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Newspapers On-Demand: Greener, Interactive Solution for Tough Times?

| Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

NewarkNewsboy1938_jpg_w560h375.jpg Times are particularly tough for newspaper publishers, distributors and agents. Even august members of the industry, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, are feeling the pain and being forced to take some extraordinary measures to assure their sustainability while trying to adapt to a radically different news market and technological environment.
The emergence of commercial quality, on-demand digital distribution and publishing systems may afford participants all along the supply chain a “greener” way forward, though pulp & paper suppliers and truckers may be the worse off for it.


A Greener Production-Distribution Model?
Longstanding leaders among newspaper groups are increasingly finding their hard copy print operations less and less profitable, particularly when it comes to producing and distributing print editions outside their core, local markets. More and more of them are turning to electronic editions and on-demand distribution and printing systems to put out product. The trend extends right down the supply chain to local newspaper and magazine distributors and agents.
Selling foreign newspapers has been a distinguishing specialty for Zyn’s News & Cigar in Greenwich, Connecticut for decades. With margins being squeezed and newspaper groups consolidating and scaling back distribution networks, the store began offering customers same-day – and in the case of Asian and European newspapers, even advance– versions of 890 newspapers from 81 countries in any of 38 languages on-demand a year-and-a-half ago, according to an article in the Greenwich Citizen.
Enabling this is Vancouver-based NewspaperDirect’s Print-On-Demand network, one of several on-demand digital distribution, online viewing and/or hard copy printing services the company offers.
The service is not cheap for dealers or customers, Zyn News & Cigar manager Dipak Seth told Greenwich Citizen reporter Anne W. Summers, but called it a “green distribution model”.
He continued, noting that around 30% of daily newspapers wind up in the dumpster. “We print on order. There are no trucks involved. It’s a very low carbon footprint.” More than 300 million metric tons of paper is used every year to produce newspapers, according to Newspaper Direct.
With new digital e-readers tablet and Netbook PCs emerging in the marketplace, as well as growing amounts of content delivered to wireless handheld devices, Newspaper Direct looks like it’s a company with the right product line at the right time.
Would this be a case of merely substituting existing sources of pollution for others however? Sure, the traditional means of producing and distributing newspapers also results in pollution and waste, but the forestry industry has made progress when it comes to managing forests for paper production, and the pulp & paper industry is making some headway as well.
Meanwhile, producing consumer electronics, and the waste that results, similarly exact a heavy toll on the environment, and the profusion of ever more electronics devices and digital content will only exacerbate these problems. Carbon footprint, lifecycle analysis anyone?


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  • http://www.triplepundit.com Nick ASter

    Nice analysis. I have two thoughts about this:
    1)You’re quite right about the waste and other energy that goes into producing the various devices that are needed to read media electronically. I’ve seen various attempts at calculating it and it’s pretty complicated, but I find it hard to believe that from a purely “emissions” or “energy” oriented calculation, the electronic media is really that much “greener”.
    2) One thing that wasn’t brought up is that the real benefit of electronic media is the extraordinary way that it enhances conversation – this is nothing short of a revolution, and if waste and energy are equal or not any worse, then this reason alone should make us happy we’ve got this new media taking over. The fact that I’m able to add to this conversation right now by typing this comment is a truly revolutionary thing. The fact that other media can link here with positive or negative things to say is truly revolutionary – it enhances democracy, transparency, honesty and hopefully sharing and learning – and with out it, we can forget about helping humanity or the environment. This is what I get excited about!