03/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hey, Newspapers: It's Not Me, It's You

With all the talk of newspapers shutting down, I wonder if we might flip the traditional interpretation:

Maybe the problem is not so much online news sources killing off business for print newspapers; maybe the problem is the continued existence of print newspapers is stifling innovation in the online news space.

Since so much (local) advertising dollars are still going to dying print news outlets, there isn't enough left over to properly fund a leaner, profitable online alternative.

If print newspapers are gone, then local advertisers are going to start wondering how to get people to come to their stores; radio/TV, OK, but if the eyeballs are online, and there are no more papers distracting the advertisers, then ...well there is an untapped market there for the online news sites to figure out. And since online can do a better job (in theory) of matching ads/marketing to reader preference, through cookies, browsing habits, tracking sales (Facebook Beacon notwithstanding), then the death of the traditional news business might be exactly what it takes to kick the online news business, and online content, to real innovation, and real profitability.

I love my Saturday newspaper, but I love it as an enjoyable hour spent in the morning. It has almost nothing to do with news. For news (like, I suspect, most of you), I go to the web.

I don't know exactly what the business models will look like, though Huffington offers some guidance. But there is a need for news, clearly, and if the print guys disappear, there will be more room for good effective alternatives to sprout up.