Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

New lease of life for newspapers

By Chris Vallance
BBC Radio 4 iPM programme

couple reading the papers
People still enjoy newspapers says Newspaperclub

In response to what some analysts have called "a perfect storm" of recession and loss of advertising revenue to online, many newspapers have tried to refocus their businesses around the web.

However, the people behind a company called Newspaperclub think that our love affair with print is far from over.

The Newspaperclub team, all of whom have backgrounds working online, are creating a website that will allow people to design and print small runs of newspapers.

The newspapers themselves will be printed at existing commercial presses.

Getting physical

"This is actual physical stuff which for digital people is really exciting," says Russell Davies, one of the founders of newspaperclub.

The first edition the group printed was a collection of their favourite blog posts, pulled together as a Christmas present for friends.

Recently the Cabinet Office asked them to produce an experimental paper covering just one postcode. Other requests have included producing a souvenir paper for a wedding.

Newspaperclub is one of a number of new services moving us towards more personalized papers.

In Germany, Niiu plans to allow people to print out a tailor-made paper with content drawn from a variety of different sources. In the US the service MagCloud enables people to upload and print their own magazines.

But Mr Davies and his colleagues are getting into print just as many newspapers are heading in the opposite direction.

I think I'd consider it like a luxury meal, you know you don't have a luxury meal every day
John Yemma, Christian Science Monitor

In March this year the Christian Science Monitor stopped producing daily editions, though it still publishes a weekly paper.

Its editor John Yemma says the move away from print was a necessary step but one that left him with a "bittersweet feeling".

He believes that print is no longer the principal way in which people consume daily news.

"I think I'd consider it like a luxury meal, you know you don't have a luxury meal every day," he said.

Love for print

So are the Newspaperclub founders right to think that our affection for print will continue?

Staff at the St Bride Library, which covers the history of printing, have seen plenty of changes in the newspaper industry. The library is located just next to Fleet Street.

Looking at the current situation in the industry, librarian Nigel Roche is in no hurry to write-off print.

"If we look at what's happened since the Second World War the number of titles being published in this country has increased very considerably - it's now running at something like 100,000."

He believes new online publications will exist alongside print for some time, particularly when it comes to publications where "mature reflection is called for" or where the preferred reading venue is "in the bath".

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