I have had a debate with some people who's opinion I trust and enjoy interacting with a lot lately about the future of newspapers. Many are laying off or buying out employees faced with a weak economy and even weaker sales. The facts point to a new world in front of us where you can read news for free on the internet, even if newspaper costs are not too bad. I contend they all can exist together and I will spend the next few minutes explaining what I think should happen and could in the end, help save the future of newspapers. Just as a side note, I know I am no expert and have no experience with the industry but I enjoy a good newspaper now and then and have thought upon this subject for a long time now.
First, limit online content that is directly taken from the newspaper. Brief synapsis or links are perfect but otherwise you are giving it away for free. AP stories you can get anywhere but feature articles and local news are your best asset for this purpose. I would however allow it to be free of charge with a newspaper subscription, maybe some password mailed when you verify it with the company. You can also offer exclusive incentives only for those who pay for the service such as certain discounts for local companies or online only features.
Second, in some markets it is probably best to limit the amount of time you put out a new paper in a week. Maybe 2, 3 or even only 5 a week would help a lot more and save everyone time and money and make it more special. You could possibly even do a once weekly local only edition or sports weekly single edition with more extensive coverage and statistical analysis that you do not have the room for in normal paper space. To make it more special, maybe you could explore the costs of a glossy/magazine feel like a Parade type or the type you buy at a newstand, though that may cost too much for what you could charge and be profitable. And extensive puzzle pages and comics never hurt either because I know some who buy a paper for those and classified sections alone.
Last but not least, stop making the Sunday paper so special and spread the love throughout the week. I personally love the Sunday paper myself and it is a tradition but why not allow every issue to feature more coupons/special offers/special editions. You can now charge a little more for a single edition and less for Sunday's to make the paper more cost efficient for the average reader. Most papers charge fifty cents to a dollar for daily editions and a dollar or two for the sunday edition so now charge middle ground, around 75 cents to $1.25 a paper all week long. Readers who buy it indivually may be turned off at first but when they see there is more offered and it is worth the extra money, everyone will come around. I assure you that if you look at it with an open mind and get businesses to support you, this is a great option.
The internet is the future source of news but newspaper is still a tradition many enjoy. Whether it is sitting down with a meal or taking it with them traveling or to read on their work breaks, people are still attached to them. I can verify firsthand family and friends who do not have internet access right now and love walking outside to get their paper and they are willing to pay for it. All we need is a simple solution to appease those who prefer either medium without cutting out the other option completely and I think these are steps that can help but probably not the only answers. I am a simple minded newspaper fan who thinks before shut the doors on the printed version, we should explore all other options available. I grew up in Syracuse, NY with two newspapers and now there is only one, which I have been told are buying out contracts due to losing money and I would hate to see a day when the Syracuse Post Standard is no longer avaliable, no matter how you feel about those who write in it and their opinions. Besides, printer paper is too expensive to use when potty training an animal and I don't have a laptop I can take to the restroom with me when I want something to read.