the dead tree version," he said.

"Who would have imagined a $6 million market in ringtones? You've got to build the audience first, and although I know it's uncomfortable not knowing where the money will come from, you have got to experiment and try to do it in a much more open way with the consumer."

Trusted brands

Referring to the credibility of online content, including recent events on Wikipedia, Mr Glocer said that trust will become even more critical to mainstream news sites.

"The media market is being dominated by multiple sources. Fact and fiction are becoming dangerously blurred and trust will become a major determinator of sources," he said.

"Brands matter. The role of old media companies in the truly new media age is as the go-between, providing the structure and support between the supplier and the consumer - even if they are the same person."

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