During much of the 20th century, U.S. newspapers were the dominant genera-public digest for timely, topical information relevant to daily life. Now web-enabled consumers can go anywhere and news companies are in danger of losing that position.
To hold their user bases, formerly-newspapers (new name: "Newshares") must adopt a new mission -- to be an information home base, or valet, across any platform, print or digital. And they need to hold on to their 50-million plus customers -- people with whom they have a consistent, legacy financial relationship.
But how? By becoming the gateway to information in any place, on any topic. The news industry needs to provide a service in which consumers can have one account at their home-based formerly-newspaper/Newshare, and use it to acquire information from multiple websites, with one-account, one ID, one bill, privacy-protected simplicity.
A key feature must be that each Newshare, or group, retains ownership of its user base, yet can refer their users to other websites.
Another key feature is reciprocity -- the system should be able not only to enable purchase of content by users, but also the ability of marketers to pay users for their attention -- viewing ads or other commercial resources.
And a final key feature is that the system be able to facilite customization of the user experience. This creates "stickiness". I go back to Bill Densmore's MyYahoo page because I have customized it. I buy books from Amazon, and rent movies from NetFlix, because their recommendation engines are tuned to my interests. Newshares must be able to customize the web experience of their users, to lock them in.
The system should not require that users pay-per-click, although that feature should be an option. It should allow users to be part of a subscription network, in which the user pays a flat monthly fee (perhaps bundled with their print or online news subscription) and the collaborating content owners settle access by each other's users to resources in background.
The result of such a system of 50 million shared users is that formerly-newspapers (call them "Newshares") will together become, overnight, a major marketplace for anyone trying to sell anything digital -- movies, music, archives, multimedia, intangible services. This will create a viral attraction to Newshares for consumers of all ages -- cracking the dilemma of how to recruit younger readers.
Around this service, the formerly-newspaper industry will want to build or brand a search service. It can leverage such a share userbase with the key commerce websites of the Internet -- offering the Newshare Network users affinity-group discounts . . . because Newshare users will be trackable across the net.
And best of all -- there need be no central database of all the users. No formerly-newspaper company or chain will have to give up its customer data to a competitor. The only thing common will be the federated authentication service and the financial settlement.