Lessons from a young entrepreneur. Or whatever he is.

You might not recognize Chris Hughes' name (of course, you might). Even if not, you've heard of his work. In 2004, he was a sophomore at Harvard when, with a couple of three classmates, he launched a campus-wide social network called, um, Facebook.

Yes, that Facebook. The one I don't even have to link to, because you know where to find it.

He graduated in 2006, and in early 2007 took a leave to help launch my.BarackObama.com.

That makes him kind of a rock star in the new media world.

He spoke at Onondaga Community College Tuesday night as part of the Famous Entrepreneurs Series, bringing some insights into entrepreneurship, businesses in general and the future of the Internet.

Entrepreneurship

None of the Facebook founders thought of themselves as entrepreneurs. Which shouldn't be surprising, since they were 19-year-old college students. Hughes said they were young, curious, and wanted to do something important.

Entrepreneurs, he said, want to make an impact. It doesn't matter whether that's for a big profit, a little profit, or a non-profit. It's a way of thinking.

Facebook succeeded, Hughes said, because of trust and privacy. It's a useful product, and they were able to build it out by crowdsourcing. [I'll handle crowdsourcing in another post in the near future, but let's just say that Facebook is in over 70 languages and a professional translator has never been on the payroll.]

» Read Jill's take

Successful Businesses

So, apart from the crowdsourcing, what makes a successful business?

Focus on the product What do you do? What is your focus? If you have an idea for a new feature, how does it affect your core product? If you react to some customers and not others, how does that affect your product.

When on the Obama campaign, Hughes said a group of people – and people were the product for the grassroots campaign – used the campaign tools to put down some of the then-candidates' policies. The campaign decided to let it ride, to let people know they were being heard, they weren't going to be shut down, and that Obama just didn't agree with them.

We know how that campaign turned out.

Don't worry about the formalities There are rules to building a business, and then there are "rules." The "rules," Hughes said, say start with a board of directors, get investors on board, and build something big and wonderful and hope people show up. If they don't, start marketing the hell out of it.

On the other side of the coin, if you start small and see if your idea works, you haven't lost a whole lot if it flops. Build a little, let it succeed; build a little more, let it succeed. Build it out, then get your board of advisers and investors together, before you get too big for your britches (my phrase, not his).

Analyze everything Break everything down to its smallest bits and analyze the heck out of it. Get numbers, find out who, what, where – measure whatever you can and use it to your advantage.

Hire smartly Make sure the person you bring on board is passionate about the business and the product as you are, and that they're a good match for your team.

Think long term Hughes said Facebook has turned down eight- and nine-figure offers for the company, and they haven't sold because they felt they've only scratched the surface of what they're doing or where they're going.

What else? Persistence and luck also play a big role.

What's Next Online

Going forward, what's the Internet going to be like? Hughes said we're entering a new era of participation – but not one of chaos.

» People will be their friends' filters, which means that (a) the content will be more relevant, but (b) the content will be less diverse. This doesn't mean that the truth filters will be missing – Hughes doesn't see the New York Times shutting down, but he sees it changing.

» "Transparency," Hughes said, "is good." But – and you should already know this if you're on Facebook or Twitter or any other sharing service – you need to be smart about what you're transparent about and who you're transparent to.

Lots to think about here. Would love to hear your thoughts if you went last night. You can also see what other people have to say by checking out the #fescny hashtag.

A look at Mine magazine from Time and Amex

I got my first issue of Mine magazine recently. This is an experiment in user-customizable content, an attempt to bring something the web offers to the print magazine format.

There are a lot of web portals along with some news sites that allow you to do a fair bit of customizing of the information you get. Sites like My Yahoo let you put what's important to you – email, scores, weather, stock updates, selected news topics and even your favorite RSS feeds – on one page, and you (more or less) pick the layout, within certain parameters.

On the news site, outlets like the BBC let you pick what you want to see on the home page, and move boxes around to order them however you want. If you visit a site like MLive.com, which has several newspaper affiliates, lets you pick what region of the state you want to see news from, or if you just want the general state-wide version.

