TORONTO—The battered newspaper industry’s salvation will be to plunge whole-heartedly into new media technology. That was the key message at Innovate News, a conference held Saturday by the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) at the Mars Centre in Toronto. In a panel session, speakers agreed that the proliferation of wireless devices may deliver that salvation—but how to monetize digital news delivery, in a form consumers want, is another question. “Mobile will be huge. But you can’t deliver a 10-page investigative report to an iPhone. People will want weather, sports and quick content, so media organizations need to think this through,” said Jim Brady, president of digital strategy at Allbritton Communications, a startup online news organization that’s hiring 50 journalists in Washington. Wireless users are predisposed to paying for mobile content because they see value in convenience and timeliness, said Michael Lee, chief strategy officer at Rogers Ventures. Although younger generations don’t read newspapers, their online media consumption is much greater than older demographics. Self-expression has value, he said, pointing to the $2.99 cellphone users are prepared to pay for a 10-second ringtone. “I believe you can charge virtually anything on mobile—depending on what problems you solve for the user,” Lee said, noting that he’s seen about 600 mobile content startups in recent years. “Now is the time for news organizations to take advantage of demand instead of trying to resurrect old models.” Robert Cribb, a conference moderator and investigative reporter at the Toronto Star, argued that expensive wireless rates in Canada are inhibiting uptake and development of mobile content. “So when is Rogers going to drop its rates?” he asked. Lee said carriers are sorting out what to charge with their mobile business models, and that 28 percent of Rogers’ subscribers have smart phones. News organizations aren’t seeing the scope of the crisis and developing a new vision of unique news for multiple platforms, said John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star. Facing public criticism after a leaked memo revealed cost-cutting measures at the Star, he asked, “Is the battle to save journalism the same as preserving editorial jobs? We need to avoid these reflexive negative reactions to change.” Revamping corporate cultures so that they can better deal with technological change is a central issue for traditional news organizations, Lee said at a separate conference session. There may be lessons in the way Rogers has introduced new business lines such as On Demand Online. The company establishes ventures as separate businesses with their own leadership and staff, then reintegrates them into the company once they’ve become successful. “The core cable group would only have seen these new ventures as a nuisance and distraction,” Lee said. Traditional news organizations need to develop strategies for introducing new technologies and managing the risks. “Few have chief technology officers who understand how technology and revenue intersect,” he said. Thoora, a new Rogers venture that tackles media fragmentation, was showcased in another session at the conference. The website offers unique algorithms that mine, filter and aggregate news stories from blogs, social media, tweets and other raw web sources to find “story clouds”—breaking news stories in different geographic regions—before they hit the mainstream media. To test and develop Thoora’s predictive capabilities, the company will be analyzing Tweets generated at the upcoming Vancouver Olympics. But how the site will make money remains an open question. “We’re looking to join forces with publishers and advertisers to figure out revenue models,” Francisco Estrada, Thoora’s chief scientist said. Rachel Nixon, director of digital media at the CBC, said the corporation is experimenting with new models, and its website recently introduced iCopyright software to allow users to use and republish copyrighted content for a fee. “The downside is that it only applies to print on demand,” she said. The CBC is conducting extensive user surveys with a view to redesigning its site. So far, readers say the CBC doesn’t do a good job of reporting breaking news, and they want to see multiple sources for news. “This is a problem for branded news sites. Audiences want this, but few provide aggregated news,” Nixon said. News organizations should be careful about reverting to old habits now that the iPad and electronic reading devices are gaining traction, Brady warned. Many leaders believe they can reproduce the traditional print newspaper on electronic devices—and charge for the service. “They have to get over this model. Even if you put the traditional newspaper back together again on the iPad, people will still want aggregated news and different content,” Brady said.