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A more comfortable news medium: personalised printed newspaper

 
 
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 03:47 am
10/16/2009

Just for You
German Start-Up Launches Personalized Newspapers

By Christopher Lawton
SPIEGEL

Niiu, a German newspaper set to print in November, allows readers to customize their daily newspaper with news from a variety of news sources before it is printed and delivered to their doorstep. The venture, to be launched in Berlin, has already scored heavy hitting partners like The New York Times.

At a time when more readers are going online to get their news and German newspapers are struggling under declining ad revenues, a new Berlin-based company announced its plan to beat the odds with a customizable newspaper venture this week.

Niiu is a daily newspaper that mixes news pages and information of the reader's choice from 17 different German and international newspapers and several Web sites. Co-founded by entrepreneurs Wanja Oberhof and Hendrik Tiedemann, Niiu allows readers to customize their own 24-page daily newspaper online from German newspapers including tabloid Bild, the Berlin dailies Berliner Morgenpost and Der Tagesspiegel as well as financial paper Handelsblatt and others.

International papers such as The New York Times and the Washington Times have also signed on. Readers can also choose to include content from 500 Web sites that span topics such as sports, politics, music and art. Customers who sign onto the Niiu.de Web site before 2 p.m. can build their own newspaper -- although they are limited to choosing specific pages and sections and cannot select individual stories. The customized paper is then printed and delivered the next day.

Can Young Readers Be Coaxed Away from the Internet?

Oberhof, 23, shrugs off concerns that now is a tough time to launch a new print newspaper, adding that readers and in particular advertisers are very interested in Niiu because it combines the strengths of newspapers and the Internet.

The biggest challenge Niiu faces may be getting young people to read print newspapers. Joachim Blum, a former newspaper man and current digital media consultant, said he has "considerable doubts" about Niiu's prospects for success. While the idea of personalization is interesting, Blum says, it won't work on paper, simply because the students and other young readers that Niiu wants to reach have left paper behind. "I would try to reach this generation -- generation iPhone and generation laptop -- on their media not on paper ... People who read newspapers are office workers, not students," he says.

But Oberhof argues that it offers precisely the mix that could prove attractive to advertisers. Niiu, he says, has "the credibility of newspaper advertising and the targeting that only the Internet is known for." Roughly two pages in each issue will be reserved for advertising that will be sold by Niiu.

The first daily issue of Niiu is scheduled for delivery on Nov. 16, and will only be available in Berlin. Newspaper delivery will be available Monday through Saturday at a cost of €1.80 ($2.67) or €1.20 for students per copy -- no more expensive than the average traditional German newspaper at newsstands.

Oberhof, 23, says he came up with the idea two and a half years ago after he took notice of his own reading habits. Growing up in a traditional newspaper-reading household, Oberhof says he was always accustomed to purusing several different national and international publications such as Bild, SPIEGEL ONLINE, Handelsblatt and The New York Times.

A 'More Comfortable News Medium'

"I asked myself, why can't I have all that in one daily newspaper tomorrow morning?" Oberhof told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Because of that, I had the idea: I wanted an individualized newspaper." While surfers can easily cobble together various news sources online through diverse Internet feeds, Oberhof says he learned from peer groups that paper was the more comfortable news medium.

Around the same time he met Tiedemann, 27, through a mutual friend and found that both shared the same idea. The two young entrepreneurs decided to work together, and over the next two years Oberhof and Tiedemann began to build InterTi GmbH, Niiu's mother company.

Convincing publishers to sign onto Niiu proved to be the most difficult aspect of the launch, Oberhof says -- especially when it came to Berlin-based and German papers. The fear, he says, was that by offering up pages to Niiu, they would canibalize their own sales. Notably, two of Germany's most prestigious national dailies, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung, have not yet signed on. In Berlin, one of the city's three leading local newspapers -- the Berliner Zeitung -- is also missing. By contrast, the international newspapers were easier to convince, Oberhof added.

Since making a formal launch announcement, Oberhof has already received queries from other newspapers expressing an interest. As the selection grows, Oberhof hopes that readership will too. The company has set a goal of acquiring 5,000 readers within its first six months of publishing.