Mine is an attempt to give readers the same sort of information customization, – along with some personalized advertising. They're starting small with this (31,000 people get a free, 5-issue print subscription; 200,000 more will get an online-only publication), and I don't see this going large-scale.

For the trial period, you go to the Mine web site, enter your contact information, and select five of eight magazines published by Time Inc or American Express. You get to choose from Real Simple, Food & Wine, InStyle, Time, Money, Sports Illustrated, Golf Magazine and Travel+Leisure (F&W; and T+L are American Express-owned publiscations). You answer a couple of lifestyle questions that may or may not apply to you, hit send, and wait for your first issue to arrive.

The magazine options didn't impress me, but I understand that they're starting small with an experiment. Still, Time and Sports Illustrated were no-brainers for me, Food & Wine holds mild interest for me, and then I added Money and Travel+Leisure because I had to pick five. The thing is, Time Inc. owns some much more interesting to me stuff (all their brands), and their subsidiaries own even more.

The magazine is complimentary thanks to an advertising partnership with Lexus. And by "advertising partnership" I mean there is a one-page ad from Lexus, along with the inside covers and the back cover advertising from Lexus (read: no other advertising), all customized to me – two ads mention the town I live in and another mentions my name.

The magazine weighs in at 36 pages (really light) and has one to three articles from each publication. Each article previously appeared in one of the magazines between 2007 and 2009, but it doesn't tell me which appeared when, so I couldn't even order the proper back issue if I wanted to see what each was coupled with.

Here is what was in my magazine.

From Travel+Leisure: Two stories, one about making flying more interesting and one about luxury camping. The first was fantastic, suggesting you get a window seat, offered tips for mapping your flight path and understanding what you might be flying over. The second was a waste of print for me – if they had bothered to read the lifestyle questionnaire they asked, they would have known that.

From Food&Wine;: One story, and it wasn't actually about food or wine. It was about how to take a winery tour on your next vacation to South Africa. As someone who likes to eat food and drink wine, I would have wanted less of a travel story.

From Time: A story about how to keep my kids active (another sign they hadn't read my lifestyle questionnaire), a profile on the Tibetan monk who might just be the next Dalai Lama, and a trend piece on people bringing solar power into their homes via financing.

From Sports Illustrated: A piece by a guy in his 20s who goes on a five-day soccer binge to purge his hatred of the sport, which might be interesting if you (a) hate soccer or (b) are a crazed soccer fan. I fall into neither category. I kinda like soccer, but would much rather watch a baseball game. There was also a profile on a women's basketball player at a community college in Washington state who suffered a concussion and wound up with a fair bit of amnesia.

From Money: Two stories, one on what to do with your basement if you have a lot of cash laying around, the other about keeping the tax obligations on your retirement savings low. I would have rather learned how to have $195,000 laying around for a basement make-over as opposed to what I could do with the money, and the second was actually mildly useful for a mass audience.

Here's the deal: This magazine wasn't at all customized to me (outside of the ads, which really are more creepy than anything – see the two I included pictures of). If I had these choices on a web portal, I wouldn't use the portal. If it's a sales vehicle for the included titles, it fails miserably. I am already an occasional subscriber to Time and Sports Illustrated, but while I might have at one time decided to try a F&W; subscription, if this was a representative sample of what's usually in it, well, keep your magazine, thanks.

For a publication that's being billed as a printed RSS feed, this failed in both customizability and recency.

And it's a good thing they started with such a small initial run: even though they only offered 31,000 print subscriptions, they bungled a block of them.

I'm not the only one who thought this was a lousy debut. I have four more issues coming; I wonder if they'll listen to feedback and improve them, or if they'll just struggle through and say, "well, we tried" after the run.

At this point, I can't imagine paying for a subscription to this. I also worry that if they messed up a large chunk of 31,000 subscriptions, there's no way they'd be able to handle 2 million. The kind of data they can get for advertisers might be invaluable, but you still have to make consumers happy before advertisers will start paying for it.

What would baseball fans do without newspapers?

When The Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased their print editions, something happened that wasn't evident to either the save-the-newspaper or the dude-the-Web's-great crowd: fans of the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners both lost local places to study box scores.

