Double-edged sword of technology

Traditional media models are being ‘smashed’by a digital onslaught, despite the way online journalism has enhanced newspapers’ output, according to the managing director of Guardian News & Media.

Tim Brooks, who leads the parent company of The Guardian and The Observer, said that classified advertising was being eroded by the web, and that falling national newspaper readership figures over the past 50 years made grim viewing.

He said digital technology was ‘smashing our business model and at the same time it is showing us journalistically some fantastic opportunities”.

Speaking at the closing session of the MediaGuardian Changing Media Summit last week, he was optimistic about the advent of online video journalism. Brooks showed one of Guardian photographer Sean Smith’s award-winning short films about life with US troops in Iraq.

Brooks spoke of how The Guardian’s forerunner – The Manchester Guardian – was set up in 1881 in response to the Peterloo Massacre, and said: ‘I think what that clip shows is that digital technology allows us to fulfil that original purpose more vividly. We are very excited about it.”

On the decline of the newspaper industry, Brooks, who cofounded lads’ mag Nuts, cited data showing national daily circulation dropping from more than 50 million in 1950 to around 23 million now.

‘Colleagues from other newspapers often say that ‘print is not in decline’. I say, do you really think that or are you just trying to keep this conversation cheerful?”

There was also some good news. In 1993, he said, the group’s newspapers reached six million people every quarter. ‘That was the basis for our business, and then along came the internet. Last month we reached 23 million people, and now we’re trying to make a business out of that.”

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