By Ken Doctor, Nieman Journalism Lab
At the World Publishing Expo held in Berlin this week, two CEOs of major international news companies — Andrew Miller of The Guardian and Mathias Döpfner of Axel Springer — were asked a question: On a scale of one to 10, how far along were there companies in their digital transition? How far have they traveled on the road to where they need to be?
Miller: 3. Döpfner: 4.
At the conference, held by WAN-IFRA, Döpfner summed up the chances of all this activity producing a happy result in a single word: “Perhaps.”
As the news industry approaches 2014 — wary and uneasy, its annual budgeting exercises by now a familiar form of torture — that “perhaps” sums up so much.
Over the past three years, new hopes and strategies have been fueled by the new knowledge that readers will indeed pay — and sometimes a lot — for digitally delivered content. But the deepening print ad downturn has allowed no one to enjoy that lesson.
You can sum up 2013 in news publishing in a single word: sobering.