When I moved to Syracuse, I not only arrived in a town which places much more emphasis on college than professional sports, I discovered I was in a place where people by and large aren't baseball fans.

People here definitely have allegiances – I've met lots of Yankees and Red Sox fans, and a smattering of Mets fans – but by and large, these are team people, not baseball people.

There are some of us die-hards, who live for the smell of grass, the season's first hot dog, who keep score at games, and who study statistics.

Baseball fans? We're numbers people. There's something old-fashioned about that, for sure.

And while the Web is certainly a great place for box scores and statistics (it's bottomless, it's got great archiving ability, great sharing ability), there's something that seems right about having that stuff in a newspaper, isn't there?

Seattle and Denver still have print newspapers, but across the country, that could continue to change.

And ESPN.com's Jim Caple is worried about it.

Could bloggers and Web writers cover teams, get access to players, managers, coaching staffs, etc.? Cover both the news and analysis? Absolutely, admits Caple. But, he asks, could bloggers afford the travel and lodging expenses required to go on the road to cover a team?

Not likely, he says.

News flash: Newspapers can't afford to do it either. That's why they're cutting down on news hole and in some cases, stopping printing altogether.

Some former Colorado Rockies beat writers for The Rocky Mountain News have started InsideTheRockies.com, which is part of a project done by former RMN reporters called In Denver Times (which is in beta now and launches May 4).

There isn't up-front advertising evident, and it looks like In Denver Times is going to try out a subscription model. Is it sustainable? I guess we'll find out (and good luck; I'm always rooting for new Web sites, especially if they're doing original reporting).

Caple's right in one aspect: most people can't afford to travel with a team and cover them without the backing of Big Media.

But to successfully cover a team, I don't think that's necessary.

Follow me here. You do a league-wide network with localized editions for each team. You need two bloggers for each ballpark: one covers the home team every game, and the other covers the visiting team – senior partner and junior partner, if you will.

The person who covers the home team is going to be the primary expert on that team. The person who covers the away team is going to act essentially as a stringer for that team's hometown edition. Newspapers already do this for minor league baseball and hockey – they pay somebody on the other end to cover a game and get into the locker room for post-game quotes.

If a team is truly giving a hometown beat writer access, they'll accept a phone call if clarification or more information is requested.

The funding model for this is the same it is for any other online-only publication: you sell advertising, and maybe you can do some exclusive content (extended video interviews with players, perhaps?) for subscribers.

Why couldn't that work?

Newspapers in Q1 2009: Full-circle

My first post on newspapers in 2009 went like this:

I was horrified to find out yesterday that at least one Connecticut lawmaker is considering a government bailout of a newspaper.

I'm still horrified by this prospect for the same reason: How can a newspaper impartially (read: critically) report on the government that funds it?

Well, it's been another week of devolution in the newspaper industry (if you consider dealing with the effects of refusing to evolve to be devolution).

The Christian Science Monitor has printed its final mass-market daily edition. Cox announced it will shut down its Washington bureau on Wednesday.

And that piece I wrote a few days ago about the newspaper crisis hitting home? AnnArbor.com is now live, which makes the impending closing of the print edition of the Ann Arbor News feel that much closer.

Andrea pointed me to a piece by Dylan Stableford on whether newspapers might go non-profit in an effort to save themselves.

Stableford's question stems from legislation introduced by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin that would allow certain newspapers to become 501(c)(3) organizations.

Why do we need legislation for that? The non-profit Poynter Institution owns the St. Petersburg Times, and you can write off a donation to Poynter, so is it really necessary?

There's a gray area here, in that a non-profit newspaper may be able to sell advertising under current tax law.

But there's some major problems here. If you actually read the legislation (PDF), you'll find that it says an eligible newspaper is one that publishes regularly and includes local, national and international news.

I'm OK with "regularly" – most papers come out with some frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). But the legislation appears to specifically exclude some types of publications. Niche publication? Nope. National (with no specifically local news)? Application rejected. Local weekly? Out.

