digitally distributed newspapers

On: February 13, 2010
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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.


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.


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.


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.

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