Postmortems are everywhere this week on how the newspapers saw their impending doom for a whole generation and still were unable to do squat about it.

The TV news business would be smart to take notice, because they are next.

TV has one thing going for it:  It is possible to survive and thrive with an ad-supported model because it’s easy enough to put the user through a 5 to 20 second commercial before playing video.

However even without a revenue-model problem they are still looking at extinction.  Why? Because they will lose their traffic:

As iPhone 3.0 and other smartphones with video gain significant market share by next year, people will start uploading citizen reports to youtube, and soon after to news-specific video sharing sites.

The only way the incumbents can protect their business is by enhancing their low-end offering while providing wider and more timely coverage, and eventually mashing their content with user’s own.

Here’s a strategy that would transition them, using mostly their existing staff and resources:

  1. Start offering near-continuous, ad-hoc feeds from the field on their websites, even if they have a low-production value.  Do not focus on producing a polished one-hour daily.  Feed live as the van reaches the accident, right through the correspondent’s interview of the witness. (must do in next 3 months)
  2. Open discussion groups for each story so viewers who have information can share it as they watch the feed, and tweeter it back to the field team so correspondent is aware and can research further. (6 months)
  3. Allow searches on site by zipcode or plot on map.  Offer text or email alerts when news being reported closeby. (12 months)
  4. Start allowing users to post their own video into the story to complement the professional feed. (18 months)
  5. Encourage online contributors to reach out to correspondent and further contribute live and build on what they’ve already uploaded or written online.
  6. Allow users to start their own stories.  Eventually the ratio could be 1 covered story for every 10 user-generated, with network covering only the biggest ones. (24 months)