How Newspapers Must Change to Survive

What does that mean? Well, surprisingly, it means: Forget computers. Newspapers have already lost that battle. Instead, move on -- and target the next platform. My gut tells me that the future of news delivery is to e-Books, like Kindle, and, even more, Smart Phones. So rebuild your paper for those platforms -- automatic downloading of the daily news directly to e-books, and powerful new navigation and social-networking (i.e., story reporting and sharing) tools for the phone.

It also means a new business model. The blogosphere has made one major mistake: it has yet to create a truly viable revenue model. And that represents a huge opportunity. Advertisers are still wary of the Web because they don't see yet a vehicle that produces strong, verifiable results. That's also the reason why (besides all of that capital equipment, like presses and buildings) that newspapers didn't just migrate to the Web two years ago -- it would have led to massive revenue losses. But newspapers have now taken those losses anyway, so accept the inevitable. A revenue model will emerge for the Web, so take your lumps now, shrink to 10 to 20 percent of your original size, sell the buildings and presses, move exclusively to the Web, and get ready for the market to take off.

And, as long as you are thinking outside of the box, go all of the way. Why doesn't a consortium of newspapers buy Craigslist, leave it intact, and divvy up the ads by region? Why not team up with the largest local TV station and become its integrated video-print Web site? Or better yet, buy one of those emerging Web aggregators and embed yourselves within them. They're going to be your future competitors anyway, so co-opt them now.

We Will Always Need Newspapers

Finally, figure out a way to hang on to all of that reporting talent you have so indifferently tossed away. Turn them into contractors for a couple of stories per month, or put them on retainer. But don't lose them -- because five years from now there will be land rush on reporting talent to fill the new "newspapers." So tie them up now.

In the end, it's all about surviving short term, and starting over under the new rules long term. We will always need newspapers because we need news. But as to what form this transformed medium will take is as yet unknown. But we do have some ideas -- and it is those ideas that America's dying newspapers should now embrace, not wistful dreams of the past.

This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michael S. Malone is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNews.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.

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