Print media is dying and companies need to transition to the digital space or risk the long-term future of their business, according to the former editor of London tabloid The Sun.
Kelvin MacKenzie, a stalwart of the journalism industry who was also once editor of The New York Post, said while it was not known when the last newspaper would disappear, he predicted the media world would be "mostly digital" within two decades.
"You're going to have to make this leap," he said. "Better to make this leap when you're in charge rather than it being forced on you."
MacKenzie said circulation at The Sun had halved from a profitable 4-4.25m newspapers a day 20 years ago. Expensive changes in format by The Times and The Sun had also failed to stop a slump in circulation of more than 50 percent, he said.
MacKenzie said he believed people had stopped reading papers because they had become "boring" with "not enough scandal".
However, information was available faster online or on TV, though the latter "very seldom tells the complete story".
While the Middle East had a healthy print industry, with commercial numbers today exceeding those of 2008, it was "the exception that proves the rule" he believed.
"But, I would say to this audience, if you don't take the digital opportunity... you will wake up one day with a hole where a business once was," he said.
MacKenzie said The Times and News International globally was having considerable success by bundling print and online content.
"So, there is a route to profitability, but you have to have deep pockets and a commitment to a future, which you as an executive may not see out," he said.
"You're either going to do it, or the thing is not going to work, anyway."