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Front Page of La Canadien, 1806

Front Page of La Canadien, 1806

Anyone else sick of the discussion about how the media/publishing industries can make money going forward? Not a single business model seems to be working anymore. This means one of three things: 1) There is no solution. An economic recovery will bring with it more advertising dollars, and we’ll stagger on until then. 2) There is a solution, but we haven’t gone on enough chat shows to find it yet. 3) There is no solution; there are solutions!

I’ll choose what’s behind door number three. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the news will look like in the future, and what I would be willing to pay for. The sad truth? I’m not really eager to pay for anything online, and that’s where I’ll be getting my news, for sure. For me to subscribe to a news service, it will have to be one-stop shopping, customized, interactive, and take the work/time out of exploring the web. I can see an improved Google homepage fulfilling some of these functions, and it occurs to me that the various functions I want from my “news” could be performed by different companies, different applications. What if we all started building niche news-serving tools like iPhone apps and then put together the best ones? Instead of reinventing the entire concept of publishing and news, we can simply invest piece by piece in the companies and tools that deliver content in new and tasty ways.

Here’s what Laura’s news feed of the (not too distant, I hope) future will look like:

- Headline news I can filter by category (block politics right before elections, or block sports I don’t give a whit about), produced by traditional news reporting/distributing agencies.

- Niche publishing industry, green technology, general interest IT, arts & entertainment, and international personal interest news. A combination of traditional reporting sources and blogs.

- Suggested news stories of all kinds based on my preferences and click-throughs.

- RSS feeds with a tool that suggests new blogs I might like to follow.

- An RSS reader that compiles blog feeds by category for easy viewing.

- A tool that keeps me informed of new or high levels of traffic on various websites across the intertubes.

- A tool that suggests new social media contacts based on my interests and activity.

- A tool that crawls the web for the best price on an item I’m thinking of purchasing, or finds baby gear sweepstakes, etc.

We consumers will pay one-time or ongoing fees for the apps that bring us the type of content filtering we like best. We can continue to pay for some content that is valuable to us, and less in-depth content will be supported by advertising dollars (hey, it could work as a partial strategy).

The good news? I believe at least marginally decent versions of all these tools/services are already available! Someone (ahem, Google) just has to put it together in a way that serves users on computers and phones, and they’re sitting on a mountain of gold. Seriously, if an iPhone fart app can make hundreds of thousands of dollars, there’s some money there for news-serving, web-exploring, horizon-expanding apps, don’t you think?

What would you like your news to do for you that it’s not currently? How would you like to access published content? Is your content lacking depth, accessibility? Let’s start a new conversation, please, on what news and published content product we’re willing to buy, not just how to make money off the old product after it’s long expired.