Newspapers are going broke.
That's what I've been hearing for years.
People are getting their news from the Internet and Jon Stewart, we are told.
Well, I have two ideas to solve this problem.
The First Solution: Serialize Novels
The problem of the newspaper isn't that people have stopped reading, it is that people who DO read have stopped subscribing to newspapers.
The newspaper can't and won't attract non-readers. They're in trouble because more people are getting their news online.
So what can newspapers do?
Offer exclusive off-line content.
Here's the idea. Daily newspapers from the 50-100 largest markets should get together and pool their resources - each contributing according to their market size.
And then, they should hire twelve popular novelists. Each will write a novel.
The member newspapers will publish these novels - one new novel a month, serialized as a chapter each day, in booklet form as an insert.
The novel will NOT be available online. If somebody wants to offer the content "for free" they'd have to scan it themselves - and that would be many hours after the newspaper lands on the doorstep.
If you'd want the next chapter to read on the morning commuter train, you'd have to subscribe to the newspaper.
Also, in the same way that movie DVD's aren't released until several months after the theatrical release, the novel won't actually be published in book form until several months after it was serialized in the newspapers.
Will the novels be works of art? Probably not. They'd tend to be in the mystery or thriller genre, so that people can't wait to get the next chapter.
And that's the point.
Novelists would crave to be among the twelve.
And how many readers wouldn't pay the yearly subscription price of a newspaper, if they get the equivalent of 12 free books in the deal?
And if they like the book, how many will actually save and compile the serialized chapters? Won't they go ahead and purchase the novel when it comes out, especially if it has "bonus features?"
This is a win-win for everyone - the author, the newspaper, the subscriber.
And I'm giving away this idea for free this can't-lose money-making idea for newspapers.
When the publishers of those top 50-100 markets DO get together and put this plan into form, remember who inspired you!
The Second Solution: Create Their Own Currency
The Second Solution is almost as simple. These same newspapers should get again get together with a unified voice urge passage of Rep. Ron Paul's Free Competition in Currency Act. (Disclosure: the link is to the site of my employer.)
And then, after it passes, these newspapers should create their own currency.
I suggested something similar five months ago with my PO piece "Better Than Money."
The idea is the same: convert ad space into currency. If you "sell" $1,000 in advertising to a business, the newspaper does not actually charge that business $1,000. Instead, the newspaper prints up $1,000 of its own money (which I call Wilsons) of equivalent face value as the Federal Reserve's Dollar. Businesses that advertise with the newspaper MUST accept this money; if a business wants to get out of the system, it must repay the newspaper - in Wilsons.
The idea, initially conceived, applied only to one local newspaper in a community. But it seems to me that this can go nationwide, with the top 50-100 (or 500) newspapers agreeing to the same form of currency. An advertiser who doesn't want to be part of the system could still pay for advertising with Fed money. But those who are willing to participate will at the same time be required to accept the "Wilsons" as payment.
This will create a national alternative currency, based on the "free" ad space given away by the nation's newspapers. The currency will serve what currency is supposed to: facilitate the exchange of goods and services. A business that advertises in a member New York newspaper, and a businesses that advertises in a member Los Angeles newspaper can do business with each other using Wilsons.
Ad space is a desirable resource, and those who offer it can deal with potential clients who may be interested in an inflation-proof currency.
The more advertisers who accept space in exchange for agreeing to accept Wilsons, the more viable the currency would become. Wages and salaries could then be paid in part in Wilsons, because of the large number of businesses that would accept them.
Newspapers can thus become not just pillars of their communities, but pillars of the national economy.