Pulp and Paper Canada

Print-on-demand: A new paradigm for newspaper publication and distribution

August 1, 2001  By Pulp & Paper Canada

The product we can call textural news content is most familiar to us as articles in the newspaper. Its consumer-use quality [Q] attributes are commentary, insight, meaning, learning, understanding, re…

The product we can call textural news content is most familiar to us as articles in the newspaper. Its consumer-use quality [Q] attributes are commentary, insight, meaning, learning, understanding, reflection, context, community. The carrier (or medium) is the mass distribution newspaper, which has consumer-user attributes of convenience, portability, reading comfort, low cost [C]. This product package has a compelling Q/C ratio for many consumers, which is why it has been so popular. The advertisers like the product because it gives reach and consumer “stickyness” — the attribute for remaining in front of eyeballs. However, the business model is a push-distribution model which, while low-cost, is lacking in immediacy of the news content and must absorb costs of over-production. A number of newspapers have experimented with small-run digital printing for smaller, localized international markets. However, while over-printing is down, the printing costs (and selling price) are higher and there is currently no colour. The smaller press presents a formatting issue that requires either a brand redesign or a shrunken version of the broadsheet, posing reading problems. Both Oce and Xerox have developments that will overcome the challenges of colour and format. Nevertheless, pre-paid circulation levels for newspapers are now on a downward trend [World Association of Newspapers].

Outsiders are pioneering alternate business models leaning more to a consumer-pull. Outsiders have no stake in the existing model; they are playing a different game — compare Napster and Amazon. The Internet offers new markets — more immediate content, consumer targeting, new revenue streams. NewspaperDirect [ND] is pioneering a print-on-demand [POD] model, particularly for the niche market of business travelers. POD stations produce an edited local edition of any subscribing newspaper. A client installed ND print station in major hotels also allows for additional revenue streams from the hotel and local businesses. The format is 11 x 17 in. or tabloid-sized. The beauty of this model is that it uses an infrastructure already widely available. Moreover, there are no over-printed returns, only cheques and market information. Future market segments for ND are the corporate environment and the personal service for the expatriate (or immigrant) on a subscription basis. In many ways, this POD newspaper product is catering to the consumer need for personal context and home community in their news content — a new market segment brought about by the growing travel and globalization trends. Unlike the book market, this market commands a premium price — the Q factor of “home.” In the future, this home newspaper will be individually customizable — just like a Dell PC. Finally, there is the availability of textural news content of less than four hours immediacy on the newspaper’s Web edition. This has the potential for individual customization though there is a privacy downside. There may be some printing of this, which would be on cut-sheet copy paper. The reading experience is also different.


Why is this important?

It seems that each of the broad categories for textural news content delivery has its own Q/C attributes and they will co-exist. The big question for a paper producer is what is the proportion for each category? A newspaper publisher will want to have all of these outlets for their content covered. The paper producer would wish the manufacturing flexibility to also have all of the outlets covered, together with the appropriate quality attributes that each of the delivery models might demand. The printers should be encouraged, the distributors concerned. As with Napster and Amazon, ND is the new outsider to redefine a business model. POD is the fastest growth sector and we can expect other consumer-pull products to emerge.P&PC

Alan R. Procter can be reached at futureviews@alanprocter.com. For more information, visit www.futureviews.net

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