Stop the Presses: The Future of NewspapersAccording to the Newspaper Association of America, 2011 was not a good year for newspaper advertising, with total revenue down 7.3%—almost $2 billion, and a percentage point more than the previous year’s loss.

To be blunt, that’s not surprising. In fact, what is surprising is that it was only down that much. Let’s face it, the newspaper publishers still haven’t quite understood how to maximize and leverage the digital world, and thus increase their advertising revenue.

The newspaper business is, unfortunately, focused on the second word, “paper,” instead of the first word, “news.” As a result, they are still making their online news static rather than dynamic, meaning that it is still one-dimensional. The online versions of most newspapers are nothing more than a piece of paper online.

A better approach is for newspaper publishers to give us an online version that’s a two-dimensional experience. They could give us interactive maps, videos, audio interviews, and the ability to actually go to the news site and take a look with a live cam.

For example, recently where I live in Southern California there were several big boats that caught fire in a marina. All I saw in the newspaper’s online reporting was a written article about the fire and a picture. What could they have done? They could have given me video footage. They could have set up a live feed and let me take a look at the fire in real time. They could have given me an audio feed to the reporter covering the fire so I could get off-the-cuff comments that were not a part of the written story. They could have given me some additional interviews. These are just a few suggestions for how newspapers can make their information truly dynamic so we can start thinking digital and stop thinking paper.

Also, why isn’t the newspaper getting more social? Local newspapers are about local news. Yet I don’t see that social component appearing in most outlets. In the newspaper world, that could be very innovative, since so few of them are doing it currently.

Am I saying that newspapers should stop doing a print version and focus solely on online? Of course not. You need both. The paper version is a way to hook people. People see it, pick it up, look it over, and get hooked. The online version is usually the option for long-term fans. So we still need both, but they don’t need to be identical copies of each other.

So let’s finally get rid of that paper-based newspaper idea. It’s time to make the online newspaper more dynamic, more interactive, and more social. It’s time for newspaper publishers to shift into the communication age so they gain more readers and advertising dollars.

Daniel Burrus

Article first published as Stop the Presses: The Future of Newspapers on Technorati.