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Stop trying to reinvent the past and start inventing the future

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MediaShift has 5 Ideas to Transform Newspaper Sites, at least one of which gets my full endorsement:

Instead of having a single website divided in sections which often replicate the sections in the print newspaper, we could have many different sites each focusing on a specific topic of interest to our communities.

It’s not so much the idea itself that I find intriguing as it is the idea behind the idea—to stop thinking of building a newspaper Web site and start thinking about building a good Web site.

Nothing drives me nuts like the thought that, “If we could just turn back the clock and charge for content in the first place, everything would be fine” (my words). You’re imagining a world in which a magic journalism time machine exists and that’s the best you can come up with? Jack Shephard had a better idea for fixing his life. If I could turn back the clock, I would’ve invented Facebook. It’s everything a news site should be: a tight-knit community, sharing information and content on a site that makes it almost impossible to leave and makes a ton of money. (Bonus: People want to use their real names.)

If you’re so intent on wasting your money by designing Web sites that look like newspapers and trying to charge for them—which, by the way, is about as ridiculous as putting a camcorder in front of a stage play, projecting the recording on a big wall and calling it a “movie” (and charging $10 for it)—why not throw that money into something brand new that may or may not make money? At the very least, you’re looking at a 50/50 chance of success.

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