Let's also not forget that to qualify for a 501(c)(3), an organization has to be non-partisan. So, no more candidate endorsements (which, by the way, is fine with me), but also no being critical of any government institution or politician, lest you be accused of being impartial. You'd better included representatives from the IRS on your editorial board, in your story budget meetings, and maybe you just turn over your assignment editor positions.

Maybe print folks think I'm not taking the newspaper crisis seriously enough. Maybe it's because readership here is strong (via Sean Kirst).

Or maybe it's because I just don't think that the Web is destroying journalism, but rather that Web sites help newspapers.

David Eaves points out that the fact newspapers are in trouble means that democracy and the exchange of ideas are healthy. In fact, after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went online-only, some of the folks who didn't make the cut from the printed version to the Web site are working on starting competing sites. When the Rocky Mountain News shut down, it didn't mean Colorado Rockies fans are going to be left without coverage, it means that former beat writers have new opportunities.

So where are we? Moving forward, in some direction or other. As Yogi Berra once said, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Some related stuff

» Gina Chen: Old journalism might be fading out, but let's make sure some standards stick around

» Jay Rosen: Here's some stuff you should read regarding where newspapers are heading

» Idea Lab: How much local news is in your newspaper?

» Also, was I self-referential enough to fulfill Paul Dailing's requirements for becoming a death of newspapers blogger? (Hat tip to Alana Taylor.)

Newspaper crisis hits home

I can't imagine that you've missed the news about the state of the newspaper industry. If you have, go spend three days reading about it, and talk to me when you've left the corner you've been rocking in.

Colorado's oldest paper, The Rocky Mountain News – which was actually launched in the Kansas Territory, before Colorado existed – has dedicated its Web site to the paper's shuttering weeks ago.


Photo of empty Post-Intelligencer box
by Brian M. Westbrook. Used with permission.

Washington's oldest paper, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, stopped print publication last week but is thriving online, to the point where you would have to actually know there was once a print edition.

The Christian Science Monitor will go to primarily online in April (they'll print a weekend edition, and have some other print offerings for subscribers, but nothing you can buy on the stands on a daily basis).

Gannett, which owns USA Today and a hundred-plus other newspapers across the country, has announced new furloughs as we move to the second quarter of 2009.

With all this going on, CNN wants to know what newspaper readers are going to do.

It's all felt very close, considering I once was a newspaper editor and reporter, before moving on to spend two years in grad school bitching about the decline of local news in newspapers (that was the unofficial name of my program).

And now I work for a Web site that's affiliated with a newspaper (they're owned by the same parent, but operated independently).

Operating independently, we don't take a direct hit when something happens in the newspaper industry. We're more like the person on the corner when the SUV slams into the hatchback, hoping we're standing just far enough back to avoid flying steel.

I'll be honest, it's been tough watching newspapers go down, but to some extent, the ivory tower in me is saying, "I told you so." But this week...well, this week, one of the newspapers in our chain announced it will go online only this summer. Another is planning to publish three days a week come June.

The newspaper chain my company is associated with announced a company-wide series of 10-day furloughs, apparently including my site's affiliate, The Post-Standard.

Some anonymous commenters are flat-out saying that production problems with this morning's paper may have been sabotage in the wake of the furlough news.

For the record, I very much doubt that.

Some people are still trying to save newspapers as printed products, but I've moved onto the fence. While I still enjoy kicking back with a Sunday paper and a cup (or three) of coffee, but let's face it, Clay Shirky gets a few things right.

Printing presses are expensive to buy, build, and run. Newsprint costs fluctuate, but overall, rise steadily. The price of distribution rises and falls with gas prices, which, as a whole, are going up, even if there are peaks and valleys.

I'm more interested in saving journalism than necessarily the printed product. I will always prefer reading longer pieces on paper, but with shrinking newsholes, we're getting shorter pieces overall anyway.

I have some ideas for making sure journalism survives – and that journalists thrive – but it seems like printed newspapers have spent a lot of time avoiding change.

And now, that avoidance is hitting really close to home. I'm hoping my colleagues hang in there, because I enjoy working with them, they're good people, and many of them are among the best in the country at what they do. Good luck, folks. I hope there's light at the end of this tunnel.

