New Media Meets Old

By: Nu Yang

New Media Meets Old

Many publishers are using smartphones to reach new readers, but what about finding them through a smart newsrack instead? That’s exactly what Schurz Communications, Inc. is proposing alongside start-up software company RedPost. Schurz is based in Mishawaka, Ind. and publishes 11 daily and eight weekly newspapers. The first smart newsrack launched April 18 at Schurz’s flagship paper, the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.            

According to RedPost chief executive officer and the rack’s co-inventor Eric Kanagy, he and Kerry Oslund, Schurz’s senior vice president of publishing and emerging media, both saw an opportunity to sell to the under-45 single copy newspaper buyer. Their goal is to turn that occasional buyer into a customer by focusing on two things these targeted readers look for in their paper: ads and local news.            

From start to finish, it took RedPost and the Tribune 11 weeks to launch nine pilot locations for the racks. Each one is located at a local gas station and sits at the front of the store.            

The rack features a digital sign that is updated daily, and in real-time the monitor can highlight news and ads in that day’s paper. Real-time Twitter and a breaking news feed move along the bottom of the screen, and ads can also be scheduled to target individual locations and groups.            

Although the data and analytics collection process is still in its early phase, Kanagy said he is seeing a positive trend.            

“Our first Sunday, we sold 25 percent more papers,” he said. “Our second week, it was 38 percent.”            

Kanagy said it might have to do with a Buy One, Get One Free KFC coupon that Parade magazine (a national advertiser) advertised on the rack’s screen.  According to analytics, the ad reached 2,432 in the nine locations.            

To collect this data, RedPost’s software allows the rack to count how many smartphones are within Wi-Fi range. Customers also have to stand there for more than two minutes to be counted. Kanagy assures no personal information is collected in this process.            

For publishers, Kanagy said this is a new opportunity to not only grow their advertising revenue but also their single copy sales. The next phase is to roll out more racks at other locations that experience a high volume of foot traffic, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Kanagy is in the process of talking with interested publishers and his goal is to launch 100 racks this year as well as attract more national advertisers.            

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