How will Publishers Survive?

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Building on the discussion during the panel on the future of journalism, Zanny Minton-Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist was joined on stage by Robert Thomson to discuss how publishers might survive.

Since 2013, Robert Thomson has been chief executive of News Corp, a global, diversified media and information services company that is home to Dow Jones & Company, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, The Times and The Sunday Times of London, and HarperCollins Publishers, among others.

Minton-Beddoes said that in terms of The Economist's future, she is optimistic. According to psychographic research there are 132 million potential Economist readers across the globe; 70 million if one takes English skills etc. into consideration. Currently, the weekly has a circulation of 1.5 million. So there is room for growth.

Thomson said the future of newspapers is “challenging but with extraordinary opportunities”. Incompetent management and hubristic journalists have made many papers perish in the past. But this can be changed. “You have to be flexible about your approach, but can’t be flexible about your principles.” The best journalism is certainly not being the fastest at ripping off another’s story, Thomson said.

Answering Minton-Beddoes' question on how the newspaper publishing process has changed, Thomson said the entire product has been recast. Digital sensibility now lies at the heart of all News Corps papers. To maintain a sense of where things are going, teams need to be smart, and to exist within a meritocracy. “This gets best out of range of employees.”

In the past, structures were more hierarchical. Today, even though specialist reporters remain specialist reporters, no journalist should expect to get away with delivering soliloquies.

Google has become an important payer n the publishing world. At the moment, Google does not really have a competitor. Minton-Beddoes asked whether the company should therefore be regulated. Thomson responded carefully, saying that question should be studied, especially as until now, Google has not been willing to listen.