“Out of town news”, the iconic newsagent located at the enviable address
Zero Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA 02138
is going out of business on 1/1/2009.
Like many stakeholders in the news and news-distribution model, the internet has proved fatal. Up until very recently that was not the case. Indeed, this was one of the few places in Boston where you could find foreign newspapers and magazines. Expatriates and tourists could keep in touch with news from home. It also acted as a magnet for Cambridge natives looking for a different viewpoint or that specialty Train Modeling magazine from Germany.
Today, “Out of Town News” has become obsolete. Its monopoly position that justified paying $5 for “Il Corriere Della Sera” and read two-days-old news from Italy weakened and then disappeared.
However, new business-models are appearing. “Manifest Magazine”, based on its print-on-demand proposition is one of them.
What should come in its place then? Why, a printer of course!
A few publications are available with a print-on-demand proposition. The Guardian, for instance, will allow you to download in a pdf format. The same is true for “Le Monde”, “Le Figaro” or the “Boston Business Journal”.
Therefore, if I were H-P, I would take over Zero Harvard Square and set-up a state-of-the-art printer. Rather than have
newspapers on shelves, I would have a video screen where clients could flip through several publications and have them printed right there. (Incidently, flicking through publication titles should be like flicking through pictures on an iPhone).
Then, once you have selected the publications you want, press a button, pay and collect your papers and magazines, freshly printed.
As I mentioned in a previous editorial, there are advertising opportunities that print-on-demand can deliver.
So if you download “Manifest” in Harvard Square, you will get ads relevant to where you are: perhaps a 10% discount at the Coop, a concert at Harvard University as well as local restaurants and businesses. Download “Manifest” or “Le Monde” in Delhi and the ads will be relevant to that location and the time it gets printed; for those who wish, even advertisement based on their profile.
Aside from “Zero Harvard Square”, airports seem natural locations for such a service. H-P could provide the printers for free or for rent; entrepreneurs and companies can then compensate H-P with a profit-share agreement.
In the end, just like Apple became the number one digital-music publisher, H-P, or somebody like H-P, could become the number one newspaper and magazine publisher.