Customized

MediaNews Group's Targeted Products Division said it hopes to begin testing its "individuated newspaper" concept this summer in an undisclosed market.

The project, dubbed I-News, will deliver targeted and customized newspaper content to subscribers via their home desktop computers, said Peter Vandevanter, MNG's vice president of targeted products.

I-News is the latest step in MNG's initiative to deliver new-form, niche products to newspaper readers (see Newspapers & Technology, September 2008).

"We're trying to create a new experience for our subscribers," Vandevanter told Newspapers & Technology. "It will be news people choose, delivered on a home printer in conjunction with their subscription to the paper."

Once MNG settles on a test market, I-News will be offered to interested readers who will receive their targeted content three or four days a week.

"Some newspapers make money on the big insert days and lose money on other days and that's why publishers like Detroit have said they will no longer print on those days," Vandevanter said. "Our idea is that we don't want to lose these subscribers, but instead we want to better serve them."

Detroit Media Partnership in December announced it would cut home delivery of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News to only a few days a week and devote the bulk of its editorial resources to online distribution.

DMP, which is making the shift March 30, is the first major metro to make such a move. Vandevanter said Detroit is a model he'll be "watching like a hawk."

"We are trying to take the best of both worlds - give people the paper when it's valuable with inserts, etc., and then give them a product they want on other days," he said.

MNG is also looking at ways to allocate I-News so that it will count as paid circulation in its participating papers' Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers.

"We want to be able to grow circulation - something newspapers haven't done in decades," Vandevanter said.

Growing circulation

The home printer technology, currently being developed by a printing vendor that does not wish to be named, will not be tethered to a computer, Vandevanter said. Instead, users will plug in their devices into a conventional phone line in order to enable the printers to output the requested information.

The printing manufacturer participating in the test and the publisher may subsidize the price of ink and paper - up to five sheets per day - to offset users' costs.

Vandevanter said MNG is still hashing out other I-News details, including the pricing model and how many days out readers will be able to select the news they wish to receive. MNG is also evaluating how to pair targeted advertising with users' content.

Meantime, MNG is continuing its research on the role high-speed digital printers might play in the future of personalized newspapers. To that end, it's working with Océ to develop suitable workflow options to drive I-News and other potential products.

MediaNews' Targeted Products Group is one of a number of companies mulling the future of customized newspapers. The Washington Times and German software developer Syntops are also developing their own initiatives (see Newspapers & Technology, February 2009).