IIread with great interest today the recent Economist article “The rebirth of news: the internet is killing newspapers and giving birth to a new sort of news business.” The article regurgitates what many of us in the newsmedia business know:

  • The rich world's newspaper industry is being re-engineered by the internet and made worse today by the advertising downturn.

  • Technological change is destroying yesterday's products such as the Walkman, but the news isn't just another product.

  • Newsmedia companies are bearing the costs of two models: a print model that is declining and an online model that isn't growing fast enough.

  • Technology options such as the Kindle and iPhone open new avenues to viewership and, potentially, revenue.

  • Online news delivery opens up new definitions of what “news” is.

  • The internet is unraveling the print bundle as feature experiences such as breaking news, share prices, and weather are better in an online environment.

Yet the article runs astray over a common comment by newsmedia executives.

In extolling the virtues of paid news models by the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal and the potential for micro-payments, The Economist fails to delineate the stand-alone value of a financial newspaper's stock advice that could tip a lot of money my way versus the general-interest newspaper's story about a city hall scandal.

Both pieces of content in a print mosaic add value to the package. Yet in an online environment, the content from the financial newspapers is infinitely more valuable than the general-interest newspaper.

Are the financial newspapers leading the way with paid models and micro-payments, or are we looking at the wrong model for the vast majority of the world's newspapers?

Every newspaper aspires for elite status. Yet the very nature of news – even the New York Times, Daily Telegraph, Le Monde, El Mercurio – is mostly a commodity.

What adds value?

  • Timeliness, but the moment is fleeting.

  • Stickiness, if the subject matter is attractive to advertisers.

  • If content is about me, about someone I know, near me, near my home, and other similar relevance factors.

  • Something that makes the content actionable. Datasets and mashups may become just as important as narratives.

The stand-alone value of content segments and how to add value to that content is a discussion that's only beginning. If we can get our heads around this subject, we'll realise that democracy is about to be enriched by the revolution of news in the Digital Age.