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Three Business Models the $38 Billion Newspaper Industry Could Copy

Three ideas the $38 billion newspaper industry could copy to buoy its business.

1. The HBO Model

"TV got better," says The Wire creator David Simon, after HBO and Showtime started offering complex characters and provocative storylines worth paying for. Newspapers, he says, should also charge for premium, exclusive content — instead of reprinting AP stories — so that reporters can "stay on a beat long enough [to acquire better] information."

2. The Fast-Food Model

Sometimes a milk shake isn't just a milk shake. "It's doing a job," says Innovator's Dilemma author Clayton Christensen, such as sustaining a commuter. This insight led fast-food chains to thicken shakes to make them last longer. News-papers need to identify their true jobs — corruption watchdog? community calendar? — and innovate around them.

3. The Startup Model

Startups try a bunch of stuff, then refine what works and jettison what doesn't. Mark Briggs, author of Journalism 2.0, suggests that newspapers designate several teams "to launch anything [they] agree is worth trying."

A version of this article appeared in the November 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.