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Louisville, Kentucky - Old-fashioned journalism will not become obsolete in the Internet age, but newspapers themselves will have to change or might not fare as well, a panel of United States media experts said on Saturday.
"At some point in the current generation, more people will get their news from the Internet than from newspapers," said SW Papert III, chairperson and chief executive officer of Belden Associates, a newspaper research and consulting firm in Dallas.
"We've got to deliver the news the way readers want it," Papert warned on a panel examining the future of newspapers at the Associated Press Managing Editors conference in Louisville. "If we don't meet their demands, then we're dead."
Perhaps that means more news flashes on cellphones and wristwatches and projected on walls in public buildings, he said.
The print industry must become more responsive to readers, offering relevant news that is insightful, compelling and, most of all, fast, said Alan Nelson, co-founder of The Command Post, an Internet blog. So much information is available online that journalists must offer information that readers want, he noted.
"Journalism is changing forever because of the Internet," Nelson said. "The Internet has shifted the balance of power to the customer away from the seller."
Nelson said that means newspapers have to determine what information readers want and deliver it to them in the format they prefer. While readers can get world and national news in many places, local news, he said, will always be in demand.
"In the new economy, the fast win," he said. "In the new economy, the fast consumes the slow. If it's going to be relevant, it has to be fast."
Papert warned that the shift won't be painless, but said foot-dragging by newspaper executives would be ill-advised.
"For about 30 years, our readers have been voting for change with declining readership," he said. "The only risk is not changing significantly, and we have to do it quickly."
Papert said all that anyone can predict with certainty is that major changes are coming to the newspaper industry.
"The great thing about predicting the future is no one knows whether you're right or wrong at this point," he said.
The four-day APME conference wrapped up Saturday.