Human nature, the Internet and the Rihanna photo

Inasmuch as it's possible these days, I live under a rock when it comes to pop culture. I don't own a TV, I have two radios, each set to a different NPR station, and if I'm listening to music, it's probably on my laptop when it's not connected to the Internet. I make it to the movies about twice a year.

But even I had heard the singer Rihanna was allegedly beaten by fellow-performer boyfriend Chris Brown, accounting for the pair's sudden and unannounced absence at a Grammy Awards pre-party (and the awards show itself).

To say the least (and perhaps the obvious), this is awful. And while the domestic violence itself is certainly the worst part of it, there's more going on here.

Police departments generally have a firm policy on not releasing the names of alleged domestic violence victims. News outlets generally have a loose policy on not disclosing the names of alleged domestic violence victims when they find out.

So why did the entire world know who both the accused and the alleged victim were? Well, arrest records are public information. But Rihanna's name? That should have been kept under wraps.

And tight ones.

The fact that she's a celebrity does not make her public property. Some things the public simply does not need to know.

But wait, there's more.

In these days of information, information, information, everybody just had to know, right?

So sometime Thursday, a well-known celebrity Web site (which I will neither name nor link to here) published a photo of a bruised and bloody Rihanna that the Los Angeles Police Department says appears to be a leaked evidence photo.

Of course, other sites just had to hop on it as well, re-posting it.

I haven't seen it, I'm not interested. And I'm not going to link to the other sites I've learned second-hand have re-posted it, either.

It's disgusting, really, and goes to the basest part of human nature. It's the part of us that (a) hands over the fork and says, "try this, it's awful" along with the part that (b) thinks we own people who have become famous.

And it's getting worse. We can surely blame the Internet as a disseminating technology – which isn't to condemn the medium, just those who use it for ill. But more than that, we need to smarten up about what we're willing to see, what we're willing to distribute, and what level of respect we expect of ourselves.

It's positively awful that someone at the LAPD sent this photo out. It's even worse that some Web sites had the bad taste to post it.

Some quick reactions from my favorite feminist bloggers:

» Tracy Clark-Fleury at Broadsheet:

I suppose there's a hint of silver lining: It's possible that the photo will spark a national conversation about domestic violence. But shouldn't Rihanna get to decide whether she becomes the literal poster child for the cause?

» Jessica Valenti: A 12-second rant.

» Cara at Feministe: Not fucking cool.

Newspapers or newsprint, which is in deeper doodoo?

The video that used to be above but was taken down by the user was essentially this piece from TJ Sullivan offering a really bad idea on how to save newspapers.

Sullivan says that from July 4 to July 10 this year, papers should stop offering free content online by blacking out their Web sites.

Let me include the disclaimer here that I work for the online component of a newspaper – its Web site, where they offer news free – before I tell you this will help further damage newspapers.

Before you read the rest of this post, be sure to catch up (if you haven't already) on my thoughts for a paid online newspaper I'd subscribe to. Go on, I'll wait.

Back? Good.

Now, why do I think this is such a bad idea (apart from the timing, which requires newspapers to make do with what they've got for another five months)? Let me count the ways.

Web sites do not replace the printed edition. Many people who are in-market who read a newspaper's Web site also subscribe to the printed edition. The majority of people who read newspapers' Web sites without subscribing to the newspaper are local ex-pats, now living out of town, for whom subscribing to the print edition would be both cost-prohibitive (who can swing $7 or $8 a day and $12 on Sunday to have the paper mailed to them?) and time-insensitive (it's not breaking news if I get the paper a week later – heck, you're not even reporting on the latest football game anymore).

Web sites increase news hole. By offering only the printed edition, do you (a) simply cut out a lot of what your reporters write, or (b) go ahead and print everything that they'd write for their blogs, because it's still content people want?

Newspaper Web sites have their own writers, too. Yes, newspapers provide the vast majority of content for their Web sites. But almost every (at least mid-size market) daily newspaper Web site in the country has other bloggers or beat writers. Will you spend that week printing their work, too?

