Now that the web-to-store approach has become a central plank in the latest retail sector strategies, might digital printing kiosks provide a new path to growth for the newspaper and magazine business?
The newspaper industry continues to see circulation fall year by year, to the point where the Paris authorities are now having to take steps to ensure the survival of the city’s iconic newspaper kiosks. Meanwhile the Swedish company Meganews is currently testing a system of digital printing kiosks. The idea is that a customer goes inside the booth, makes his/her choice from a list of 200 magazines from top publishers in Sweden – among them the Bonnier Group – and can then browse the magazine, decide to print it out, can pay with a credit card and will be taking delivery of the printed copy just two minutes later. These digital kiosks are being placed in strategic areas around Stockholm, i.e. high footfall locations such as airports, hotels, hospitals and shopping centres. Might this new approach be the answer to the long-term decline in the newspaper industry? If it catches on, this print-on-demand solution could enable publishers to cut down on their initial print runs without losing out on sales, because customers will have a convenient way to obtain the magazines and periodicals they wish to read.
An ecological solution too?
Meganews is using a print engine adapted by Japanese company Ricoh’s printing solutions division to fit inside the kiosk unit. The graphical interface has also been carefully designed to ensure that the system is user-friendly and attractive to customers. And in addition to the purely business aspect, there is a strong ecological argument behind the concept. By avoiding widespread physical distribution of magazines, and returns of unsold copies for subsequent recycling, the Swedish company estimates that these digital kiosks will mean that a magazine printed on the spot will have a carbon footprint of only 60% that of a standard mass-printed copy. Moreover, taking the concept a step further, we could see personal selection of pages to be printed and the ability to match advertising to user profiles, which could bring back some of the lost advertising revenue to newspaper publishers.
Direct on-screen reading a major obstacle?
While at first sight the Meganews idea seems highly promising, it is however not unlikely that the growth in consumption of magazines on digital systems and from digital kiosks along the lines of the recently-launched Google Play Kiosque might sound the death knell of the venture. The Meganews system could nevertheless perhaps serve as a complementary service as – in spite of the progress made in making material intended for reading on tablets more ergonomic and user-friendly – evidence seems to show that old-fashioned paper publications still provide a better reading experience. And while recent digital newsreading ventures such as NewspaperDirect have never really taken off, Meganews will still have to prove the viability of its model if it is to grow internationally and win over the powerful English-speaking media.