With the Rocky Mountain News being put for sale, I am going to offer some unsolicited advice for the failing newspapers. Here are a few ideas for the failing newspapers, if they wish to become profitable. Are these guaranteed? No, but remember that it is free advice. The first thing to understand is that the dead tree version of the paper is nearly a thing of the past, so these ideas are mainly ideas for the web site versions of the newspaper.
1. Film. Video is no longer exclusive to the TV stations. I suggest filming as much as you can, create small YouTube like videos and embed an advertisement in the video. I would suggest a scroll bar type of ad right over the material, so at the bottom you might see something like “want smaller government? Elect a Libertarian – www.lpcolorado.org” scrolling across the bottom.
2. Audio. Podcasts are popular and it is easy to embed commercials into them. They can accompany articles or stand alone.
3. Don’t hire as many full time employees. Instead I would suggest paying people on a per submission basis and perhaps set up a pay schedule based on how much traffic their articles generate.
4. Team up with other types of media. Have the “Denver Post headline of the day” as a show on the radio, and then add the show to the web site as a podcast. Have the weather on the TV news be a cooperative weather forecast between the paper and the TV station. Share the reporters.
5. Promote blogs and other forms of new media. Also these sources are often times free or very low cost ways of gathering content. A lot of bloggers will let you use their articles for free as long as you include a link to their site on the article.
6. Be skeptical. One of the reasons for a loss in readership for some of the big papers is that they too often parrot the government’s or corporation’s line and offer no criticism or opposing views. It’s your newspaper, quit following orders all of the time. As an example I cannot think of a single mainstream news source that did not call the Iraq war “operation Iraqi freedom”, the name itself was government propaganda and news sources didn’t even question it. Now it sounds stupid and nobody would call the Iraq war “the Iraqi freedom operation”. I think if a newspaper had more credibility because they simply quit towing the line on these things, in the long run they will be more successful.
7. Don't expect the same profits as you once had. I think there are ways that a newspaper can still be profitable, but the days of it being a big money business are over. If you own a paper content yourself with making enough profit to pay yourself a living wage.
8. The days of needing a huge skyscraper downtown are over. Run your newspaper out of the smallest facility that you can get away with. The lower your overhead the easier it will be to remain profitable. If you have very few employees and only have a web based business you can go extremely small, even running a newspaper operation out a home or small office.
I know many of the new online media are experiementing with ideas like these, if the dead tree media wants to stay alive they should as well.