A couple of months ago, I wrote about — well, mocked really — plans to sell you a proprietary device that prints a customized newspaper in your home.
The “Individuated News” concept, from PiPress owner MediaNews, is optimized for the coming pulpocalypse when newspapers no longer deliver on unprofitable days.
(MediaNews has already stopped home service in Detroit on Monday-Wednesday and Saturday, and I’m convinced we’ll see this here before too long.)
Since April, guests at a Denver Residence Inn have received six double-sided 8-by-11-inch sheets reflecting their particular interests, Newspapers and Technology reports. You can see a front-page image at right and other pages below. Guests, who stay an average of two weeks, got to pick their city and interests.
Poynter Institute’s Bill Mitchell writes that MediaNews will move the test into 25 Denver homes June 3, followed by 300 homes in L.A.
Back in March, I onpassed some criticisms from Nieman Lab’s Martin Langeveld, particularly the cost of the printer, paper and ink. However, as Mitchell describes it, readers would pay $50 for the Internet-equipped printer; in return for a “modest subscription price,” the media company covers ink and paper.
(Creepily but not inappropriately, the company will “know when the printer is running low on ink and we’ll know how much was used to print the I-Edition,” says MediaNews VP Peter Vandevanter. “We’re not going to pay for the ink for you to print out your novel.”)
Theoretically, you’ll tolerate the hassle because you love text-on-paper, and MediaNews will reap big rewards from targeted ads.
Vandevanter notes the printer will automatically disgorge coupons for merchants near your home or workplace.
For this privilege, he forecasts advertisers paying 5 cents a head, which works out to about 20 cents profit per person per copy, if I’m doing the math right.
Assuming a four-day-a-week “I-paper,” the publisher would make about $400,000 a year per 10,000 subscribers.
MediaNews obviously wants to grab new readers, but if the PiPress’ entire 190,000-subscriber base went this way — unlikely, I know — St. Paul would reap $8 million in pure profit. That’s a nice chunk of change, but perhaps only 10 percent of the PiPress’ current revenues. Of course, you wouldn’t need to pay pressmen, drivers, mailers or delivery folk, except on “pulp days.”
The question, local news junkie, is “Do you really want your paper this way?”
While the PiPress can be pretty skinny these days, six double-sided pages is a ferocious boildown. Of course, some people welcome such pith, especially on work days, but when does the reduction become absurd?
I mean, the Internet is right there, even though MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton has loudly proclaimed his intent to wall off proprietary content to subscribers. (I’m guessing individuated subscribers would get past the gate.)
The concept is scalable, so an “I-Press” could feature more pages and presumably, more advertisers. I’ve left a message for Vandevanter for more details might play out here, and will shoot out a customized update when/if we connect.