Print Format Delivered Digitally: It Could Work

By: Steve Outing

The notion at first seems "old-fashioned." But why not deliver traditional newspapers, magazines and newsletters in close to their native presentation, but using the digital medium?

That's the thinking behind a new "push" technology developed in Israel that lets Internet users receive digital forms of print publications, which look very much like the print product, and indeed are designed so that users can print them out at home or office for reading.

The new product is called InfoPager, developed by Zebra Software of Jerusalem. The first to demonstrate the technology is the Jerusalem Post, which in the next week or so plans to launch a subscription service that allows Internet users to subscribe to the newspaper, select what sections of the paper they want to read, and receive a daily digital delivery -- containing text, images and advertising -- via the Internet that can be read by the free InfoPager client application. A typical digital delivery can be set up to receive the file overnight, or on consumer demand; it takes about 2-3 minutes to download a 10-12 page "newspaper" over a standard dial-up connection to the Internet.

The Post is not new to "push" digital publishing. It already operates a paid e-mail edition of the newspaper, which delivers Post content in simple text-only format. It also has a service using another push product called BackWeb (also developed in Israel), which allows Post readers to have Post Web site pages regularly delivered to them.

3 choices for consumers

The InfoPager edition of the Post is considered to be different enough from the other two push services that it warrants a try. "Electronic publishing today is really made up of a number of products," says the Post's director of electronic publishing, Nina Keren-David. "The market is also becoming more segmented. ... We hope that InfoPager will provide a solution (for those) who want something more sophisticated than just e-mail, but don't want to browse through the Web site page by page." There are readers (using the Internet) who want something that looks more like the newspaper, she says.

If there is a newspaper in the world that is best suited for the push digital publishing model, it's the Jerusalem Post. According to the newspaper's publisher and president, Norman Spector, "90% of our potential subscribers are outside of Israel," where delivery of the printed product is slow or impractical. With the InfoPager "Personal Post" service, he says that the overseas markets will get the digital form of the newspaper even before the paper hits the newsstands in Israel.

Says Keren-David, "We view (InfoPager) more as an alternative delivery method where conventional means may not be economical."

"We believe there is a market for this edition and hope to sign up 1,000 subscribers during the first year," Spector says. "We expect institutions, libraries and organizations to be the the prime early target."

Pricing for the service works out to be roughly 50 cents (US) per day. Specifically, the Post plans to offer the first month free; the second month is $5; the third month is $10; the next six months are $90 or the next 12 months are $120. At launch, subscriptions are the only option. Says Keren-David, "With the subscription price at 50 cents an issue, it's simply uneconomic to sell single (digital) issues at this time."

The Post has paid a one-time licensing fee for use of the InfoPager software, and will share revenue from the digital subscriptions. According to Zebra spokesman Michael Sedley, the licensing fee ranges from $50,000 to $150,000, depending on projected subscriptions and customizations required. In a typical deal, Zebra gets 20% of subscription charges "to cover maintenance and technical support for the InfoPage viewer," he says.

Sedley says that the company projects that a publisher using the software can become profitable at 2,000 subscribers paying at least $5 per month. The system does not yet have the capability to charge for a single viewing.

Ad model

Advertising brought over from the print edition also is part of the InfoPager model. Ads that run in the print edition are carried over into the digital presentation on InfoPager, for an incremental revenue stream to the publisher. The digital ads are sold by the "column-inch" -- "a total preservation of terminology for our advertisers," says Keren-David. The technology also supports enhancing print ads for the online environment (adding sound, video, direct response mechanisms, etc.), as well as the ability to target readers based on their stated preferences and demographics.

Keren-David says that with the Post's InfoPager subscriber numbers expected to be modest initially, "we expect advertising to be an added-extra to existing print and Internet advertising campaigns."

While the Post is an appropriate publication to try out this system, because of its large audience outside of its home country, this is less the case with many newspapers which will have limited appeal outside of their normal circulation areas. Sedley says that the InfoPager model has profit potential for any publication with at least 2,000 paying subscribers and a specific target readership -- particularly if the readership is spread geographically. The company believes that trade journals, magazines and special-interest newsletters have the greatest potential to create profitable InfoPager digital editions. InfoPager also may be useful for corporate intranet news applications.

A down side to the technology is that it requires consumers to download and use a separate piece of software in order to receive the digital editions. While the client software is free, other push technology companies have been held back from greater success because of the reluctance of large numbers of consumers to download proprietary software.

Says Derek Fattal, the Post's deputy director of electronic publishing, "We were skeptical at first about introducing another 'proprietary' push model to the market, but now feel that there is a growing audience that seeks delivery of their newspaper electronically in a tried and trusted format, and that the same audience is willing to pay for such a product."

>From the publisher's point of view, uploading a daily "newspaper" to InfoPager is fairly painless. Fattal explains that the software processes ASCII and other data, including graphics and multimedia content sent over the Internet, and in an "on-the-fly" process automatically creates a traditional-looking magazine or newspaper on the recipient's computer.

Contacts: Derek Fattal,
Nina Keren-David,
Michael Sedley,

HTML e-mail revisited

On the Online-News Internet dicussion list, a lively topic lately has been the concept of Web publishers creating features with which site users can e-mail copies of stories to friends. Is this a nice service that promotes your online content, or a threat to your copyright because in effect you are inviting people to copy your work and send it to others? The discussion is worth listening in on.

One posting to the list is particularly worth reading. It's from Vin Crosbie of Digital Deliverance, a consulting firm that specializes in "push" Internet publishing. Crosbie, who is a key player behind New Century Network's upcoming HTML e-mail delivery service, makes a compelling argument for publishers to take HTML e-mail services seriously. His posting to Online-News can be found at this Web URL: online_news/current/0032.html


(Note: Due to the holidays, the next Stop The Presses! column won't be published until Wednesday, December 31. Also, there will be no column on Friday, January 2. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday break.)

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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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