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Tom Glocer on news and newspapers

The Reuters journalist who reported Thomson Reuters' Q4 results on Tuesday has added something that was not included in the wire story: the public thoughts of CEO Tom Glocer on news and newspapers.

“During a conference call with reporters, I asked Chief Executive Tom Glocer, who ran Reuters before Thomson Corp bought it, what the company plans to do regarding investing in news,” Robert MacMillan wrote in a Reuters blog.

“I also asked if the company could ever be in the market for another print newspaper. Remember that Thomson Reuters likes to tout the fact that Thomson Corp long ago got out of the newspaper business, thinking there was more of a future in electronic information that you make people pay a lot of money for.”

Glocer on news spending:

“We’ve continued to invest in news and we think 2009 is a very good year in investment for us both in terms of having brought in some of the journalists who have joined from Thomson Financial, but also investments we’re making in new editorial systems, in the video, multimedia presentation of news. So I think one of the good things about the strength of our financial performance is that we can continue to invest when a lot of pure media companies aren’t.”

Glocer on getting “back” into the newspaper business (“I asked whether the Financial Times or the New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune would be good fits, specifically. But why not The New York Times? Everyone with more than a few pennies to rub together is a candidate to buy it these days.”):

“[Thomson was] so early in getting out of newspapers that now to go back in when our business model is so focused on professionals and so overwhemingly electronic doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. … If there were a fantastic information product that was 95 per cent electronic and five per cent a print output device, we would do it - maybe - if it otherwise made sense. I’m not convinced that we know how to run a newspaper any better than the ones running them today.”

Earlier, Glocer said on his blog that newspapers remain dead but journalism is alive and well.

Reporting on a panel debate at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on the health of the media with Steve Forbes of the eponymous magazine; Jonathan Nelson of Providence Equity Partners, the media-focused buyout firm; Shobhana Bhartia of the Indian Parliament and the Hindustan Times; and John Graham of Fleishman-Hillard, the global PR firm, he wrote:

“While we broke little new ground, the discussion was uncharacteristically animated for a 9:00am audience. While Luddites and Refusniks remain, there seems to be growing acceptance of the point I and others have been making for years: Newsprint is an output device, not an end in itself. What matters is quality journalism which can and does thrive in multiple media. 

“There are several advantages of paper: it is light to carry, highly legible, and can be folded, written upon and read on the train or in the small tiled room. However, paper has its limitations: it is relatively expensive, must be physically delivered, is less environmentally friendly than digital bits, and cannot be easily searched or processed. This latter point has resulted in the near destruction of the print newspaper model as classified advertising has fled online.

“While these trends are not universal (Shobhana reminded us that newspapers in India continue to thrive), the combination of these structural challenges with the tremendous cyclical pressures being experienced in most markets should not make one optimistic about the future of the print-only model.

“Instead, of lamenting that the Fourth Estate is dead, we should celebrate the innovations of the current age that can now be applied to telling the story, such as blogs, wikis, IPTV, social media, the mobile web, Kindle, electronic ink, etc.. For those who can make the leap while not abandoning their journalistic values, new audiences await.”


Tom Glocer's blog ■