Mort Zuckerman’s Plan to Save Newspapers

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

Mort Zuckerman may be 72 years old, but he's no fogy when it comes to technology. The Daily News owner is "totally dependent" on his BlackBerry and computer, he told us at last night's Time 100 gala, and after seeing the Twitter founders speak to the crowd, he vowed to start an account — although when last we checked neither "mortzuckerman" nor "theamazingmort" were taken. Zuckerman even has a solution for the faltering newspaper industry. "Bingo!" he told us. "Just make bingo legal on our websites." Bingo? we asked hesitantly, thinking for a moment that the billionaire was showing his age after all.

"Yes!" he answered. "The newspapers in England are supported almost exclusively by the profitability of running bingo games on their websites. It attracts an enormous audience. But here, you’re not allowed to do it. The gambling interests and Vegas and other places like that have managed to block any other gambling on the Internet. But London, that’s what they do. The Sun makes millions of dollars off of their bingo games." The possibility that he might one day do the same clearly filled him with joy. "Just think about that," he said. "Let every newspaper do that and they’ll all make enough money on their website to really help them stay viable. It’s a simple solution." Sure, it's simple, we said, but we're not sure "everyone" would participate. For instance, won’t the Times think it’s a little lowbrow? "The New York Times?" Zuckerman said, furrowing his brow. "I have to be honest with you. I don’t care what the New York Times does."

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