Newspapers: Sustainable Business Model or Yesterday’s News?

Written by Jo Oliphant
Manager, Continuous Feed Europe
Xerox Corporation

When was the last time you bought a newspaper? When did you last read one?
It’s mind boggling how effortlessly our connected world is able to link together information through an array of sources. The information comes in many forms…some is factual, some anecdotal, others consist of opinions via blogs and social media, and of course, there are those that blend both facts and opinions. Key to this is access to content. Smart-phones and tablets enable access like never before and in almost any location too, giving you ‘news on demand’ as breaking stories unfold. It can make newspapers look incredibly out of date when they appear the next day (worse if the headlines have fundamentally changed since the newspaper went to press). And yet, as a newspaper reader (and purchaser), there is a vastly different experience to be had from reading a newspaper and feeling the substrate between your fingertips.
Man Holding Newspaper
I buy one newspaper every Sunday for its content, presentation and in-depth analysis that I am not able to find on free-to-view websites (the publisher charges for access to their news). I also read the physical newspaper because it isn’t on a screen and there are no other distractions to take me away from what I’m reading. Truth be told, between having eleven tabs open on my web browser and fidgeting through my iTunes playlist, it would take far less than a pop-up to distract me and encourage a behaviour of trying to do five things at once.
A printed newspaper promotes a more linear approach to absorbing information, with far fewer distractions.
One of the more recent emerging trends are free newspapers, as an example, my local city, London, has three of them. Admittedly, the content in one of them is relatively light, one is business focused and the last one is more like a conventional newspaper; but each has a lot more in the way of advertising. I often wonder to myself how long these newspapers will carry advertisements, especially with the abundance of easy click-through advertisements populating the Internet. Without the ability to leverage a click-through advertisement, the advertisers call-to-action for consumers is to have them visit a website, taking them away from the newspaper. And unless the advertisement contains a tear-off coupon or promotion code, it gets tricky for advertisers to track metrics and ROI for their advertising efforts.
The one area where there has been some movement is with personalized newspapers. Personalized newspapers create a unique experience for the consumer, populated with content based on the readers’ preferences. Taking the same basic form of the mass produced title, personalized newspapers offer many opportunities, including relevancy to the users’ specific needs. With the ability to reach specific demographics, advertising space now carries a premium among interested advertisers. And with the cost of fuel and shipping rates rising, the efficiency offered through production at point of need is essential – especially given that people are willing to pay a premium to obtain items with higher perceived value. Lastly, by not being built on the ‘sale or return’ model, this process also reduces waste. This represents a truly win-win situation for consumers, advertisers, printers, and the environment.
While this is all well and good, it doesn’t solve the underlying challenge at hand: online content can make newspapers out of date the second they go to press.
The crux of the issue is: do you think there’s a sustainable business model with printed newspapers?
With Hunkeler Innovationdays fast approaching, Xerox will be helping customers answer these questions and many more. Be sure to subscribe to this blog to stay up-to-date on the latest news, as well as follow the conversation using #XeroxHunkeler on Twitter.
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  1. Tom Mickles February 7, 2013 -

    There are two problems with reading content on the Internet. The first is distractions. The advertisements are simply annoying. I don’t believe the advertisers intend to be annoying, they just want my attention. The advertising is also based on the content of the single web page I am reading. It tries to be relevant to me but it ready is.

    The second problem with reading content is that there is far to much to read in one period of time. Aka Big Data! I have a limited amount of time and there is far too much that I’d like to read.

    My solution… Give me an easy way to “tag” content that I would prefer to read in newspaper format. As I tag content, a digital collection of the content I want to read is accumulated. Once a week, this content is printed in full color newspaper format and mailed to me. An auto layout format system could fully automate imposition (think Flipboard) Advertisers can buy space in my newspaper based on my content.

    With this model, I would have a custom news paper that I can read at any time, anywhere, with advertising relevant to the full content I selected.

    I would gladly give up my newspaper subscription and pay for a fully customized weekly newspaper with MY selected content and advertising that I am likely to respond to. Call it the MY Times.

  2. dbedard February 9, 2013 -

    Great Idea..having spent my entire career in media sales, I think your model is brilliant!
    Does it currently exist?
    I would only add a daily digital update delivered to my inbox based on my preferences…LOCAL News, weather, sports, entertainment is key, wheter I am home or traveling.

  3. jayant v telang February 10, 2013 -

    good question. news paper is getting thing to be past thing. my brother in law says nobody reads news paper in his house and he buys it only by habit. i use e paper everyday and stopped buying news paper long back.

  4. jayant v telang February 10, 2013 -

    we in india are working on paperless reports in bussinesses mainly to save trees

  5. Bill Michael February 11, 2013 -

    Dbedard – thank you for the feedback! I work for Xerox, but nonetheless, it’s a very intriguing business model that does exist…however is not very prevalent. I couldn’t agree with you more – adding an electronic angle to it by receiving an email with updates would be fantastic.

    I encourage your to check out this URL, as it is an example of a mainstream magazine that tried the personalized content model with great success!

  6. Bill Michael February 11, 2013 -

    Tom – your idea is ingenious – really clever way of enhancing the experience for the reader and also delivering value to the advertisers. Well written and thought-out…I chuckled at the ‘MY Times’ title!

    By weeks-end, the content may be out of date – but would offer a peaceful opportunity to catch-up on stories of interest.

  7. Ingrid Coke February 12, 2013 -

    Great article Jo!!! Great suggestion Tom!!! That model gives the reader the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds. A great strategy to clear clutter on/offline while facilitating balance. Hopefully less tabs open, with print generated only on an “as needed” basis. Great for the reader’s internal and external environments. Win..Win..Win…Way to go!!!!:-)

  8. Jo Oliphant February 21, 2013 -

    Tom, you are a genius – love the “MY Times”… (and was reading it as the “M Y Times” – the trick to figure out in all of this is how offering such a service makes profit for the publisher to encourage them to want to do it which I could imagine presents an interesting challenge from an advertising perspective, however with decent analytics this cannot be insurmountable.

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