Even as journalists debate about whether or not E.W. Scripps executives pinned their hopes for the Rocky Mountain News' survival on Denver Post owner Dean Singleton's death, MediaNews Group, Singleton's company, is moving ahead with an unusual effort to monetize its content. As detailed in "MediaNews to Begin Customized Printing in Denver Homes Next Week," a Bill Mitchell column available at the Poynter Online site, the firm "will print personalized newsletters in consumers' homes for the first time next week, with the company's hopes pinned more on advertising than news." The so-called "Individuated News" concept asks consumers to "pay the printer's manufacturer a highly discounted price for the Internet-equipped device and they pay a modest subscription price to the local newspaper. The newspaper reimburses the consumer for ink and paper, and advertisers pay the newspaper to get their messages delivered to customers located nearby" via highly targeted newsletters. Test editions published last month focused on just twelve long-term residents of the Downtown Denver Marriott, with the project expanding to 25 households in the Highlands neighborhood next week.
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The aforementioned piece does everything it can to make this notion seem innovative, and Peter Vandevanter, the MediaNews exec working on individuated news, makes no grand claims about how it might save the print-journalism industry. Still, given the scope of the challenges facing newspapers today, the experiment seems like little more than a curiosity -- a bit of fiddling while the old business model burns.