The intensive debate about the future of newspapers and print media is focused almost exclusively on news reporting and journalism. My focus is on commerce and the primary importance of establishing local newspaper sites, first and foremost, as the primary source for their communities' commerce needs and interests. The ongoing debates often miss the key point that consumers once relied on newspapers as their exclusive source for information on everything local for sale: to find houses, cars, jobs, restaurants, events, entertainment, products and services. As much as business concerns and issues may appear to be at the forefront in the corner offices at most major newspaper companies, it is the editorial product that management perceives as the core deliverable to consumers. Ads are the "fill" packaged to fit into and around the editorial content. But it should not be lost on the newspaper industry that those papers that continue to do well – pennysavers and local weeklies – design their content with advertising at the forefront and editorial content packaged around it. The debate today should revolve around the shifting relationship between editorial and advertising – and where the industry's priorities should be.
In today's full report available to subscribers, I share my recommendations for rebuilding the newspaper business and why I believe many newspaper and magazine publishers should be replaced in their jobs. I share an innovative new model for incorporating advertising into Kindle content and smart phone applications. I suggest that universities develop a new business curriculum focused on newspaper and media management, and argue for refocusing the fundamental discussions taking place in the corporate offices of leading newspaper and magazine publishers. I also include a new recommendation for generating $100 million in incremental subscription revenues for The Wall Street Journal.
If newspapers re-engineer their business models as I outline in this week's report, they will have an opportunity to regain their economic footing, enabling them to once again invest in journalism that is unfettered by economic concerns. In the long run, foundations are also likely to step up to underwrite journalistic enterprise. National news and investigative units will be underwritten by multiple newspaper organizations. Once local newspaper sites re-establish themselves as the primary source for their communities' commerce needs and interests, their news reporting and journalistic components will once again be allowed to thrive.
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