Mike Mearls has an interesting column called Legends & Lore . In short the article is about how we are all playing D&D and how we have more in common then we have different. And that it is important to consider where we been while building the future. That throughout its history D&D shared common elements that has appeal to all fans of D&D regardless of edition.
I respect the effort that went into this column but I think it misses the point of the current situation. It boils down to that people want to play D&D with the rules of their choice. Not something like it, or something that feel like it, but with a particular set of rules.
If you want to appeal to fanbase X then you need to use those rules. Otherwise you just facing the same issue as any other RPG company with a new ruleset in building a fan community. The difference between today and 1991 is that we have the Open Gaming License and the d20 SRD. The fans are now in charge of their own destiny and the success of Paizo drives the point home.
So what can Wizards, or anybody owning the D&D brand can do?
In short by taking leadership on ALL editions of D&D. Acknowledge that nothing going change the fact that people are going to play and buy material for all editions of D&D. State that while that while most corporate dollars is going to go into support for the current edition, that older editions will be included in future plans. Creating events on the Internet and in the retail chain where fans of all editions can come together and play D&D regardless of edition.
In the past this would be problematic as the technology of print runs and distribution make supporting multiple game editions costly. But now that we are in the Age of Internet there are lot more choices available making it feasible to have your cake and eat it regardless of edition.
By taking leadership on ALL editions will not mean every D&D players would be playing the latest edition made by Wizards. But it will create a friendly atmosphere like the club, convention, or store where everybody trying all sorts of things at different time. That will make not only easier to sell the current list of product also may find ways of making money off of the older material. For example rulesets or subscriptions for the VTT software.
In one version of this post I had numerous specific suggestions but realized most of them been hashed over and over again. (Like pulling the older PDFs from sale). Posting them would have just obscured the main point, that Wizards own all D&D editions and have customers for all D&D editions. If they want out of their current predicament they need to step up and take advantage of that.
And if they don't others will under other names. (Pathfinder, OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, etc)