Consumers are willing to pay for online content, but newspapers must work harder to develop strategies for monetising their content and intellectual capital, found the report, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for the World Association of Newspapers and set to be presented at the 'Power of Print' conference in Barcelona on 27-28 May.
Two-thirds of newspaper readers are willing to pay for general online news content, and all were prepared to pay for in print despite the rise of the free daily paper, found the survey, which attracted almost 5,000 responses across the world.
"Consumers don't only appreciate journalists for their general news reporting, they place high value on the deep insight and analysis provided by journalists," the survey found, concluding that "the brand is more important than the medium".
Traditional newspapers have the edge
"Traditional newspapers still have a strong and relatively loyal reader base" because they are perceived as being more reliable than other media, giving them "the opportunity to lead and to follow audiences as they use online and portable electronic media".
News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch reckons newspapers have a bright future. "I am convinced that circulation and readership will grow on web pages, through RSS feeds, in e-mails, on mobile devices and in printed newspapers," he wrote in the foreword to another WAN report on newspaper innovations.
Indeed, the PwC report concludes that "use of video in online news sites gives the feel of a 'TV-like' experience - consumers' favourite medium for news - giving newspaper brands the opportunity to secure online audiences beyond their print readership and into the television audience more generally".
But it warns that many newspapers "have still to fully review their existing business models to take full advantage of the innovation in the marketplace and the demands of consumers".
For example, despite rapid growth in the take-up of mobile devices, "mobile news delivery is low on the list of consumer preferences because of the difficulty of reading on the devices".
For Kenneth Lerer, co-founder of the Huffington Post, "ubiquity is the new exclusivity," meaning that "news outlets need to get their content out there in as many places as they can". "Build your online brand. It’s not hard, you can do it very quickly these days," he said.
…without the printing press
Advising newspaper owners to "move to a robust hybrid model very quickly," Lerer said: "I would aggressively build out my online business and I would start planning my future without the printing press."
"If newspapers pursue new ways of newsgathering [like citizen journalism], it will help build their online community," attracting more users and making for a better business model, he added.
Focusing on analysis rather than news gathering, selling news stories on the Web like songs are sold on iTunes and restructuring newspapers as not-for-profit organisations receiving government subsidies are among other ideas he cited.
US sales tumble…
In the United States, the top 25 newspapers have all seen their print circulation fall in the past year (except the Wall Street Journal), according to latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
At 395 daily newspapers, weekday circulation declined 7.1 percent for the six months that ended on 31 March, compared with the previous year. Sunday circulation for 557 daily newspapers was down 5.37 percent, the New York Times reported.
"One shouldn't be in denial that this represents people quitting newspapers to get news from the Web," Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, told the NYT.
…as online figures soar
Indeed, a Nielsen Online analysis for the Newspaper Association of America found that newspaper websites are soaring in popularity, the audience for newspaper Web sites continues to grow.
In the first quarter of 2009, US newspaper websites attracted on average more than 73 million unique visitors each month, a 10.5 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2008, the NYT reported.