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We live and work in exciting times - revolutionary times. Technology continues to recast the media industry.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

What's the point of WAN?

News from MediaGuardian that the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has cancelled its annual congress and forum, the largest annual international gathering of newspaper executives and editors, which should have taken place in India in March this year, due to the effects of the global economic downturn.

Bertrand Pecquerie, World Editors Forum director said:

"Our belief is that newspaper companies will, by necessity, learn to live with the crisis over the year and will be more willing to invest again in conferences and travel by the end of 2009. The exact new schedule will be confirmed shortly. We need your suggestions in this difficult period."

"It is just a management decision based on facts. A newspaper association is at the end of the chain of the newspaper industry: when managers and editors cut costs and ask not to travel, evidently conferences and seminars are the first to be threatened."

Traditionally, the meeting attracts at least 1,500 delegates. Today the number of confirmed delegates for the March conference in India stood at 227.

Two things stand out from this news.

Firstly, that the Association is a busted flush. In times of trouble and challenge, it should be strong and should be leading its members, communicating best practice, innovation and efficiencies from one publishing group to another, globally. It is best placed to do this job, and if it can't fulfil this role it does beg the question of what it can deliver at precisely the time when the vast majority of its members need it most.

Secondly, its obvious that the industry doesn't value the Association highly enough to continue with funding attendance at the Annual events, presumably because the return on the investment to the member is negligible at best.

This is sadly symptomatic of an industry generally struggling to cope with the now, let alone the future. We know there are forward thinking newspaper and media executives out there, as we work with them, but is the decline in the sector overall just down to the consumers choosing not to buy newspapers as often as they used to? Of course not, it's more to do with media and newspaper businesses not generating content and alternative routes to market that they can generate profitable revenues from.

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