Rupert Murdoch tore into the "doom and gloomers" predicting the demise of newspapers yesterday, backing the industry to hit new heights this century, but admitted this involved "moving beyond dead trees".
This comes at a time when media groups have come under severe pressure, closing titles and slashing jobs, in the wake of the global credit crunch.
Mr Murdoch, whose global media empire owns titles including The Wall Street Journal as well as The Times and The Sun, conceded that it was a "challenging" time for the sector, as traditional sources of revenue dry up and competition increases.
Mr Murdoch issued a rallying cry to the industry, saying: "Unlike the doom and gloomers, I believe that newspapers will reach new heights. In the 21st century, people are hungrier for information than ever before. And they have more sources of information than ever before." As readers become swamped by the fierce competition, they "want what they've always wanted: a source they can trust. This has always been the role of great newspapers in the past. And that role will make newspapers great in the future".
Mr Murdoch, who is chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, which also owns Fox News, 20th Century Fox and MySpace, criticised many newspapers' reactions to the online competition. He pointed out that other industries – such as banks and retailers – faced pressure from the internet, but many saw it as an opportunity, while some journalists "are too busy writing their own obituary to be excited".
He conceded that the print edition of some newspapers would lose circulation, but predicted gains on their websites, through RSS feeds and news delivered to mobile phones.
"We are moving from news papers to news brands," he said, and added that while the form of delivery may change, "the potential audience for our content will multiply many times over".
Mr Murdoch summed it up by saying: "I like the look and feel of newsprint as much as anyone. But our real business isn't printing on dead trees. It's giving our readers great journalism and great judgement."
Speaking at the Boyer Lecture in Australia – annual talks given by prominent Australians on social, scientific or cultural issues – Mr Murdoch said the future of newspapers "has a relevance far beyond the feverish, sometimes insecure collections of egos and energy that is the journalistic profession".
He added that for some, the culture of self-pitying started in journalism school; perpetuating the pessimism of those he labelled the "tribal elders".
News and media companies have come under pressure from a decline in advertising revenue and a drop in consumer spending. Last week, Trinity Mirror announced an increase to its cost-cutting drive, which is likely to result in job losses and potential closures at regional papers. Johnston Press revealed a 15 per cent drop in advertising last quarter, while the publishing houses Emap and Haymarket have announced cuts this month.