Print Your Own Paper

MediaNews Group, which owns more than 50 daily papers (fourth largest newspaper chain) across the country will try a new delivery system this summer with The Los Angeles Daily News.

I-News, or individuated news, will allow readers to customize and print their own version of the paper, based on the stories that they are interested in. It combines the filtering ability of the internet, where readers can pick and choose from the daily headlines, with the portability of a traditional paper.

According to the Denver Post, also owned by MediaNews Group, customers would choose the stories they wanted in their paper, then it would print in a customized printer in the customers’ homes.

“You’ll be able to choose the news you want about anything, whether you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan or if you’re green-oriented,” said Mark Winkler, executive vice president of sales and marketing for MediaNews Group. “You become your own editor and publisher.”…

The printer will format the stories and print them or send them to a computer or mobile phone for viewing later in the day.

Ads will be delivered as well. Where possible, the ads will be matched to each reader’s choice of stories. For example, a reader who selects high school sports stories might receive ads from retail sports stores, or skiers might receive ski-related ads.

However, this radical idea has not hit without its critics. The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University has already voiced some opposition. (The author notes at the end of his criticism that he worked for MediaNews for 13 years until 2008.)

It’s difficult to imagine a lot of enthusiasm greeting the i-News concept.  Among the grounds for skepticism:

  • The goal of reducing print frequency won’t be accomplished by shifting printing expense to consumers.  The price of reams of paper and printing cartridges will likely outstrip the consumer’s cost of a home delivered paper on newsprint.
  • The system adds inconvenience at the consumer end in the form of printer management.
  • It can already be done with FeedJournal, free, without a dedicated piece of equipment.  Why would readers want to pay for a narrower service that requires another appliance in their house?
  • This method eliminates or minimizes serendipity, which is one of the things print still does better than digital delivery; it’s something consumers like, for both news and advertising content.
  • Newspaper companies should be getting out of the hardware business, not into it, and especially should avoid investing in proprietary, dedicated devices like this.  (Although I’ve said that Hearst is smart to work on an e-reader, which is an entirely different animal.)
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