Monday, March 29, 2010

The Next Big Thing: Newspapers

In a parallel universe, one with all our technical expertise but none of our publishing, a business plan is presented. Its title: News Company – All The News That’s Fit To Print.

Entrepreneur: We plan to marshal all the best journalists and band them together to create a comprehensive news source; one that will cover local news, regional news, national news and international news. We plan to develop and staff bureaus throughout the world, so we can originate all our own news. To fill any holes in our coverage, we will purchase the best reporting from other agencies and freelance journalists. We'll include community features, event reviews and lifestyle pieces. We will become the voice of the communities we serve. We will bundle all this together on a daily basis and call it a “Newspaper”.

VC: How will you ensure the quality of your news coverage?

Entrepreneur: We will have experienced editorial staff to guide, select and edit the stories we present to our customers. We will combine broad coverage with “best of bread” expertise.

VC: And who’s your target market?

Entrepreneur: Every household in the areas we serve.

VC: Really; and how will you present this "newspaper" to them?

Entrepreneur: We plan to print it. But the daily volume will require a process completely different than any physical printing done before. We intend to create newsprint – a thin paper produced in broad rolls from which we can print and cut pages. We will mine our forests, pulp the wood, and produce the paper. We plan to print the news on this paper with dies derived from vegetables.

VC: Very interesting. So this newspaper will be a semi-permanent product. But why go to such lengths to render your newspaper onto an enduring product? Do you really think your customers will want to keep it for future reference?

Entrepreneur: Not at all. We expect each edition of our newspaper will only be of interest to our customers for 24 hours. This is critical to our business model; we need them to buy a new one everyday. We have established a way for the newspapers to be recycled into cardboard and other paper products. We are working with municipalities to force our customers to separate these newspapers from the rest of their trash and have the trash collectors handle them as a separate waste stream. If any of our customers do wish to look at old editions, we plan to make them available in community centers. There we intend to capture the images of our newspapers on a special film that when magnified let’s you see an image of original newspaper.

VC: So, to really be of interest to your customers it will have to be presented in an extremely timely fashion. It seems that by the time you collect, edit, print and distribute these stories the newspaper will be anything but new.

Entrepreneur: We intend to create a culture that presses our journalists for stories by a daily deadline. The editors will turn and mix the stories quickly each evening. We will run our presses through the night. By diverting some of the local shipping capacity, we will move the final newspaper from the printers to distribution locations throughout each of the metro areas we are targeting. And then, this is the really cool part; we have worked out the legal requirements to employ child labor in the early hours of every morning before school to deliver the newspapers the final mile on their bicycles to each person’s home.

VC: And what exactly is the monetization model?

Entrepreneur: We intend to combine subscriptions and advertising.

VC: This sounds even crazier than the guy who was in here yesterday claiming that the world wanted it’s stories delivered in printed tomes; he called them "books". He was going to fill buildings with these books as monuments to our intellectual brilliance and creativity. I just don’t understand why we would want to so encumber our stories and news. Everyone gets anything they want today instantly on their electronic tablets. I think we’ll pass.

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