Print-your-own newspaper experiment underway in Denver

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Denver MediaNews Group’s “Individualized News” product was reportedly scheduled to begin printing in 25 Highland neighborhood homes this morning. By now readers have been roused by the sound of a desk-top printer churning out an eight-page I-edition of the news. This version of your morning paper is not affected by the weather. It is six regular-size sheets printed on both sides with stories on topics tailored to your liking along with two sheets of local business coupons.

Awkward? Backward-looking? Redundant? Maybe. But it’s an idea that would seem attractive at least to advertisers, a key factor in news-industry business-plan formulations these days.

Peter Vandevanter, MediaNews vice president of targeted products, told Poynter Online last week that the I-edition is the reverse of a lot of contemporary media projects. There’s no end to the appetite for news online, he said, but so far there’s no solid revenue stream to accompany that appetite. With this product, the revenue model is solid but the appetite for it is uncertain.

Pointing to coupons offering free coffee at Denver’s Lodo Market, a free shoeshine at Cobbler’s Corner and free beer and wine at local restaurants, Vandevanter asked, “What advertiser isn’t going to go for this when we’re putting it in the hands of customers who live within three miles of them?”

MediaNews charges advertisers five cents per ad per subscriber, a rate he describes as a bargain for shopkeepers intent on pulling people into their stores — and a far higher rate than newspapers are able to charge online. He said he believes the I-edition ads will work especially well for grocery stores and realtors.

For the last two months, the downtown Denver Marriott has been printing out versions and sliding them at 6 a.m. under the doors of willing guests’ rooms. According to Vandevanter, a site called “Newspapers & Technology” and a hotel receptionist named Cory I spoke with fleetingly this morning, the hotel-bound lab rats have responded favorably.

“Yeah. It’s going well. They seem to like it alright,” said Corey, but he’s new to the job and was at the front desk and couldn’t really elaborate.

The Newspaper & Technology reporter had more luck on the ground:

Upon arrival, guests are asked two questions: Where are you from, and do you want to receive a summary of local Denver news?

Guests that say no to the second question do not receive I-News while those interested in Denver news receive a mixture of news from their hometown newspaper and local Denver news.


“Some guests said they like it better than The Denver Post, and many liked it better than USA Today,” Vandevanter said. “It’s the news of the day even though the format is different…

A woman polled for feedback … said she enjoyed I-News because it was informative and easy to skim.

“I picked San Diego as my city since I used to live in San Diego,” she said. “To get that mix of news … it was very enjoyable. Exactly what I asked for is what I got.”

Another guest polled on I-News said he would be willing to pay near what he pays for delivery of his traditional newspaper for the product.

Vandeventer, who has been developing the I-edition project for a year or so and who is apparently familiar with and unimpressed by an earlier Colorado Independent post on the project, decided against commenting on the progress of the Highlands experiment this morning.

But in discussing MediaNews plans to rollout in L.A. in August, Newspaper & Technology previews what might be going on in the homes up there in Highland:

Subscribers will be able to access the Daily News online as an e-edition or upgrade to receive a printed product via a smart, wireless desktop printer installed in their homes, Vandevanter said.

Daily News readers will select news based on their interests, which will be combined with news from an undisclosed wire service, Daily News content and targeted advertising, Vandevanter said.

“For testing in Denver, we are taking news from the late edition of The Denver Post, scraping the headlines and paginating those articles in the same order of hierarchy as they appear in the printed newspaper,” Vandevanter explained. “The next step takes content based on reader preference from the [wire service] server.”

That process, Vandevanter said, is based on coding developed in-house by MNG IT staff in Denver.

“It’s basically RSS to PDF technology,” he said.

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