Brave investment will bring rewards

Most journalists working in print will have lived with circulation decline throughout most of their careers. So for many, the experience of seeing readership charts rocket skywards in the frenetic race to achieve poll position will be a new one.

But that is what we are seeing in the national press – and it is a story which is being mirrored in the regions and in magazines.

The race for national newspaper online readership has suddenly got interesting with The Guardian, Telegraph and then Mail Online grabbing top spot in successive months according to ABCe.

The year-on-year rises are awesome – with some national newspaper websites growing by up to 100 per cent.

This is an incredible achievement considering that online is no longer really a new medium. After all, the first British national newspaper website was launched by the Telegraph back in 1994. And internet access is now growing in the UK at only a couple of per cent a year.

It is hugely encouraging for everyone working in journalism to see that the thirst for news – in whatever medium – is evidently stronger than ever.

But it is ironic that despite this historic success at reaching new readers, which is being achieved throughout the industry – many employers of journalists are looking to cut their costs in the face of the current economic downturn.

Magazine giant IPC has chosen to impose a recruitment freeze across its titles, and there are widespread reports of job cuts in the regional press.

The opportunity is there for media companies which can keep their nerve, and invest in journalism, to build huge audiences thirsty for information on a variety of new platforms.

And when the current downturn inevitably turns into an upturn, those that have had the courage to invest in quality, rather than chosen to manage decline, will reap the long-term rewards.

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