Newspaper executives and editors gathered in India from around the world Tuesday heard calls to seek more payment for their content on the Internet as they decried their industry's sharply falling advertising revenues.
"This is a critical moment in our industry. ... If we don't dare to take these first steps, no one else will," said Andreas Wiele, board member and president of BILD Division and Magazines Axel Springer AG Germany.
He also said newspapers must demand of search engines "fair share, fair search," meaning that content providers should be compensated even for very short strings of content and the search results should not be manipulated unfairly against the original content providers.
The World Newspaper Congress in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad was attended by senior media executives including Les Hinton, the chief executive officer of Dow Jones & Co.; David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal counsel of Google Inc.; and Antoine Vernholes, the international director of the French sports daily L'Equipe.
In North America PriceWaterhouse Coopers has predicted that by 2013, combined print and digital revenues will be less than print-only advertising revenues in 2008, said Timothy Balding, the Joint Chief Executive Officer of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), which organized the three-day conference that ends Thursday.
"One thing is sure, unless we protect and commercially exploit our high value content, the journalistic standards so important to our readers and to society will no longer be financially viable," he added in his world newspaper trends report.
But Balding said that despite predictions about the death of newspapers, "they actually continue to grow, at least on the global scale."
In 2008, the last full year for which data was available, newspaper circulation was up 1.3 percent and over the last five years it had risen nearly nine percent, he said.
He said that 1.9 billion people, about 34 percent of the world's population, chose to pay to read a daily newspaper compared to 24 percent who used the Internet.
While the newspaper industries in developed countries have been hit by the economic crisis, global sales of newspapers continue to grow, boosted in large part by growth in emerging economies like India and China, a statement on the conference's Web site said.
More than 200 million people read newspapers every day in India and nearly 99 million copies are sold daily, a 36 percent jump in circulation over the last five years, the Web site said.
The conference, which Indian President Pratibha Patil attended, opened with a moment of silence to mark the massacre of more than 30 journalists in the Philippines last week.
The murder of the journalists was "an act of savagery that has written one of the blackest pages in the history of the world's press," said Gavin O'Reilly, the President of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), which organized the three-day conference that ends Thursday.
The congress also presented a press freedom award to Najam Sethi, a senior Pakistani journalist and former editor of the Daily Times, a leading English-language newspaper.
Over the next three days, attendees will discuss the role of multimedia, restrictions faced by sports journalists and how to fight them, and the role of Google in the future of newspapers.