Determined not to just fade away, at least not in the any-time-soon, Denver Post parent company MediaNews Group is bravely grappling with new-media news business models. Or at least one of them. Denver “corporate” is drawn to the idea of individually tailored newsletter-style papers and has now teamed with a group called Printcasting to make newsletter-style magazine papers.
Corporate loves it because advertisers love it because they love paper, even if you don’t love paper anymore and do all of this stuff better pretty much every day for yourself on the economical and environmentally friendly World Wide Web.
The New York Times posts a report today on Printcaster, which is run by Denver-based Dan Pacheco. The startup won a whopping $837,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, which seems to be almost single-handedly financing the experimental future of news.
Printcasting, has a Web site on which anyone can put together a magazine featuring their own blog posts or articles and items from blogs and newspapers that have registered with the site. Advertisers can place ads in the publications. Readers can print a copy of the magazine or view it online or on a mobile device.
The company is taking advantage of advertisers’ willingness to pay as much as 40 times more for print ads than for online ones — while it removes the costs of paper, ink, printing presses and a pavement-pounding sales force.
Mr. Pacheco, who used to work at AOL and helped start The Washington Post’s Web site, got the idea when The Californian started a Web site about the Bakersfield music scene. Advertisers kept asking when the magazine was coming, he said, because they preferred to appear in print.
“All my assumptions about print were wrong,” Mr. Pacheco said. “Advertisers wanted to be in print, and young people are interested in magazines.”
That’s one way of looking at it.
Earlier this year MediaNews Group experimented with its own small newsletter-style paper, the I-edition, which was printed at homes and at hotels in Denver and filled with material collected from the Web on topics personally selected by readers. The paper included extreme local advertising, like coupons for a free cup-o-joe at your corner cafe.
Peter Vandevanter, MediaNews vice president of targeted products, is a big fan of Printcasting. He was a big fan of the I-edition too. He told Poynter Online that the I-edition was 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?”
No word on how that experiment went, which is probably a bad sign. Vandevanter, though, is in thrall to the business model. He’s not giving up on it and he’s quoted as a big advocate in the New York Times story on Printcaster.
“Print can become much more individualized, much more focused and still have a viable business model,” said Peter Vandevanter, vice president for targeted publications for MediaNews. “It’s really borrowing from the instincts we’re all developing on the Web and putting them into print.”
He will bend the future back into the past, where paper meant profits. He will do it, dernnabbit!