Given the dire straits of the newspaper business at the moment, trying anything to boost circulation and ad revenue can hardly sound like a bad idea. Still, MediaNews Group's plan to offer subscribers the chance to pick the kind of news stories they get from the Los Angeles Daily News seems unlikely to provide a real shot in the arm. As NYT points out, readers can already set up news alerts on Google; also, RSS feeds tend to do all the work of sorting out specific topics of interest. Peter R. Vandevanter, VP for targeted products at MediaNews, tells the NYT that the main hopes for what it calls "individuated news" as a sign of its faith in the project, the phrase is trademarkedis the ability to sell targeted ads.
At time when the online media industry is faced with regulatory challenges on targeted ads, focusing some of those efforts on the printed format do make sense. But whether they will be able to make more out of it than than have on the web will certainly be more cumbersome. For one thing, MediaNews expects daily newspaper readers to buyor perhaps renta special printer that will spit out daily pages. Aside from solving the advertising problem, the company thinks that the device will ultimately help them cut their greatest costs, namely printing and delivery of the newspaper. Mark Winkler, EVP of sales and marketing for MediaNews, tells the company's Denver Post, eliminating delivery on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday would result in significant savings. While the company has no set plan to restrict home delivery to three days a week, the company does consider that to be interesting proposal.
A post on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog offers a good deal more skepticism about MediaNews project, comparing it to previous ill-fated efforts to create a "fax newspaper" in 1939 and then again in the 1980s. The main point: while Hearst's investment in an e-reader sounds promising, for the most part, newspapers need to get out of the hardware business, not into it.
By David Kaplan