Digital audited circulation and digital consumer revenue are at odds. The industry’s focus on counting digital circulation on a publisher’s statement and protecting the number of print units are distracting those same folks from figuring out how to turn digital content into a sustainable and sizeable revenue stream. No doubt there are countless conversations debating print cannibalisation, protective subscription models and audit reporting.

Where’s the heated debate around the customer experience and e-commerce strategies of the sort that drove Amazon to dominance? Amazon began to sell books online around the same time newspapers launched their Web sites. The Internet retail business is booming, and most online newspapers are just now considering a paid model.

If we didn’t have to worry about how to count digital copies and protect print circulation, we would have all launched paid sites, and with our extra time we’d be investing in the following:

Engage the customer: recommendation engines rock!

We’d be in start-up mode with ambitions to dominate the news Internet space — starting by engaging the customer and the prospect. What other e-retailers don’t have is a reason outside of a purchase transaction to come to the site. We have that in spades. Rather than a heavy investment to get people to the site, our resources would be focused on moving readers around the site with recommendations for other like articles, most frequently read and e-mailed, and product sampling.

Next, we’d let the customer determine their product sets. Rather than creating static product bundles to protect print, let bundle creation be consumer generated, intelligent and dynamic. Let’s take full advantage of the purchase experience and entice consumers with “purchasers of this product also bought.”

No apologies for selling a product: segmented offerings reinforce premium pricing.

We wouldn’t be apologetic that we’re selling access to valuable news and information. By moving readers around the site and learning what’s interesting and important to them, a conversation would begin. We would use that knowledge to target offers to them that resonate. Segment content, target offers, and charge a premium for that convenience.

At its best, the e-commerce experience is easy for the consumer. By choosing e-commerce bells and whistles (either built in-house or gained through external partners), we’d be putting customers first, softening them up to that encouraging upsell attempt. And we would do that across any device that a customer wishes — easily accessible purchasing on mobile, tablet and Web.

If Amazon had spent their early years publicly quantifying and classifying book sales, I can’t imagine they’d be launching into cloud storage for music purchases today!