Does the newspaper industry need a Marshall Plan patterned after the one created to rebuild Europe after World War II? A long-time industry leader-turned-academic thinks so.

Tom Mohr, who was president of Knight Ridder Digital until its sale in June, has just published a “Special: ‘Winning Online’ – A Manifesto.” Mohr begins the manifesto: “Newspapers must win online, or face a future of painful contraction."

“To win, industry leaders must adopt a Marshall Plan embodying two key objectives: the migration to common platforms, and the acquisition of the ability to sell top-quality products to our advertisers. To fulfill these objectives, the independent companies of a proud industry must aggregate into an industry-wide network. In this network, each company must cede some control over its digital future to a ‘Switzerland’ organization that manages the network.”

Mohr, who is now director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University and an executive in residence at Charles Venture Partners, added: “The low rumble of shifting ground is palpable. Not only is the shift toward online; it is, in tandem, a shift away from print. Not dramatic yet, perhaps — but clear…”

Securing the financial future of newspapers, Mohr said, will depend on “an industry-wide understanding of seven key points.”

Mohr’s seven points are:

1. Breakthrough online innovation won’t come from newspapers.

2. Local content and reach is “indefensible” online and insufficient to save newspapers.

3. The big money is not in newspaper websites, but in gaining access to top-tier products via partnerships with vertical online leaders.

4. Moving newspaper websites onto common platforms will deliver improvements in quality, cost reduction, traffic and revenue.

5. When networked, newspapers bring critical assets to the table that strengthen their competitive position vs. online-only players.

6. The window of opportunity is closing; failure to act will compromise the future of the business.

7. Ultimately, the key is leadership at the highest levels.

Mohr’s manifesto is thought-provoking, at the least.

If you wish to read the entire manifesto, it’s available at: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003086961

(Marc Wilson is ceo of TownNews.com and president of The Job Network. He is reachable at marcus@townnews.com.)