Newspapers will undergo "massive and terrifying" changes to their operations, but will prosper in the digital environment, an influential media strategist says.

Peter Thomson, the founder and former chief executive of the media agency M2M International, was a speaker at the News Works NZ Advertising Awards at the Aotea Centre in Auckland last night.

News Works NZ is a commercial entity of the Newspaper Publishers' Association (NPA), which includes APN, publisher of the Herald.

Mr Thomson took M2M from billings of zero to US$550 million ($686 million) in nine years, making it one of the most successful British media agency launches in the past 10 years.


Speaking before the event yesterday, he said newspapers would not only survive the digital revolution, but would eventually thrive in it.

"Newspapers have a great future, I just think they're going through a really difficult period of evolution.

"It's the fastest and biggest evolution that they've ever undergone in their long history. And I think they will come out of it in two or three years."

Mr Thomson, now executive chairman of digital agency Nation 1, said he believed that by 2020, newspapers would emerge as a more valued and trusted medium than at any time in the past 50 years.

He realised that view put him out of step with some media commentators who believed current declines in revenue in the industry were irreversible.

But now papers around the world were actively promoting and improving their offline and online content and working out how to make money from it.

Mr Thomson said the Herald's relaunch of size and content, with the first compact paper out on Monday, was a good example of such adaptation.

"When the Times did it it was unbelievably controversial. But so long as the product's good, consumers are incredibly adaptable.


"Newspapers stood still for nearly 50 years. And they will never do that again. I think now newspapers will continually evolve."