MediaNews Group plans to test its "individuated newspaper" concept this summer in an undisclosed market. The "I-News" project will be a targeted and customized online newspaper that allows the reader to select the types of news they want delivered. "You'll be able to choose the news you want about anything, whether you're a Detroit Red Wings fan or if you're green-oriented," said Mark Winkler, executive vice president of sales and marketing for MediaNews Group. "You become your own editor and publisher."
I-News will be delivered to subscribers via their computers, cell phones, or a special stand-alone printer plugged into a phone line. The printing manufacturer and the publisher participating in the MNG experiment may subsidize ink and paper prices to offset users' costs. MNG will continue research into the role of high-speed digital printers in the future of newspapers, and it is currently working with printer company Océ to develop user-friendly products for I-News and other projects.
The experiment also intends to evaluate how to combine niche advertising with the users' chosen content, matching ads to topics when possible. For example, readers who indicate interest in sports stories might receive ads from retail sports stores. The Wall Street Journal has indicated that publications with targeted audiences and, therefore, niche-specific advertisers, have been successful lately despite widespread ad sales drops in the media.
During the trial period, MNG plans to deliver I-News only three or four times 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," Peter Vandevanter vice president of targeted products said. "Our idea is that we don't want to lose these subscribers, but instead we want to better serve them." Vandevanter references Detroit Media Partnership which, starting in March 31, will cut home delivery of its papers to a few days a week in order to concentrate on online distribution, an initiative Vandevanter said he will watch closely. "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.
MediaNews Group is the nation's fourth largest newspaper chain, operating 61 dailies in 13 states, and its initiative towards customized news may indicate the future of the newspaper. Other companies such as the Washington Times and German software developer Syntops are also developing customized news projects. "If we print what our readers, not we, want, if we disregard our arrogance and old ideas, if we let our readers participate, we will succeed," MNG Chairman William Dean Singleton said last year as the project developed. "Imagine the value of the targeted newspaper if the newspaper we published knew what a particular reader wanted and could combine relevant stories and relevant advertising in each individuated newspaper."