Editors Warm To Free Model, Plan Integration, Fear Youth Drop-Off

You’re reading it here first… The number of newspaper editors who believe news will become an entirely free commodity – both online and in print – is growing. This year’s Reuters/World Editors Forum Newsroom Barometer of 704 editors, due out this morning, found 56 percent hold that belief – up from 48 percent in 2006. A third of editors disagreed while 11 percent remain undecided. But the free model has less support in western Europe (48 percent) than the US (58 percent). Other findings…

Online first: 44 percent of editors new expect online to be consumers’ primary news medium in 10 years – not only is that slightly up on last time, it’s also ahead of the 31 percent who hold that newspapers will retain supremacy.

More, better, multi-skilled staff: And editors’ priorities are clear – 35 percent said their first use of their editorial budgets will be to invest in new media training. Quite literally, you can’t get the staff – 31 percent of editors said top of their wish list was more journalists. Some 83 percent expect those reporters to be platform-agnostic (the world of multimedia journalism is now truly upon us)…

Newsrooms: Accordingly, the unified seating plan – as pioneered by the likes of Telegraph.co.uk but still rejected by The Sun – now seems to have been decided upon as the best route… 86 percent of editors says integrated newsrooms will be the norm, though North American editors are most in favour (95 percent). With only 53 percent of newsrooms currently enjoying that integrated status, there’s a lot of work left for integration strategists – 69 percent of editors expect to integrate within five years.

Threats: 58 percent of editors reckon falling youth readership is their biggest hurdle, ahead of the internet itself (38 percent) and lack of innovation (36 percent). Depressingly, 28 percent expect the quality of journalism to decline and only 45 percent expect it to improve next year.

I’ll be at a Reuters/WEF roundtable on Tuesday morning, getting further details, and will be chairing a panel debate on mobile journalism at WEF’s World Newspaper Congress in Gothenburg on June 3.

George Brock, WEF president and The Times Saturday editor: “Last year, we were very struck by how optimistic editors were. This year, there is a very big disconnect between that way of thinking about the future newsroom and the preparation and training and resources that editorial organisations seem to be giving to it.”

glass half full