New Delhi: The print media faces the threat of a “thinning out of authority" from proliferating web-based and electronic media, says Jeremy O’Grady, editor-in-chief of the British news and current affairs magazine The Week. Newspapers need to give their readers “something slightly different" and magazines should find a niche, said Grady, who was in New Delhi to attend the HT Leadership Summit. Edited exerpts from an interview:

With the technology sweep across the globe, how do you think the landscape of journalism has evolved and where are we headed?

I wouldn’t like to say exactly, but I think we are in a very dangerous place where print media is concerned. Newspapers are going to have to raise their game in order to compete with all the free material that is now on the web. It’s a wonderful thing that we can get any opinion that we want, but I think there is a thinning out of authority when everybody is flipping over from one channel to another. The old habit of reading a newspaper in the morning risks death unless newspapers change the way they act. Provide something slightly different to the reader than they can typically get on the web. The web offers very particular places in particular breaking news. Instant news is something no print journal can compete with. I think the future of weeklies and magazines, and I’d like to think in particular my magazine The Week, is quite rosy if you can find a specialism—summarising the news from different perspectives and so on, which is actually very hard to replicate elsewhere—then you’re OK.

But otherwise newspapers as we are seeing, not so much here but certainly in the West and America are facing a very rocky road. A lot of them thought they would find salvation by themselves getting into digital but the economics of that have yet to work themselves out. And given the huge disparity at the moment between a piece of advertising on the web and how much you get—about ten times more for a piece of advertising in print—given the fact that all the advertisers are fleeing to the web, that’s where the kernel of the problem lies.

So print media is in a dangerous place at present.

I think there are signs of it. I think it (print media) needs to be more immediate, more analytical. I have all sorts of ideas about what one might do to either recapture the attention of the fleeing audience or to keep the loyalty of the readership that still exists.

Does the future of the print edition of The Week worry you? And how will you compete with the integrated newsroom culture developing everywhere?

There are two points to that very good question. One.... are we concerned about the print edition of The Week still surviving? The answer is: less concerned than we were because there is a third variable here which is distinct both from the web and from print and that is the tablet, the iPad. If you can get an app and The Week does have a very good app which mimics what’s going on more or less on your print magazine then you are in a much stronger position. You can sell the app and get advertising. So, yes we are more sanguine than we have been because of this realisation—quite belatedly.

The second point... are we worried about competition from other news sources on the web? I revert to what I said before—not, in so far as we remain rather unusual if not unique in the way we present news.

Media reports suggest that Newsweek is planning to resurrect its print edition. Your comments.

Good luck to them. I think it’s going to be a hard and uphill struggle and as long as they can find a distinctive voice which they have lost somewhat en route, I wish them all the luck.

Where does Indian journalism stand in this scenario?

We do read Indian journals and we do get a couple of freelancers often to send us things. I wish we did more actually. The Indian press is a very lively press and from our point of view has the advantage of being written in English for most part, so we don’t have any barriers there. We love it when Indian journalists talk about Britain—whether disparagingly or in a commendatory fashion.

Where do you think long-form journalism is headed at a time when news is mostly being consumed as catch up content?

I do think it will still remain important but it will become more niche. It should not go away, particularly if we can raise the level of education of our reading public, because to me it is the most enjoyable part of journalism.

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