Passion, quality, and the iPad dominate PANPA’s Future Forum

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Today's PANPA Future Forum delivered on what it promised… a glimpse into the future of the newspaper industry… and in spades (writes Peter Coleman).

And of course, there was good news as well as bad news

So let's start with the bad: The much-publicised forecast of the death (or irrelevance) of newspapers "as we know them" by 2022. It came from futurist and author Ross Dawson, whose claims to fame include forecasting the growth of social media a decade ago.

And it was supported by others including INMA chief executive Earl Wilkinson, who suggested that publishers should be spending less on printing presses and more on databases. An interesting assertion from a country, many of whose newspapers seem to have pulled up well short of world-class standards of production.

But it's in Wilkinson's oratory style to throw a lot of ideas up in the air - not all of them his own - and for delegates to pick up those in which they perceive value. Perhaps this one went with the criticism of the "irrational, impossible pursuit of quality".

Happily mediocrity was in the minority. Keynote speaker – and News Limited chairman – John Hartigan shared the passion which permeates that group’s publications, admitted his own excitement at the opportunities of digital media, and declared, "I wish I was starting all over again".

And the passion kept flowing from the forum's line-up of international speakers. Martin Avillez Figueiredo of Portugal's Impresa was infectious with his enthusiasm for the design-driven 'i', where editors spend their days deciding what content they will leave out.

Sandy MacLeod shared a founder's passion in the editorial leadership and philanthropy of the Toronto 'Star'. All of which played a role in marketing, he says.

And Dissica Calderaro enthused over the playful way in which Brazil's 'A Critica' developed a relationship with its readers.

The Future Forum was full of ideas - many of them involving the "game changing" iPad, on which there is a workshop tomorrow - and as many views of how the future will pan out for newspapers.

What's good is the consensus that there will be one: A significant contrast to the "controlled or concerted panic" (president and News marketing director Joe Talcott) of a year ago. More positivity is in Friday's workshops and masterclasses… but not without a pause for justifiable self-congratulation in tonight's gala Newspaper of the Year awards dinner (see separate story).

Friday’s speakers include Fairfax Media print and logistics chief executive Bob Lockley and WA Newspapers’ Liam Roche.

Topics cover technical issues, sales, videography, journalism and management.

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