We all know it. Print circulation is on a downward spiral, and the newspaper business needs new revenue streams to finance the production and publishing of news.

For sure, you can start charging for online content, which until recently you gave away for free.

And yes, you can tweak subscription models, trying to provide readers with just a bit more quality content, possibly coupled with a few loyalty benefits here and some book club discounts there.

This is, however, mere reaction.

From a systems supplier perspective, I have for some years participated in the development of news publishers’ presence in digital media.

And at the top of the list of questions most frequently asked is: How quickly can we get the individual newspaper titles on some tablet or smartphone platform?

The rhetoric is all about packaging and distribution.

This is, however, a very short-term approach. If you were in the Lego brick producing business, this would be like discussing the colour of the box rather than finding out which bricks to put in the box.

News publishers should focus on content and the development of content. The focus should not be on how the printed newspaper can be presented on digital platforms, but rather on new types of news products.

The news business is still very much into paper and into extensions to the printed product, which is still run in a deadline-once-a-day mode.

But the “digital natives” are in an on-the-go mode and do not understand the concept of a deadline. To them, news is something that is constantly flowing in their direction, constantly being updated, and very dynamic — just like the world in which they live and consume.

The readers of the future are digital natives. Reach out to them with modern and dynamic products targeted at their interests and activities.

In many other businesses, the trend is towards task-specific apps, separate apps for separate tasks. Maybe newspaper content should be packaged in small apps that are targeted at each specific segment or that deal with a specific event, including options to sign up, register, and purchase?

An example: There is a local sports event. In the good old days, the newspaper would probably cover it by adding a section or a supplement.

Today, the newspaper will still add a section or a supplement, and then call the vendor or the development department that has been responsible for the newspaper’s apps to make room for the additional section.

But why not launch a new digital product including:

  • Background on participants (e.g., video diaries by the most prominent players on training and motivation).

  • A subscription to the event in collaboration with the local sports promoter who gets traffic on his Web site and participants for his event.

  • Online video and blogs from the event on the day it occurs.

  • Participants posting photos and comments afterwards.

  • Scores.

The product is an app that can be downloaded from the news publisher’s Web portal – a portal where new digital products are continuously made available, and the ones no longer relevant are removed.

The biggest challenge to news publishers is to enable the kind of innovation that results in products that can hit the streets (i.e. App Store and Google Play) in short time-to-market.

Just like you would plan and produce a new print supplement, you should be able to plan and produce a new digital product – tightly integrated with other services making the best possible use of the new possibilities for interaction.

For years, the printing press has been ready to produce new editorial sections. And in the same way, any newsroom should be sure to have a publishing platform that is flexible enough to handle new ideas and initiatives – quickly and without incurring huge development costs.