Newspaper Web sites provide a space for people to interact with reporters and with each other. Are you suddenly going to expect your reporters to exchange lots of phone calls with readers? If 200 people send the same e-mail to your local college hoops beat writer, the writer typically can just post a response in a blog. You either risk cutting out that interactivity, or you risk losing your reporter. You also lose the ability for people to interact with each other – and a week may be just long enough for people to find a different forum and never come back.

Newspaper Web sites have different advertisers. Because they attract more of a national audience, affiliated Web sites attract different advertisers than the printed paper. If you lose the ads for a week, you lose some advertisers forever, and others you lose until you can bring traffic back up to what it was.

A Web site is a great marketing tool for the newspaper. Every business needs to be on the Web today. Every. Business. If you sell nothing but toothpicks, it will cost you next to nothing to have a permanent billboard with a potential audience of billions of people. If anyone was thinking about signing up a subscription, or thinking about advertising, that week, and can't find your contact info on a Web site? You're out of luck, sorry.

The answer is not shutting down the Web sites, it's charging for them, plain and simple. Sullivan's driving thesis is that America needs newspapers. Not true. America needs good reporters doing good journalism. When it comes down to it, the main differences right now between newspapers and their Web sites are:

  • People pay for newspapers.
  • Newspapers cost (a lot) more to distribute.
  • Web sites provide (near) infinite news hole, easier and less time consuming interaction, and the ability to include video, interactive graphics and sharper photographs.
  • Newspapers have a bigger environmental impact and get your hands dirty.
  • Newspapers travel better.

OK, great, so what we've found out is that newspapers travel better, and people are paying for them.

But people don't seem to care about the portability issue these days (maybe we appreciate that more in northern climes, where we're more likely to bring one down to the lake to read, rather than stay inside for the short outdoor season).

Sullivan, by the way, has set up an online petition, and almost exactly three days after he posted it, he has all of 103 signatures, including himself, "Close down these propaganda outlets," and "I. DisagreeButThereAreNoComments."

So what it comes down to is, we need to find a working model for paid newspaper Web sites. I'm totally OK with that, given the right model.

Journalism is not broken. The printed newspaper as a delivery vehicle might be, but there's a great call for journalism, particularly online. And if you tell people to pay for it or they won't get it, they'll pay for it.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote that he'd rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers, he was really talking about journalism. He didn't have radio, television or the Internet as a delivery vehicle.

What are your thoughts?

It’s not all enterprise reporting (or, why I’m not ready to pay for newspapers online, yet)

Most people who write about the industry aren't declaring newspapers dead yet, but some are starting to give them one last crack on the noggin toward that end.

The latest bigger-city bad news is that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will stop printing in five weeks if no one buys it, and may consider an online-only publication, but only outside of its joint operating agreement with the Seattle Times.

David Swenson and Michael Schmidt proposed a preposterous idea in the New York Times last month: set up endowments to save newspapers, turning them non-profit and sustainable.

I don't know exactly what it costs to run a newspaper, but the story says that the Times, for instance, would need a $5 billion endowment to get going.

I'm sure this is plausible for a few papers. Figuring that no self-respecting newspaper would accept a government-funded grant, high rollers would probably put up the cash to sustain papers like the Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and LA Times.

But what about newspapers in smaller communities? Sure, they require less of a start, but could newspapers in mid-sized markets like my hometown of Springfield, Mass., my adopted hometwon of Syracuse, N.Y., and other cities like Hartford, Austin, Oklahoma City, etc., put together $800 million endowments quickly? [Yes, I'm pulling that number out of thin air, based on the suggestion the Times would need $5 billion.]

I'm betting that under that model, we have maybe a half-dozen nationally distributed, well-funded papers, and hundreds, if not thousands, of newsletters and blogs that recall the early days of yellow journalism in America.

I'm not ready for that model.

Those people who point out the benefits of maintaining newspapers in communities look to papers' large newsrooms and ability to do meaningful enterprise journalism.

I'm not going to argue with that. At all. That enterprise journalism is my favorite stuff to read. I'll read books of it. And I prefer it in print, even over on a computer screen, but especially over radio or television.

But those who are calling for newspapers to stop offering free online content are pointing to enterprise journalism – which is expensive – as the reason readers should pay for online content.

