A Possible Future for Newsprint – Part 3


Open your mind logoWell I love this subject as you can tell, not a day goes by without me thinking of something new that could be done with my kiosk idea. This is why the TED video below is pretty inspirational about the use of design in the changing world of newpaper production. It got me thinking that actually the layout or design of the customized news content in my idea still needed to be visually rewarding… something current newspapers in the UK only do with ‘in you face’ puns or graphically observes pictures. Jacek Utko beleives that by providing an element of design into the news it will sell more…. My idea, give people what they want to read and nothing else!

Could the two work together? Can you imagine the pre-media workflow for this, the designers would need to collect the news from the newswire and design around in in minutes for it to be approved and available as content to the global kiosks…. The turnaround would need to be world class, something along the lines of turning a plane around once it is a stand…. the clock is ticking…. no time for a cigarette in this game….

In fact you could open the design part out to the open market, much like the Amazon Mechanical Turk, maybe not artificial intelligence like they would have you believe, but imagine the new story being a design hit available for just a few minutes, the longer it is there the less time to complete and thus the less you would get paid….. interesting idea….
Amazon Mechanical Turk

Anyway, I’m going to cover a subject just like that in a later post, as that is something else I wrote a paper on a few years back.
Watch the TED video and take a trip over to the discussion here.
I guess the last observation is whether all of this is fruitless as the newspaper companies continue to struggle. Just yesterday NewsCorp announces their big hit:
News Corporation, parent company of The Times, reported a $3.4 billion (£2 billion) net loss in the year to June 30

And the public believing that they can get the news from the internet for free, well come on are these people a little dense – even internet sites cost money to maintain. So the tipping point is going to come at some time and the perception of free will really hit home. Maybe the newspapers should start buying up ISP’s and increasing broadband costs to subsidize their ability to deliver the news for free! Lets face it, free news is paid for by advertising; advertising in or on paper used to be the only way, now people don’t consume advertising in the same way as they have infinite search capabilities to find what they need.
Anyway food for thought!

Oh and incase you missed the last installments you can read them here: Part 1 and Part 2

Author: Gary George

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

20 Responses to “A Possible Future for Newsprint – Part 3”

  1. Michael J Says:

    Great video. I like the idea that: “well designed print is like music its own rhythm.”

    Is the Print newspaper a TV guide for personal TV? Print + human readable urls + QR codes gets you to “clickable newspaper” . What I’m seeing is that it connects the two mass media Print and Video. As smartphones scale that means personal TV.

    With the integration of TinyPurls and Smart QR (both encode user data) it gets to clickstreams that can be harvested to supply the info that advertisers want.

  2. tele2002 Says:

    Hi Michael, yes it is an interesting video, and actually your idea or adding the QR codes, and urls could actually add another dimension to the whole future newsprint concept I have. In fact when we look at the TV guide side the ability to control or link your viewing preferences into your custom printed paper was something I hadn’t considered, TV guides today contain or have to contain listings for all the channels, and only the web provides you the ability to filter that. If you state the channels your interested in, or they are linked to your subscription package etc etc then not only are you reducing the amount of print required (being green) you are providing the exact tailored information with highlighted areas and links to more info on the web directly to the consumer.

  3. Michael J Says:

    I think that as the QR reader gets connected to the home tv it would be very cool to get a 4 page print version from the cable company with the shows I happen to like AND some kind of recommendation engine that could point me to YouTube or GoogleTalks or any of the .tv landscape.

    A possible aspect that most interests me is to use “clickable” print in the form of postcards or newspapers as teaching material. Given that Yale and University of California are both posting full course lectures on iTunes and YouTube I think all the pieces are in place.

    For whatever it’s worth, I think advertising is turning into enabling commerce – an idea I picked up from Terry Wheaton blog -. The huge opportunity I see for print is in education, health and government.

  4. Jeff Lazerus Says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. Good conversation going on. To tag on to Michael’s comment, a survey by the NAA the other day shows people continue to rely on newspapers and the advertising contained therein to determine shopping preferences, at almost twice the rate they do for the internet. Direct mail was third. Check out my blog for more details and links.

    Embedding QR, other coupon codes, or pURLs might not drive more people to newspapers the way Utko does with excellent design, but may enable advertisers to capture data from what used to be a passive medium into a more active one.

