The question for the Daily News, then, is how to compete (and with whom) in this new world. And I mean compete.
Newspapers will never be worth reading unless they're driven by a desire to beat other newspapers' brains in. More than anything else, I think that's what readers want.
In the Internet world, where content monopolies are impossible, I think both the Daily News and the Inquirer would be more valuable to potential investors if they'd create an engaging spectacle by competing vigorously. That's the way to rebuild the excitement and the habit of readership - because a newspaper not in a fight might as well be a non-profit newsletter.
So what follows is not just three ways for the Daily News to survive and prosper, but also three ways for the DN to give the Inky some hell - and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I love those guys - just like I love the Detroit Pistons.
First, be timely on your own terms. Writing on Monday for readers on Tuesday about something happening on Wednesday is the key advantage that newspapers have as a form of distributed content. News radio has today and newsweeklies have the trends, but daily newspapers are still the best way to frame tomorrow and the next day.
Newspapers can cover yesterday's mayoral speech on homicide with an eye toward tomorrow's council hearings on policing while editorializing all week to stop the killing and investigating over months for better results. No competitor can assemble all those pieces.
Second, exercise your unique editorial judgment. Newspapers are more than the sum of their individual stories. The Web provides thousands of articles to read every day. Some people revel in that anarchy and celebrate their freedom to find what interests them.
BUT MOST people, and that's where the money is, don't want to produce their own news. They want editors to design a front page using informed judgment. Newspapers remain the only institution allowed to prioritize the day's ideas. That role isn't just in the public interest - it IS the public interest.
Third, place your bet on sustained local content. This is where the Daily News holds the aces. I just don't care what any newspaper in Philadelphia has to say about Moscow, Baghdad, or even Washington. I can get that from the Washington Post, the Wall St. Journal and Al-Jazeera.
But none of them will cover City Council or our zoning disputes or our daily sports. The Daily News is basically a sports tabloid with a city desk. That combination is the only one that can never be replaced by the New York Times on the Web.
It's also the combination that is essential to living well in Philadelphia. For me, the morning newspaper means the Times and the Daily News. For others, the first half may differ but the News is the constant. It can prosper in that niche, especially if it plays its aces well. *
Mark Alan Hughes is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Fellow at Penn.