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Paper Does Make All the Difference

How niiu manages to turn the traditional concept of newspaper publishing upside down

The younger generation still takes to newspaper reading—notwithstanding all expert prognostications. Witness the two Berlin entrepreneurs Wanja Oberhof and Hendrik Tiedemann, who, since November, 2009, have been making a splash with their innovative daily niiu—as of this reporting still limited to Berlin, yet rapidly garnering readership. Prospects are excellent. The concept will also be introduced in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne or Munich in the near future, giving potential readers the opportunity to enjoy a personally edited newspaper. By Andrea Bötel

Primary goal: capture advertising revenue
The overriding challenge for niiu consists in offering potential advertisers a hitherto nonexistent platform catering to sharply defined target groups. Some advertisers have already signed on; BMW is one to have placed ads in all special niiu editions on the occasion of the “Berlinade” film festival. Others are waiting in the wings—the unusual project appears to slowly gather momentum.

And there is an added twist: “niiu” offers the opportunity to advertise selectively. During the Berlinade, BMW had initiated a campaign to woo readers by addressing them with their own names. In addition, target groups can be filtered, pinpointing male or female readers. A fitness drink producer uses the feature to push special drinks appealing to one gender or the other. Home addresses are indicative of a reader’s social standing, volunteers Wanja Sören Oberhof, making possible custom-designed campaigns covering the entire spectrum, from “middleclass values” all the way to “hipsters”.

Retail chains like Saturn or Mediamarkt also conduct target group-specific searches by canvassing home addresses, primarily for the marketing of either “premium” or “budget” merchandise. Depending on income level, a brand-name “Miele’ washing machine or “no-name” special is featured. “The touchy part in all of this, though, are the data protection regulations”, Oberhof is quick to caution, but emphasises that no personal data are disseminated or leaked.

Courage and Enthusiasm Spells Success
A few years have passed between the original idea and the paper’s first edition. Even though some found the idea to be nothing short of crazy, Oberhof and Tiedemann went on to strike a chord with advertisers, publishers and their own target group, i.e., the young, web-conversant generation. “With niiu, we are addressing a young, upward-mobile target group which hardly will take out newspaper subscriptions. It was one of the reasons why publishers like “The New York Times”, “Bild”, “Berliner Morgenpost”, “Handelsblatt” or “The Wshington Post”, to name some, agreed to make content available to us,” reveals Wanja Sören Oberhof.

For the right to “repeat publish” content, InterTi GmbH pays the publishers a license fee. In addition, each reader can compile content gleaned from various online portals or blogs. The goal is to combine content from the web and the printed media into a digitally produced daily. A crucial factor is paper stock as the medium of distribution. “Our market analyses confirm that a majority of young people like to read text printed on paper and 60 percent of people between the ages of 20 and 30 pick up a newspaper several times a week”, says Hendrik Tiedemann.

Wanja Sören Oberhof is equally convinced of old-fashioned newsprint’s virtues. In the long term, paper will remain the most convenient and practical carrier. Most readers are pleasantly surprised to have mailed to them desired content printed on paper. “Paper does make all the difference relative to standard newsletters, Kindle or iPad”, Tiedemann reports. Which is not to say that other channels of communication should be neglected.

“Paper does make all the difference relative to standard newsletters, Kindle or iPad”
Hendrik Tiedemann

Wanja Sören Oberhof / Hendrik Tiedemann

Were determined at an early stage to become entrepreneurs: Wanja Sören Oberhof (l.) and Hendrik Tiedemann (r.)

“Niiu” has a great ring to it, its phonetic association with the English “new” is obvious and besides, the domain was still available—three compelling reasons favouring the moniker niiu, as chosen by the young Berlin entrepreneurs Wanja Sören Oberhof (23) and Hendrik Tiedemann (27) for their masthead. The two upstarts, as co-equals splitting the duties of managing director at InterTi GmbH—founded by Hendrik Tiedemann in 2003—bring a ton of imagination and creativity to the job.

Early on in his college days, Tiedemann already had shown an unbridled enthusiasm for business models based on so-called “audience targeting”, to be vigorously supported by narrowly focused advertising directed at given target groups. The venture’s seed capital, incidentally, had been made earlier by him when working as a real estate broker. “The concept is already pretty effective on the web, but has not yet been seriously tried in the print media, especially with dailies”, according to Tiedemann. Neither himself nor Oberhof have any publishing or journalistic experience, which the two young business people see nonetheless as a plus for themselves.

The ambitious project was launched in November, 2009 with the first individualised niiu’s delivered in Berlin. Over 1,000 subscriptions are said to have been sold already, with a total of 5,000 envisaged by April, 2010. Wanja Sören Oberhof will not yet discuss “break-even”, but is nevertheless upbeat. “As of today, we have invested in the low seven figures and will complete the first stage with our 5,000th subscriber”, he explains. Two years down the road, the project should hopefully start turning a profit.

Berlinale: niiu and BMW

Together with BMW as marketing partner at the creative end, there are new opportunities opening up with niiud for individualised advertising spot promotion.

 
© Messe Düsseldorf printed by www.drupa.de