By Dominic Ponsford
Journalists need to embrace the digital revolution or newspapers
will become the “also rans” of the media, according to Rupert Murdoch.
News Corporation’s chief executive cited recent research in the
United States showing that the internet has become the favoured medium
for 18 to 34-year-olds to access news.
Some 44 per cent of them
use the web once a day to find news, but only 19 per cent use a printed
newspaper – and just nine per cent described newspapers as trustworthy.
said: “What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way young
people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper
for their up-to-date information. They don’t want to rely on a God-like
figure from above to tell them what’s important. And to carry the
religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news
presented as gospel.”
In an address to the American Society of
Newspaper Editors in Washington, he cited further research which has
shown that if current levels of decline continue in America, the last
newspaper is set to be sold in April 2040. But he remained “confident
of our future, both in print and via electronic delivery platforms”.
said: “The data may show that young people aren’t reading newspapers as
much as their predecessors, but it doesn’t show they don’t want news.
In fact, they want a lot of news, just faster news of a different kind
and delivered in a different way.
“And we in this room –
newspaper editors and journalists – are uniquely positioned to deliver
that news. We have the experience, the brands, the resources, and the
know-how to get it done. We have unique content to differentiate
ourselves in a world where news is becoming increasingly commoditized.
And most importantly, we have a great new partner to help us reach this new consumer: the internet.”
When it came to how the internet should be used, Murdoch advised editors to watch their teenage children.
said: “They want news on demand, continuously updated. They want a
point of view about not just what happened, but why it happened.
want news that speaks to them personally, that affects their lives.
They don’t just want to know how events in the Middle East will affect
the presidential election, they want to know what it will mean at the
“They don’t just want to know about terrorism, but what
it means about the safety of their subway line, or whether they’ll be
sent to Iraq. And they want the option to go out and get more
information, or to seek a contrary point of view.
they want to be able to use the information in a larger community – to
talk about, to debate, to question, and even to meet the people who
think about the world in similar or different ways.”
He said papers needed to “refashion” their websites beyond being just “a bland repurposing of our print content”.
it will need to offer compelling and relevant content. Deep, deep local
news. Relevant national and international news. Commentary and debate.
Gossip and humour.”
As well as continously updating news, Murdoch said websites needed to become “the place for conversation” and suggested using bloggers to supplement news coverage.
But he feared journalists would be unable to “make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands”.
said: “What is required is a complete transformation of the way we
think about our product. Unfortunately, however, I believe too many of
us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers. Too often,
the question we ask is ‘Do we have the story?’ rather than ‘Does anyone
want the story?’
“And the data supports this unpleasant truth.
Studies show we’re in an odd position. We’re more trusted by the people
who aren’t reading us. And when you ask journalists what they think
about their readers, the picture grows darker. According to one recent
study, the percentage of national journalists who have a great deal of
confidence in the ability of the American public to make good decisions
has declined by more than 20 points since 1999. Perhaps this reflects
their personal politics and personal prejudices more than anything
else, but it is disturbing.
“This is a polite way of saying that
reporters and editors think their readers are stupid. In any business,
such an attitude toward one’s customers would not be healthy. But in
the newspaper business, where we rely on people to come back to us each
day, it will be disastrous if not addressed.”
He concluded: “By
meeting the challenges I’ve raised, I’m confident we will not only
improve our chances for success in the online world but, as
importantly, improve our actual printed newspapers.
the online world will, I think, beget greater success in the printed
medium. By streamlining our operations and becoming more nimble. By changing the way we write and edit stories. By listening more intently to our readers.
do not underestimate the tests before us. We may never become true
digital natives, but we can and must begin to assimilate to their
culture and way of thinking. 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.”