An unprecedented worldwide survey of 435 newspaper editors has hit back at the often-quoted claim that "print is dead" as a medium.
The Newsroom Barometer — jointly produced by the World Editors' Forum, Reuters, and New York-based polling company Zogby International — found that 85 per cent of editors were optimistic about the future of their newspaper and 79 per cent welcome online journalism.
Director of the World Editors' Forum Bertrand Pecquerie said: "The origin of the poll was the cover of The Economist in 2006 [which asked if newspapers were dead]. We said maybe the newspaper is dead, but we wanted to ask editors first."
Reuters managing director (media), Monique Villa said the poll shows how much editors' attitudes have changed since online journalism emerged in the last 15 years.
She said: "One of the most exciting things in this survey is that editors were optimistic about their newspapers as a business, not as a print platform. They have now completely embraced the online world and see it no longer in terms of danger to their business.
"It's moved from something that is frightening to something exciting."
Villa said the newspaper industry was far from dead and was "moving very fast into other ways of telling the news".
George Brock, president of the World Editors' Forum and also Saturday editor of the Times, said: "We were conscious that there were a lot of digital commentators who tended to say that print editors didn't get the internet, but one of the things to emerge from this poll is that actually editors are perfectly comfortable with digital… and are generally optimistic."
The poll also points to a changing attitude to content as a result of the online world. Two thirds of respondents thought that comment, opinion and analysis would become more important in years to come, reflecting the explosion of blogging and online communities such as The Guardian's Comment is Free.
Brock said that newspapers themselves will start to be thought of more as brands that instead of just break news give meaning to it.
He said: "This poll shows that as you get more data and more media more cheaply and widely distributed, the journalism brands now known as newspapers have to specialise more rigorously in what they do best. They have to supply not the immediate news but meaning, context, analysis and interpretation."
According to the poll, though there may be hope for the future of news, there is no consensus on how people will read it. Some 40 per cent believed the internet would be pre-eminent in 10 years, 35 per cent said that print would remain the favoured model, ten per cent said mobile phones and seven per cent said e-papers.
Villa pointed to the huge investment in print by the big newspaper groups.
"Many in the newspaper industry see it going for a long time. If you think that News International spent in the last three years $1bn on their printing presses, it blows away the argument that print will die in five years," she said.
In the week the National Council for the Training of Journalists announced it would launch its first online journalism course, the poll found that editors'
number one priority in increasing editorial quality was training journalists in new media, followed by hiring more journalists generally.
Lecturer and media analyst Jeff Jarvis wrote in the report that newspapers such as The Guardian and Daily Telegraph had made good progress with online news, but that it was time papers taught staff to "think past paper". He said: "Now it is time to go to the next step, to stop defining ourselves by the medium, paper, and start defining ourselves by our service: journalism."
Online advertising spending in Britain has overtaken national newspapers for the first time in 2006, according to figures released this week.
Online spending grew by more than 41 per cent in 2006, to just over £2 billion, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau.
The surge in online spending offset a 4.7 per cent decline in television spending and a 0.2 per cent rise in newspaper ad spending.
Online is now the second-largest advertising medium after television, which continues to lead the field with £3.9 billion in ad spending.
The report, compiled by the World Advertising Research Centre and PricewaterhouseCoopers, shows that Britain has the highest proportion of online spending of any country in the world, with more than 11 per cent of all ad spending going to online. The average elsewhere is 5.8 per cent.
More than half of Britain's online advertising spend went to search services such as Google.
Online classifieds accounted for 18.8 per cent of the total spend, a growth of 45 per cent, in contrast with the 7.8 per cent drop in classified spend in printed newspapers.
Increasing use of broadband services has improved the performance of online video, which advertisers see as having more impact than display ads.