My Buddy Personalized Newsletter and Me…

Next week, for the first time, the MediaNews Group will begin printing personalized newsletters to be distributed to consumers’ homes. Part of the (rather unfortunately named) “Individuated News” project—which MediaNews launched in April—the newsletters consist of twelve pages (six sheets, back-to-back) of “personalized” news along with two pages of advertising coupons. Customization occurs via customer registration: readers can select up to twenty of the AP’s 240 news categories as topics of personal interest; one city; and one public figure.

The venture’s hopes, Bill Mitchell notes in a Poynter post, are “pinned more on advertising than news.” The business model:

Consumers pay the printer’s manufacturer a highly discounted price for the Internet-equipped device and they pay a modest subscription price to the local newspaper. The newspaper reimburses the consumer for ink and paper, and advertisers pay the newspaper to get their messages delivered to customers located nearby.

Which makes for an interesting little experiment. Unlike many Internet projects that may be popular but lack a business model, MediaNews VP Peter Vandevanter told Mitchell, “This is kind of the opposite. We know the business model is solid, and we’ll find out how popular it will be.”

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.