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Speakers at last week’s Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco mused about the future of journalism with moderator John Battelle. “We’re living in an era of great change all over the place,” noted New York Times Digital Head Martin Niesenholtz. The Internet has “given to us a huge global platform to innovate. It is our responsibility to make it work. You have to innovate your way through this.

“Some [companies] won’t come out of it all,” added Niesenholtz. “A very, very small number of people are going to win. But those that do will include very large, scalable global industries. And some small guys too.”

Niesenholtz added that he wished people would stop blaming Craigslist for the problems that have befallen the newspaper industry. “By 1995, anyone who had a brain knew that classifieds in newspapers were history. It is not Craig Newmark’s fault that it happened,” he said.

Looking forward, Niesenholtz especially remarked on the promise of mobile, “which opens up a huge, huge opportunity for us. It is the next great platform for innovation.”

Also speaking on the panel was Huffington Post President Eric Hippeau, the former head of Ziff Davis, the trade publishing giant. Hippeau, who noted the site is up to 16 journalist/producers, said it was small-minded to complain about the collapse of newspaper vertical sections. Battelle had noted these have become “atomized” due to online verticals such as

“Advertising is about $200 billion, which is down from $250 billion,” he said. But a larger opportunity comes from communications, including all forms of social media. “Three hundred billion dollars comes from PR, communications and things like that. It is a much bigger marketplace,” said Hippeau. “People want to be engaged,” and so do brands, which shy away from bad news.

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