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Newspaper industry has 'a new confidence', claims editors' chief

The UK newspaper industry has a “new confidence” which will ensure the printed media is around for a long time to come, according to Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell.

The former editor, who was at the helm of the Cambridge Evening News from 1984 to 1998, told a group of Norwegian newspaper editors that the future looked so good that he wished he was “starting all over again”.

He was speaking as the group toured The Daily Telegraph’s building during a trip to find out more about the industry, after being asked to give them an overview of today’s media.

Bob said there had been a remarkable agreement at the last Society of Editors’ conference that there was a future for newspapers, so long as they adapted to new technologies and became multimedia communications organisations.

He said the UK newspaper industry was witnessing long-term decline in circulations, but this was “an old measure of success” and the industry was the most diverse and competitive in the world.

He said: “The soothsayers should remember that more than 30m people in the UK – more than half the population – still read a daily national or regional newspaper each.

“Still more impressive are the readership figures for regional and local newspapers. 83.7 per cent if the population read a local paper each week.”

Bob said that reach was now a more important measure to newspapers, and all UK papers, were now aiming for convergence of coverage and breaking news and other content on the most relevant platform and the time when it is most appropriate to their customers.

He described how titles like the Manchester Evening News were “preaching the reach” and how it was layering its offering with a paid-for evening, a free city centre edition and its own weekly Metro, radio station, TV Channel and website.

He added: “The industry has a new confidence.

“Journalists are learning new skills and I believe their in-built ability to dig out stories and innovative skills will enable their organisations to go from strength to strength.

“I am more optimistic now than at any time in my career. I wish I was starting all over again!”