Mainichi announces new, Twitter-enhanced dead-tree edition

National news daily Mainichi has announced a new dead-tree version of its newspaper to go on sale June 1. Named Mainichi RT, the daily tabloid will print the most-viewed stories online, along with Tweets about those stories and some other extras. A subscription will cost Y1980 a month, which would come out to around Y100 on newsstands assuming they only print weekdays. It’s somewhat similar in concept to Sankei Express, a concise Y100 edition of Sankei Shimbun released a couple years ago, and the many free newspapers distributed in major metropolitan areas in the US (except of course, those are free).

Could there possibly be a less useful idea? Are people supposed to buy it to see if their tweets made it in? If you know all the stories are already online, why bother picking up a newspaper? Someone please tell me what I am missing.

(found via J-Cast, cross-posted from Google Buzz)

15 thoughts on “Mainichi announces new, Twitter-enhanced dead-tree edition

  1. I got a free trial subscription to Sankei Express a year or so ago—they were giving out JAL miles for trying it. I actually liked it a lot and considered keeping it. It was just the right size to digest on a 30-minute morning commute, concentrated on stories interesting to me and lacked much of the fluff that I don’t really need in my daily paper (stock prices, for instance). Then I got an iPhone, which lets me read the “real” Sankei for free.

  2. Exactly. The new edition might have some real benefits, but you could buy an iPod touch with the 23,760 yen for a year of Mainichi RT. Then you’d have free news, net access, Twitter, games, etc. The choice is starkly clear.

  3. If you know all the stories are already online, why bother picking up a newspaper?

    I agree. To take it even further, if you’ve already read the stories online, why buy a print version to read them again? Just to read the tweets about a story?

  4. The editor in chief of Newsweek in the US (which has just been sold by its owner) was on The Daily Show with John Stewart last week. He said that this kind of thing is the direction Newsweek might go – a print edition to follow the release of the week’s online news stories, with added commentary such as tweets and blog posts.

    If there’s signficant added content, perhaps it’s a good idea – at least better no worse than the current state of affairs.

  5. “If there’s signficant added content・・・・”

    Such as WaiWai,I presume….

  6. WTF? They are physically printing papers of online news stories? What the hell? Are they living in bizarro world? That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.

  7. Perhaps a huge savings on production costs. No longer having to pay to develop original material. No need for in-house reporting or reporters. Reduced printing and distribution costs. Re-printing blogs and twitter postings costs nothing as there is no need to pay employees or work can be re-posted from work paid for by others. From a business standpoint, it makes sense even if insane. My real fear if this is, indeed, the future of journalism is that opinion will be even further entrenched in peoples’ minds as equaling factual news, journalism, and the truth.

  8. Then I got an iPhone, which lets me read the “real” Sankei for free.

    Personally, I’d only read the Sankei if they paid me to do so…

    If newspaper publishers would simply realize that there is a market for digital versions of their papers at a price reflecting the lower cost of distribution, they would make a killing. The Nikkei is halfway there, but their online version is too expensive.

    Perhaps the iPad will serve to jumpstart their efforts. Otherwise, the trend of young people moving away from newspaper subscriptions will continue unabated.

  9. “If newspaper publishers would simply realize that there is a market for digital versions of their papers at a price reflecting the lower cost of distribution, they would make a killing.”

    Newspaper publishers globally would be interested to hear you expand on that theory because it flies in the face of the their current experience.

  10. Newspaper publishers globally would be interested to hear you expand on that theory because it flies in the face of the their current experience.

    That’s their own fault, since the majority of them have either been giving away the entire product for free (see any newspaper in the US or the UK) or charging a similar price as their physical paper versions. No one wants to pay the same amount for an intangible product—see the music industry for a good example. Publishers also made a huge mistake by assuming that they could give away articles for free and recoup their costs through advertising in spite of the fact that classified ad revenue (their main source of revenue) were already on the decline.

    There is a market for a reasonably-priced, well-designed, digital subscription news service, but newspapers must first stop trying to trim costs at the expense of their content. Good reporting requires time, money, and knowing one’s market. Financial newspapers will have the easiest time because of the specialized nature of the news they provide, but other more general newspapers can succeed with comprehensive coverage and analysis, not just relying on stories from the wire services. This is true in any developed market, from the US to Belgium to Japan.

  11. “There is a market for a reasonably-priced, well-designed, digital subscription news service”

    That is just a hunch on your part, however. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to support that theory and quite a lot which would undermine it.

    What does reasonably-priced mean? Originally, you mentioned that online prices ought to reflect “the lower cost of distribution”. Let’s assume that a paper removes all of its printing and distribution costs. That number varies considerably across publications but not many would argue if you assumed it was roughly half total costs. Simply speaking, that gives you scope to cut the annual subscription price in half. I don’t think anyone believes that’s a price the market will bear online and you’ve already ruled out lowering costs further in ways that would affect the quality of content.

    It gets worse than that because a US newspaper’s online ads currently make up less than 10% of total ad revenue, so the online subscription would have to be higher than half-price to make up for lost revenues there. Japan’s newspaper industry is less reliant on advertising so the calculation is different but the basic problem is the same.

    In short, you can certainly argue that no-one will pay the same price for an online edition as they pay for a physical product; you can also argue that giving free online access is not viable. However, it doesn’t follow that there is inevitably a mass market clearing price somewhere in-between. Especially if you are going to rule other cutting news and editorial costs.

    Google’s chief economist Hal Varian – who has a dog in this fight – recently urged news organizations to “experiment, experiment, experiment”. In Britain, News Corp will introduce a paywall for The Times and no-one has a clue how that will go. Just a few days ago, Murdoch said he will be announcing plans for a consortium which will try to charge for news distributed online, so we do have some new ideas floating around.

    In the worst case, though, we might find that the only mass market “news” which does thrive is the kind provided by content farms like Richard Rosenblatt’s Demand Media. Here’s how Daniel Roth of Wired described their model:

    “Most media companies are trying hard to… boost the value of their online content until it matches the amount of money it costs to produce. But Rosenblatt thinks they have it exactly backward. Instead of trying to raise the market value of online content to match the cost of producing it—perhaps an impossible proposition—the secret is to cut costs until they match the market value.”

  12. Roger Ebert (who now must be considered one of the top bloggers in the United States) has suggested 5 cents an article micro-transactions as the future. The infrastructure to really implement this, however, has yet to be developed.

    “the secret is to cut costs until they match the market value”

    Farewell fourth estate.

  13. I dunno.The situation in Japan is not as harsh as you see in UK and US,but the industry has already suffering the worst income loss in it’s history.Even Asahi is cutting bonus this summer.

    Sankei is already asking employees voluntarily leaving the office.Which lead the former Beijing bureau correspondent Fukushima Kaori to quit.Big loss for Sankei because she was also the most popular blogger on China matters.Now she spends most of her times on twitter.

    Mainichi should simply stop being “National” daily.I don’t think they are making any money in Kyusyu and Hokkaido area.They should simply close down most of the bureaus they have all over 48 prefectures and focus on Tokyo/Osaka region.They can also stop evening papers.

  14. OK, sorry to nitpick, but where is this 48th prefecture? Is it Takeshima? The Northern Territories? Maybe Saipan?

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