Profitability was a key theme at this year's Online Journalism Symposium in Texas.

"We gained hard data on revenue growth - and the results of marketing studies show that profitability in online news is not wishful thinking any more," said Professor Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Centre for Journalism and organiser of the event, held at the University of Texas on 16 and 17 April.

"The symposium has always had a panel on business models and we have noticed a constant improvement in this area, especially in the past three years."

The recent announcement of good first quarter results by the New York Times online was quoted several times by speakers as a positive sign for the industry.

"It became obvious during the symposium that the secret of the success is 'targeting' advertising, possible thanks to the use of registration and behavioural analysis software such as Tacoda and Revenue Science."

John Granatino, vice-president of Dallas Morning News owner Belo, told the conference about their high success rate in attracting subscribers to emails that contained advertising; 1.9 million of the site's 6 million subscribers chose to receive email with commercial offers.

Delegates also discussed whether online journalism has become 'indispensable', concluding that despite the growth of online news services, most readers are still very young and many people still rely on other media as their primary source of news.

The symposium also presented papers from journalism students and researchers around the world, many of which explored the concept of participatory journalism through blogs and wikis.

Taken from the Hawaiian word for fast, a wiki can be added to or edited on a normal web browser and users do not need any specific technical knowledge.

Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia project, invites readers to add or amend information on the site. The site is an interesting example of a project with participatory journalism at its core, said speaker Andrew Lih, assistant professor at Hong Kong University.

"The evolution of this small conference has been very exciting," Professor Alves told dotJournalism.

"First the international perspective that was added last year, and now the research and academic dimension. It was the first time I have seen so many researchers and professionals in the same room, learning intensively from each other and understanding."

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