Niiu, the First Individualised Printed Newspaper, Ceases Production

Ralf Schlozer
Jan 21, 2011

Niiu, the first and most high-profile individualised printed newspaper, ceased printing and distributing its newspaper. I covered the first steps of niiu almost exactly one year ago in two blog posts (available at The personalised newspaper is here and The personalised newspaper followe up) .
On 19 January 2011, Inter-Ti, the publisher of the niiu, stopped printing and distributing the newspaper. Niiu’s e-paper issue also ceased publication. According to Inter-Ti, the primary reasons for ceasing production included the failure to attract sufficient subscribers and the high cost of distribution. Niiu’s publishers set themselves a target of 5,000 subscribers, but they missed this goal.

It is sad to see the trial end, although it is not entirely unexpected for the first attempt to change a paradigm. I felt there were several shortcomings in the implementation, primarily in the composition process of the personalised paper (e.g., missing content, too little possibilities to fine-tune content, breaking of articles across pages, not enough content personalisation options, and no personalisation of ads. Sadly, I did not have the opportunity to check whether these challenges had been overcome until now.

The overall goal of 5,000 subscribers does not seem to be that ambitious, given that most newspapers have far higher circulations. At the same time, however, gaining that many subscribers is quite a task for an upstart company. Furthermore, while large and established newspapers supported niiu by letting the company publish their content (for a fee of course, unlike some Internet news aggregators), there was no support from the established newspapers in improving readership. Inter-Ti GmbH reported delivering up to 3,500 printed copies per day, which likely included some free trial copies. The company cited some success with corporate customers in the past few months, like hotels and a car manufacturer. This could be an interesting approach to increasing readership with a financially strong group of subscribers.

Inter-Ti is currently seeking partners to handle distribution, print, and logistics. These partners will need bring some investment money on the table as well. Inter-Ti plans to have the print issue up and running by summer 2011 at the latest. In the meantime, Inter-Ti hopes to further develop the concept of the individualised newspaper, but the company declined to provide further details. The business activities will shift toward B2C customers and finding licensing partners. Additionally, there are plans to produce an electronic version of the individualised newspaper for mobile devices like the iPad.

Despite failing, niiu showed the possibility of producing an individualised newspaper with content from a wide range of papers. This was something that had previously been deemed impossible in the conservative world of newspaper publishing. I hope that this will prompt some newspaper publishers to get serious about the idea of an individualised newspaper. Shortcomings of the first attempt could be easily ironed out with a little patience and a bit of money spent on developing a content selection and page composition system. The investment would certainly be peanuts compared to the millions that newspaper publishers have sunk in their largely unsuccessful (from a commercial standpoint) Web ventures so far.

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