    Newspapers in the US and UK are not examples of beautiful graphic design. They have become a delivery vehicle for advertising, much of which is hideous to look at, with some news and information sprinkled inside. Big subject, lots to think about.

  5. tele2002 Says:

    Hi Jeff, yes definitely in the UK we have seen the raise (and slow fall with the economic crisis) of the ‘free’ newspaper. These free papers contain so little actual news, and the real newspapers have very tradition ‘headline-body text’ style which looks ugly.

    The advertising revenue down, they need to have new models of a) delivering the actual content based on what the reader wants to consume and b) how the advertisers ensure that they are receiving sufficient ROI of their advertising spend with the newspapers.

    This is never going to change overnight, but with the idea in part one of the Future Of Newsprint where people have the choice to print what news they want and how much they pay, if they want to pay nothing then the advertising is very targeted based on the persons demographics.

  6. Michael J Says:


    I tried to get to part one of the Future of Newsprint, but the link didn’t work so comments may be off point.

    In any case. There is an interesting post put up at Nieman Journalism Labs called If It’s Good Enough for Cheese, What Would Artisanal News look like.
    http://bit.ly/1RtMje I think it’s worth the read.

    A sometimes under appreciated value of print in general and newspapers in particular are as tokens of a community of interest. Music posters, t shirts, and photo books are just some examples. The problem with the newspaper personalized to a reader’s specific interests is that it destroys a newspaper’s role as a signifier of membership in a tribe.

    It’s the “people like us” syndrome. As in “people like us read the NYTimes or Guardian. Many carry the paper on the subway (or tube) a way similar to wearing a specific hat or sweater.

    To me this implies that value to be leveraged is in the versioned as opposed to personalized newspaper. I think the readers of this blog understand the technical opportunities with databases to digitally printed ultra short run.

    Almost all the journalists engaged in the conversation assume that the value is in the “news” or the “information.” I think a clear look at the history of newspapers shows that except for exceptional times, most usually war or national triumph or tragedy, the “news” does not have a mass market.

  7. tele2002 Says:

    Hi Michael, how right you are, I’ve fixed that now, so sorry about that.

    A point well made about the significance to a tribe,and also interesting that people use a paper as a status almost a status symbol…. I guess that says that Londoners a cheap since they amass to the free papers 🙂

    But yes you are right a paper has a certain journalistic style that people warm to, so in the UK we have the trashy papers, the semi serious and the deadly serious (lets say The Sun, The Mail and The Guardian)

    So if we put the sane principle of print on demand to the newspapers styles as opposed to just the news from the wire and placed Kiosks everywhere as suggested to remove the distribution, but provided consumers with some configuration of that news for the paper, so the level of advertising, the volume of specific content (for instance I would have zero sports in mine and more technology) would this work?

  8. Michael J Says:

    I love the kiosk but for books not newspapers. Here’s the way I see it.

    First, “news” is a niche market. People buy a newspaper primarily to divert themselves while they are doing something else. Traveling is the most usual. The primary driver is to relieve boredom. People hate being bored.

    The activity is to scan the headlines to make sure nothing terrible happened last night that is going to affect your life. After that, if you have the time, you scan to see if anything terrible, funny or interesting happened last night to anyone you are connected with. After that, if there is still time, many go to the sports pages or the finance pages.

    The problem with personalized news is that it’s almost impossible to find something you didn’t know you were looking for. Paradoxically that’s the single best way to relieve boredom.

    The problem to be solved is how to get distribution costs in line with revenue. Here’s just one possibility. Suppose a paper were versioned to a particular geographic area that was coterminous with a pretty well defined community of interest. In my case it would be “Brownstone Bklyn.” There are already a number of papers that focus on this area. Their business model is to distribute free at local stores.

    What might happen if they set the price at 25 cents and let the store keep the 25 cents. Drop shipping to local advertisers AND letting them decide to either give the paper away as a benefit of doing business or make a couple of dollars by selling the paper.

    Given the possibilites of versioned printing they could put the shop’s ad on the front page for each store. That would allow them to resell the same real estate on paper for each advertiser. Going forward, the design for the front page might done in the voice of that shop. Going further forward, it would allow a global or national brand to micro- place their ads based on the stores in which it were distributed.

    It’s sort of like Google’s contextually accurate advertising but on Paper. People who get their paper in a wine shop would probably be interested in knowing about X. Charge a premium for placement in a specific distribution point.

