A DELOITTE media and technology expert has warned that good content in newspapers is the only way to keep readers from migrating to the internet, writes Chantelle Benjamin in Business Day.

But he said he was not seeing investment in content in SA. Mark Casey last week said that content was also key if publishers were looking to charge for it online.

His comments came as South African media houses, hit by the recession and the resulting cutbacks in advertising, are all looking at cost-cutting measures, and as Naspers, Africa's biggest media group, initiates its second round of voluntary severance packages aimed largely at editorial and specialist writers at media arm Media24.

"The challenge is to keep content standards up, (and) retention of journalist talent has never been more important for both online and print. If not, publications will not get the readership because people have plenty of choice online," Casey said. He had noticed "a deterioration in the quality of some publications over the last few years".

Casey was speaking after the release of Deloitte's global report containing technology, media and telecommunication predictions for this year, based on interviews with 9000 people in 90 countries.

Casey said newspapers and magazines were expected to continue threatening to charge readers for online content this year, but it was most likely a hybrid model would be implemented with most of the content free and only premium content is charged for.

"Online readers might be willing to become micro-payment customers but only if the content is good enough and worth the effort," he said. "It has to be easy to register and pay for articles, and there (have) to be good search facilities and attractively laid-out web pages.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.