Newspapers must change or die

Updated: 2014-01-14 07:53

By Wang Wubin (China Daily)

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Furthermore, the optimists believe that instead of dying newspapers are being reborn in the new media age, as they transform and establish their presence on the Internet. Although some trialblazers have failed to realize their original goals, 2013 saw others progress in the online fray. Through mergers and acquisitions, Zhejiang Daily Press Group has transformed itself from a traditional newspaper to a multimedia business corporation. Jiang Guoxing, the general manager, was quoted as saying the company plans to raise the number of users from 6 million newspaper readers to 50 million regular active users in three or five years. In October, Shanghai's two leading press groups merged to creating the country's biggest newspaper company, the Shanghai United Media Group, which emphasized the importance of developing new media platforms in its general strategy last November. The China Business Journal has also started to change its traditional organizational structure from that of a newspaper to that of an Internet company, in order to ensure its survival in the future.

So a dispassionate assessment of the situation will reveal that while the situation is bad, it's not that bad. The decline of printed newspapers is an unstoppable tendency, but they still have control over their fates, because no matter how advanced the information platforms are, they will still need content.

To be masters of their own fates, newspapers should first prepare to "survive the winter". Although the content is king, the newspaper publishers need to better understand their readers as consumers, to be more specific, they need to provide high-quality and truthful content that meets the wants of their targeted customers. Not only should they keep their professional characteristics, they should learn from other websites about how to identify users' interests and how to trigger sharing.

Moreover, as they make the digital transition, newspapers should not limit themselves to being identified as traditional media outlets. The most important thing is to give valuable information to the public, which can be done in many ways by utilizing the social media tools that already exist and adopting new ones as they appear. And by segmenting their users into groups, they can target them with tailored content.

As the US writer William Arthur Ward said, "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."

Newspapers need to adjust their sails if they are to catch the wind of times and change readers into users and explore new business models besides "distribution and advertising" to create new revenue streams.

The author is a researcher with the Journalism Institute of Xinhua News Agency.

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