    This really gets interesting-to-me when one considers that a public school is a well defined community of interest. How many public health, education, government or charities would gladly pay for a versioned newspaper aimed at bottom of the pyramid high schools?

    Every paper would have enormous pass along to exactly the people those organizations want to reach. Plus the content could be free-to-the-school teaaching materials. In the States a huge expense in Public Education is “Professional Development.” There are any number of organizations that make a good living “teaching teachers.” If school based community-of-interest versioned newspapers would have a section on Professional Development, it would save lots of money for the schools that could be put towards much better uses.

  9. tele2002 Says:

    Thanks Michael, so not a completely dumb idea, but maybe just not for the mainstream news.

  10. Michael J Says:

    Fair enough. But if you have some time, i would love to know why you think it wouldn’t work for most of them. Supppose the Guardian edited a special version for school kids. Say 24 pages all in black ink. Schools don’t need color. If Kodak is to believed, my back of the envelope calculations are 24 pages could be sold at a profit for about 20 cents (US). I have to believe that Oce could do the same.

    Or suppose the BBC did the same. Given the power of XML the marginal production costs should be close to zero. Given rules based typography moving from XML very low marginal costs. If you put in QR and human readable URLs the print could connect directly to the science, current event etc etc videos. If you scan Youtbe and .tv for appropriate videos there is no end of free content. Consider GoogleTech talks and the fact that Yale University and the University of California have both put full course videos on line.

    I know it probably sounds not doable, but for the life of me, I keep turning it over and over and can’t see why it wouldn’t work. Am I just drinking my own Kool Aid or have I stumbled on something that actually makes sense?

  11. tele2002 Says:

    Oh sorry Michael I thought you were saying it wouldn’t work for most of them… doh, my misinterpretation there.

    I actually think it’s a great idea and could completely work.

    Just looking at Jeff blog on this subject here http://www.jefflazerus.com/blog/480 with reference to the NAA report and the figures they use, I did some searching on what the figures are based on since the report didn’t offer that info…. SO they survey 220,000 Americans, in 2007 – 2 years has made a lot of difference to the technology available today, but the more interesting part is that 220,000 Americans only represents about 7.3% of the population…. I know a survey bigger would be harder and that they need to have something to base it all on, but it is hardly a true reflection of the news readers in the USA.

    Actually the report numbers Jeff was referring to are even worse, they are only based on an internet survey of 3000 users! OMG

  12. Michael J Says:

    Way cool. Thank you for the reality check.

    So the way I see it the task at hand is first to find people how are already doing this. The working principle is that there are no new ideas, just invisible implementations. The second task is to get this on the radar of Kodak, Oce, HP and Screen since they need to get this in focus to sell their boxes.

    All good.

  13. tele2002 Says:

    Will only take one major newsgroup to adopt it and partner with the HP’s. Kodak’s or Oce’s out there for this to gain momentum, newsprint needs a new publishing model, and maybe this is it, imaging the cost sayings in distribution alone!

    New York Times, News International, etc etc – who care’s just as long as we get the credit ;)!! haha

  14. Michael J Says:

    I have to agree that the credit would be fun:). since I’m retired it’s all good. Stay tuned….
    You’re right. All it will take is one in a row. I’ll work my networks on this side on the atlantic, but Oce has already been doing digital newspapers in London for years. Plus I have a feeling that your culture is more amenable. Maybe a union would take it on?

    My real bet is that it will first emerge in Australia or Eastern Europe. If this could get on the radar of Jacek Utco, I’m pretty sure he has the track record to make it so.

    Next couple of days should be interesting.

  15. Michael J Says:

    Here’s the tweet:
    #Oce #InfoPrint #HP #Kodak. It’s the business model for versioned #newspapers Gv sales something sell tmw morning. http://bit.ly/YOF0c

    Have a nice day. Gotta go back to real life.

  16. tele2002 Says:

    I’ll second that tweet

  17. Bill Bartmann Says:

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

  18. Bill Bartmann Says:

    Great site…keep up the good work.

  19. Tunicca Pre-Media Blog | Crossmediaspecialist.nl Says:

    […] te voegen. De afgelopen periode heb ik een paar goede posts gelezen van Gary George over o.a. FTP, een mogelijke toekomst voor papieren kranten en een post over de nieuwe versie van Elvis, een Nederlandse digital asset management […]

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