Newspapers likely to be free in the future: survey

LONDON Tue May 6, 2008 6:12am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Newspapers seeking to compete with the Internet are likely to become free and place greater emphasis on comment and opinion in the future, a survey of the world's editors showed on Tuesday.

The report, conducted by Zogby International for the World Editors Forum and Reuters, revealed that newspaper editors were still optimistic about the future of their publications but believed they would have to adapt further for the digital age.

Some 86 percent of respondents believed newsrooms should become more integrated with digital services as two in three believe the most common form of news consumption will be via electronic media such as online or mobiles within a decade.

"For these editors the future is self-evident and our survey shows that they see the writing on the newsroom wall," said pollster John Zogby.

"The evolution of the 4th Estate is no longer questions of if, when or how. Editors now know the solution: Innovate. Integrate. Or perish."

According to the survey, 56 percent of respondents believed that the majority of news, be it via print or online, would be free in the future.

That was up from 48 percent who answered yes a year ago.

Those leaning towards the free model mostly came from 'emerging' newspaper markets in areas such as South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia where 61 percent of respondents believed news would be free.

Respondents in Western Europe were less likely to believe in news becoming free, with 48 percent of news executives thinking it likely, while North American editors were on par with the average.

The newspaper industry has been hit in recent years by the push to move content online and executives still saw many problems ahead.

According to 704 senior news executives surveyed, the greatest threat to the industry was the declining number of young people who read newspapers while the increasing emphasis on speed meant only 45 percent of editors thought the quality of journalism would improve over the next 10 years.

More than a quarter thought it would become worse.

To meet the many challenges, more than 30 percent of respondents wanted to be able to recruit more journalists while 35 percent would like to train the journalists they have in new media.

Nearly two-thirds also believe that some traditional editorial functions will be outsourced in the future.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Jason Neely)

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