digitally distributed newspapers

On: February 13, 2010
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e-paper
LG Digital has announced that a full A3 sized e-paper that will be introduced in April. The novelty in LG’s latest marvel, is that it makes the physical distribution and the every day hustle of printing millions of newspapers obsolete. The Gutenberg era of mechanical reproduction is changing into digital reproduction. The smell of ink and the touch of fresh paper soon will be nostalgia. Newspaper corporations are sluggish and conservative in their approach to new media. The distribution costs rise dramatically and the product is a static, disposable, environmentally unfriendly medium. What is the USP of a news paper? Is it the content? The Smell? Selling Paper? Selling emotion? A combination of these elements? In this post, I will briefly elaborate on the contemporary distribution. And I will propose a distribution model that is based on digital reproductivity and its positive effect on the contemporary environment, distribution and costs.

Distribution

The process of traditional newspaper development and distribution goes something like this:

  • 10 pm, the journalist finishes the story.
  • 12 pm, the story gets moderated by an editor and put in a news format.
  • 1 am, the content is transferred to the printing press.
  • 3 am, the news papers are distributed to thousands of agents.
  • 5 pm, the paperboys deliver the papers to the customers.

Due to circumstances in this chain of events, the distribution of newspapers can easily be distorted. Think of: weather, accidents, malfunction in the printing press. In case of a non delivery due to these circumstances the customer contacts customer support and the front office agent subsequently channels the complaint towards the regional distributor. He will, in turn, summon the paper boy to redeliver the newspaper. If the newspaper is out of stock, the customers do not receive the newspaper, but will get a refund.

Future distribution of newspapers could have a model similar to the distribution of internet modems. One applies Locative Media, in this case e-paper (A3 format), on a free-loan base and subscribes to news and other content. This content will be distributed digitally every morning. No more logistical nightmares! No more printing press deadlines, failures, delays and overhead hustle.

The process of future newspaper development and distribution is as follows:

  • 10 pm, the journalist or news-enthusiastic amateur covers stories on the fly using social media (blogs, micro blogging).
  • 12 pm, the story is moderated instantly by an editor and exported as a file in a proper news format.
  • 1 am, a batch file will be uploaded to several news-servers using a distributed network.
  • 5 am, e-papers are contacted via a wireless modem (or 3g technology) by several servers using P2P technology and a secure connection.

Costs

I know at first hand that the expenses derived from the traditional physical medium (distribution-, printing press expenses) are roughly 50% depending on the distribution chain in the Netherlands. There are expenses to be made for (1) the distribution of a newspaper that is sold over the counter and (2) at the door of the subscriber. One corporation does, in this case, represent the industry as a whole, because they all suffer the same burden. The burden of ‘analogue’ distribution costs. Obviously, the initial costs of a digital distribution model and the investments are significant, but will certainly equal the distribution costs. So, cutting the distribution costs is essential for the news corporations to stay ahead of its digital competition.

Environment

Mechanical reproduction of newspapers will be another thing of the past. On a global level, this conversion will have a significant positive effect on the environment. Ink is very harmful and newspapers are drenched in it. E-papers also make use of ink, but e-papers are not disposable. Today’s distribution of news papers is mostly done by cars or other fossil fuel based transportation. Digital reproduction will make fossil fuel based transportation obsolete, which in turn decreases the CO2-emission. Of course, the development and fabrication of e-papers will not be completely CO2-neutral, but it is a step in the eco-friendly direction.

9 Responses to “digitally distributed newspapers”
  • February 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    This solution would definitely be a great step in terms of environmental friendliness. At the same time it allows newspapers to forego on the problem of timeliness. But then again there will always be a market for the old newspaper which (people that do not want to have an E-Paper, those on the go without their e-paper) makes it hard for Companies to change their way of producing papers.

  • February 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    On a technical level, information density (resolution), contrast and mobility are still issues for modern e-papers. LG’s newest model still can’t compete against the ‘old fashion’ newspapers’ properties. On a cultural level, generations are brought up with the smell of ink and the touch of paper. So, I think newspaper will last as long as it has emotional value and as long it’s affordable.

  • February 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm

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  • February 18, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by arrep: “The smell of ink and the touch of fresh paper soon will be nostalgia” http://bit.ly/9pgE0p

  • February 24, 2010 at 7:39 am

    the development and fabrication of e-papers will not be completely CO2-neutral, but it is a step in the eco-friendly direction.

  • February 26, 2010 at 7:56 am

    in this case e-paper (A3 format), on a free-loan base and subscribes to news and other content. This content will be distributed digitally every morning. No more logistical nightmares! No more printing press deadlines, failures, delays and overhead hustle.

  • March 10, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    that is great news, less pollution its nice to know majority of large companies are going green.

  • March 23, 2010 at 1:48 am

    the development and fabrication of e-papers will not be completely CO2-neutral, but it is a step in the eco-friendly direction.//

  • January 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Actually you solution seems great when you lay it out like you do. The only problem is, that the readers are not a static group. It’s a dynamic segment, that is not just sitting at home waiting to read the paper. Not all of them(us) anyway.

    As lg gw620 wrote. What about the traveling salesman, that stops at a café to have lunch and read the paper? What about the conventional news consumer, who isn’t as tech savy as the younger generations. I know time will solve the latter, but still, thats like 30 – 40 years maybe. And I think there are hundreds of examples on types of people who would never be able to fulfill their news needs trough an e-paper.

    The argument that newspapers will last as long, as they are affordable doesn’t really make sense does it? I think it’s been quite a few years since newspapers, in their original form, were profitable to print… Or am i completely off here?

    Great topic though, and extremely important to discuss.

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