Wednesday, December 03, 2008


So you'd like to get the news delivered to your door daily, but you'd really like to pick and choose what news that is. Perhaps, as I've suggested before, you'd like a broader range of stories, perhaps seen from viewpoints in your country and in others. Perhaps you'd like more emphasis on one field than you get in your local newspaper.

Now you can get that delivered to your inbox for free from Tabbloid, an HP development. It's simple, and you get a nice, letter-sized PDF document on the schedule of your choice. This would be great for public transit commuters: print out your personal Tabbloid before leaving for work, and you have custom news of the day you can finish by the time you arrive at your place of work (or at least by the time you arrive home).

There are risks. Just by taking some interesting selections from my current RSS feeds and generating a sample issue, I got a 24-page document that took about 800kB. I know there are other feeds I'd like to include, and I know there are some feeds I selected I'll probably delete soon (I don't read them all daily; I simply skim for useful material when I have time). If I can print for US$0.05 per sheet, that 24-page document will cost me US$1.20 a day—more than I would spend for the local paper even if I bought it at a newstand (duplex printing gets it down to US$0.60, but that's still more than the US$0.50 newstand price of my local paper).

Spending that much daily could drive me to cancel my newspaper subscription, which is part of a dynamic that moves revenue from the news media to the paper (and ink) industry. None of that revenue gets back to the writers of the news; what effect will that have?

Printing my Tabbloid would consume a ream of paper in about a month of workdays. That generates a lot of waste; even with recycling, that doesn't sound like a great idea.

Don't forget that a piece of paper doesn't have hyperlinks, either. Subscribing to a feed whose articles consist heavily of links won't be of much use here.

There are a few features I wish Tabbloid had:

  • It would be nice to be able to arrange the order of feeds in the final product, perhaps by dragging and dropping the list of feeds on Tabbloid.
  • It would be nice to be able to create Tabbloids and then put them on hold for a while or for specified periods. For example, I might want an international news Tabbloid I would only read occasionally, or I might want a different Tabbloid on the weekend than on weekdays. I can probably do the latter with judicious use of additional email accounts, but I'm not sure about the former.

Nonetheless, I'll try it for a few days and see what I think. It is a creative idea from HP, and it could be helpful for commuters who lack the time to catch up on their RSS feeds but have time sitting in buses and trains.

Perhaps this is an alternative to advertising-supported news delivery: instead of paying for Tabbloid through ads, perhaps we're paying for it through printing supplies.

Perhaps I can be selective enough to make a much shorter paper (and I won't be printing it for now, at least).

What do you think?

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Blogger Bill Harris said...

Quick update: I got my first Tabbloid emailed to me, and I discovered useful information I hadn't seen by perusing my RSS feeds. There is something indeed easier about Tabbloid than about browsing feeds for certain kinds of information scanning. Interesting.

03 December, 2008 19:00  
Blogger David Pitkin said...

@FacilitatedSys you hit the nail right on the head with tabbloid thanks for getting it. The two key things that I am curious about your response to are:

1) you don't "have" to print the electronic PDF we deliver each day, if you don't there is zero printing costs

2) we hope that something like your google reader starred items is so much more densely packed and timely information it makes the cost difference from the more generic local or weekly magazine less relevant.

Again thanks so much for using the service

03 December, 2008 19:41  
Blogger Bill Harris said...

David, thanks for dropping by. I hope you saw my follow-up comment as well as the main post; it's already helping me.

I agree that I don't have to print it; if I had to ride a bus to work everyday, I can see it as a great way to have my own densely-packed news to read while I'm riding.

I do think one can really structure Tabbloid well and pack it full of information. I'd like to turn Die Zeit, manager magazin, the NY Times, Der Spiegel, and a few others into one world-awareness newspaper for me. I'll have to see if that would generate a 150 page daily download or if they post amounts at a rate I can consume.

It's a cool innovation. Thanks!

03 December, 2008 20:11  

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