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MWB’s Tim Mask has some really good insight into the future of newspapers that he put together while preparing a presentation for the Mississippi Press Association’s annual convention. Here’s a link to his post, News in the New Media.

Chances are you’ve seen the dire headlines about the demise of newspaper media. It’s certainly taken a hit over the past few years. But, remember, people have been predicting the death of various media for years. Radio, alone, was supposed to die with the invention of the television, the Sony Walkman, the iPod, Internet radio, the iTunes store and several other technologies. The point is, newspaper is not dying. It’s adapting and changing with the times. And, while that is happening, good old fashioned newsprint is still relevant and it’s a viable medium for both publishing news and advertising to particular audiences.

All that said, Tim had some good advice for the newspaper industry here in Mississippi. His three points:

#1 Your audience isn’t made up of readers. They’re USERS.

In 2013, we’ve moved passed interactivity being a unique selling point, to it now being an expectation. People use, engage, and interact both with their media, and through their media. Even for print assets, you’ll find that changing your mindset to reflect usability and user experience will result in identifying new features or platforms that will help boost user levels and advertiser value.

This observation makes perfect sense. When technologies evolve, so do expectations. You do see newspapers incorporating social media comments, Twitter handles and email addresses. But, for most newspapers, the basic design and functionality has changed little. It would be interesting to apply the Web concept of “user experience” to print newspapers.

#2 New platforms can kill you or SAVE you.

… position yourself, large or small, as a leader in your region’s Knowledge Economy. Host local seminars, conferences, and events. Shift more of your marketing budget into promoting white papers and hosting/promoting online forums. This builds brand equity, reinforces your value to the community, and positions you well against other news outlet competition that don’t offer the value…¬†The digital media channels become part of this equation as a means of promotion, discussion, and dialogue. ¬†They become a tool for you to promote your events, rather than competition fighting over a commodity.

Interesting idea here. Newspapers should never lose site that it’s the quality of their reporting that distinguishes their content from bloggers and other online news sources. While local papers may not have the payroll or credentials of large city papers, local and regional papers are experts in their respective regions, and they should leverage and promote their expertise through both online and online channels.

#3 Digital and print should be neither separate nor redundant. Each should be “migratory.”

…The ¬†more integrated your approach to the traditional and digital spaces, the more successful you will be. But I stress that “integrated” does not mean “redundant.” Don’t expect to attract new print users if you’re publishing the same information online, and vice versa. Content should be related and complimentary, but not the same. In fact, ideally, content from one asset would be used to drive users to the other – the concept of asset migration. All your news assets are working toward a common goal, so there’s no reason that they have to cannibalize ¬†each other when they can, in fact, be the primary source for driving crossover readership.

I like this point a lot. The New York Times is a great example of using online media to complement the story synergistically. Their data visualizations, in particular, adds helpful dimension to their stories. The fact that the NYT has a Data Artist in Residence says much about the newspaper’s vision in this area.