The newspaper industry must change, or become yesterday's news

Mobile technology and the Internet are transforming news. Whether newspapers are involved is up to them.

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In Internet parlance, news attracted eyeballs to newspapers and advertisements monetized those eyeballs.

In the electronic era, newspaper companies are doing the cost part, but other companies are doing the revenue part. And that's why newspaper companies think they're in trouble. But they're wrong.

Newspapers fail because they're inefficient

At the time I was writing this column, Google News offered 3,436 stories about the opening of the movie Hunger Games this weekend. Of course, many of those are copies of stories disseminated by news syndicates, or versions articles that have otherwise been repurposed from other sources. But there's little doubt that at least several hundred separate news organizations devoted reporting, writing, editing and other resources to that story, repeating the exact same short list of facts about the movie. Hundreds of writers, hundreds of editors, hundreds of copy editors and hundreds of Web production staffers were all paid when five or 10 of each would have done the trick.

If the pizza industry worked this way, you'd order a pizza and 300 delivery people from 300 restaurants would show up at your door in 30 minutes or less. You'd pick one, and Google would be paid a dollar. The restaurants would have a hard time staying in business.

Worst of all, the radical duplication of effort in the newspaper industry results in an inferior product. Hundreds or thousands of newspapers are each trying to cover the same top 100 stories every day, while tens of thousands of stories go unreported. Instead of spending their talents and energies chasing down original or unique stories, reporters are competing with each other to cover the exact same stories.

The Internet will make news efficient with or without newspapers

News isn't going to remain inefficient. The Internet will ruthlessly punish the wrong approach and shamelessly reward the right one. In fact, it's already happening.

Some of the best stories these days are dug up by amateur bloggers and citizen journalists who work for free. Why? Because professional reporters are too busy duplicating each others' efforts.

Five years from now, a "newspaper" for nearly everyone will be a high-resolution tablet running apps that aggregate news from a variety of curated sources.

Something like this already exists. For example, I use a $3 app called gNews that gives me global, national and local news "curated" by Google News algorithms. I read it in the same way I used to read the paper newspaper, and not the way I skim news online when I'm at my desk.

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