Unusual for the world of start-ups, Niiu has no outside investors. Instead the venture was funded by co-founder Tiedemann. Oberhof says for now they are happy they were able to build and launch Niiu without outside financing, but they are open to the idea of inviting strategic partners to join, especially as they expand Niiu to other cities and countries, a goal he hopes to achieve soon.

"If it works in Berlin, why wouldn't it work in Vienna, Paris and London," says Oberhof.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 1,848 • Replies: 10
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 04:06 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Quote:
...Customers who sign onto the Niiu.de Web site before 2 p.m. can build their own newspaper -- although they are limited to choosing specific pages and sections and cannot select individual stories. The customized paper is then printed and delivered the next day.


I'm trying to get my head around this, Walter. Would this be by 2 pm the previous day for the next morning's delivery? If so, potential customers would have already skimmed the online sites for the news that interests them (which rather defeats the purpose, I would have thought) & it would yesterday's news by the time of delivery. (or have I got my wires crossed?)
I think this could work for those who are really interested in particular subjects & also for special reports, etc, but I'm not sure about actual news.
I love the idea of a personalized newspaper, though!
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 05:54 am
@Walter Hinteler,
I'm glad I'm not one of their investor. I predict a rapid crash and burn on this idea. News'paper' lovers won't use the Internet to configure their papers and Internet users don't want the paper in the end. I can't imagine this working.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 06:15 am
@rosborne979,
It's certainly hard to see it working as a daily.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 10:15 am
@msolga,
No, no, msolga: you have to choose before 2pm from what papers you want to have the news, economics, travel art, 'feuilleton', critics, local news, ...
You get the paper with the latest news in the early morning, like any other newspaper on subscription.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 10:19 am
@rosborne979,
I not sure.
It's especially interesting for those who want a bit more than their local paper offers; and for the others, who read more the international press but want some local news as well.

I mean, if I lived in Berlin (and I'm a newspaper freak), I would add to the (English) international news some national paper with their opinion, my hometown's sports pages, my regional feuilleton ...
[But I don't need that: I've subscribed to the print editions of some dozens papers Wink ]
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 03:52 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Now that makes a lot more sense, Walter! I was scratching my head there for a bit. I can see this could have appeal for those folk with very strong specialized interests (& lots of reading time!). But I suspect this might have more appeal to potential subscribers (& also might be more financially viable for the publisher) as an ongoing weekly subscription, rather than a daily publication.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 07:55 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:
I mean, if I lived in Berlin (and I'm a newspaper freak), I would add to the (English) international news some national paper with their opinion, my hometown's sports pages, my regional feuilleton ...
[But I don't need that: I've subscribed to the print editions of some dozens papers Wink ]

I suspect the newspaper "freaks" are already customers, and will probably stay that way until the papers no longer exist. But the newspaper companies need to attract new customer, or to keep existing customers who are not addicted to the "paperness" of the existing medium. For those who just want information, at their fingertips and changing dynamically as the day goes on, print media can't compete.

The only advantage newspapers have now (besides the feel of the paper) is that they are portable and disposable. But you can't read them in the dark, and they don't update their content automatically. As Tablet PC's become common and cheap the portability aspect of papers will be outdone and there will be nothing except the feel of the paper to sell them. And that's not worth enough to enough people to keep papers alive.

In my opinion NewsPapers are already dead, the corpse just hasn't been buried yet.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 08:58 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:
But I suspect this might have more appeal to potential subscribers (& also might be more financially viable for the publisher) as an ongoing weekly subscription, rather than a daily publication.


I suppose so, too.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 09:00 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:

The only advantage newspapers have now (besides the feel of the paper) is that they are portable and disposable. But you can't read them in the dark, and they don't update their content automatically. As Tablet PC's become common and cheap the portability aspect of papers will be outdone and there will be nothing except the feel of the paper to sell them. And that's not worth enough to enough people to keep papers alive.

In my opinion NewsPapers are already dead, the corpse just hasn't been buried yet.



Certainly newspapers have the above mentioned negative aspects.

But fortunately, they aren't here as dead as they are in the USA.

Not yet.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 09:05 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:
Not yet.

Sorry to say, but "yet" is probably the operative word.
0 Replies
 
 

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