But it's clear to me that Stu Bykofsky and like-minded pundits aren't reading their whole newspapers, or taking in their newspapers' Web sites as a whole.

At any given time, a newspaper Web site might have a link or two to a current enterprise piece from its home page, but the rest of the offerings are wire or locally written national stories, along with the same crime, fire and man-on-the-street stories I can get on TV or radio with just my antenna – without paying for it (outside of having the equipment and signal, something I also need if I'm going to read a newspaper online).

Tim Rutten points out that the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times charge for online content, but he neglects to mention that they're not general interest publications.

A lot of academic journals also charge for online content, but again, most of us aren't interested.

Rutten does offer a good pricing model: give media sites an antitrust exemption and set tiered pricing (as long as it's affordable). But other than that, he still relies on the notion that newspapers primarily do enterprise reporting, which simply isn't true.

The fact that people are visiting newspaper Web sites (even if they're not spending very long on those sites) clearly isn't lost on people; what is lost on people is the same thing that has been lost on Chrysler and GM for the past several years: the reason we're not willing to spend good money on the product is that the product doesn't necessarily meet our desires.

Bykofsky calls for a $5/month charge for newspaper Web sites; ostensibly that would be in addition to a subscription charge for the paper version, and he doesn't mention what sort of mobile offering would accompany that.

I'm going to offer a model that I'd be willing to pay $10, maybe $15 a month for, that covers all three.

Printed Edition: Once a week, delivered with my Friday mail, a 30- to 40-page paper, 90 percent of which is two or three long-form enterprise stories with a couple of good photos and a description of associated online multimedia content, with the ability to comment on the story and multimedia.

The rest of the paper contains digest items listing the miscellaneous crime, courts, safety, etc., news, alerting me where online (in a mobile-friendly format – more on that in a minute) I can find more info.

Delivery by mail means newspapers don't have to pay as much for distribution – no sending laden trucks far and wide, paying for gas, drivers and vehicle maintenance. Friday delivery means I can spend the weekend with it, when I have time and the desire to sit down with a couple of cups of coffee, and read slowly, turning pages.

Mobile News: You know when I most want crime and safety news? When I see fire trucks returning to the station, or when I happen by several police cruisers on the street. It would be great if I knew exactly where to go for that news.

On my mobile device is also where I want my sports news – and by sports news, I primarily mean game updates. I want scores, injury reports, and other game notes as games are happening; a game analysis could come later, still maintaining a mobile-friendly layout.

Online Content: Everything should be online. The news hole is bottomless, the multimedia options are limitless, and opportunities abound for interaction between readers, between journalists, and between journalists and readers. Lead with your enterprise stuff, and make it obvious where I can find the other stuff. The enterprise stuff is where newspapers beat other media types, and heck, if you want to team up with local TV news teams to have them provide the day-to-day crime and fire news, great. I don't really care where it comes from; if you've got four teams (three TV stations and a newspaper) covering a break-in, you're going to have four nearly identical stories.

And that leads me to one other thing that journalists have been hearing about, but for the most part have been doing poorly: interaction. Gina Chen (a colleague of mine) offers some great tips for journalists. It's not enough to be using social networking sites: you have to be social with them. I wrote more about this in my wishes for newspapers in 2009.

Let's not put newspapers on the cart yet. Let's get rolling to make sure their best work continues to shine.

More on newspapers and the Web in 2009. Plus: adult personals?

Wish I had seen Adam Reilly's post on dailies in The Phoenix (via Romenesko/Poynter before I wrote my screed this morning.

Reilly touches on some of the same stuff I do: the Christian Science Monitor and the Detroit papers as signs of the times. The future of papers being good reporting on the Web. Collaboration.

He also gets into deep cuts and niche coverage.

One thing he doesn't touch on didn't occur to be until I remembered what The Phoenix is: a free paper that is frequently fat. As in, a huge newshole.

You know how it supports that big newshole? Advertising. Specifically, adult personals: there's a large section each issue.

A lot of newspapers aren't going to be willing to accept this kind of advertising – my employer and its sister sites used to take personal ads (not the adult sort), but it went more family-friendly – but it could be a good bailout for some establishments.