The San Francisco Chronicle, published by Hearst Communications, on Thursday announced it would offer a daily audio edition of the paper through customized CDs and enhanced mobile devices, in a move to reach people during commute hours.
To do this, the publisher partnered with MobileSoft, an Atlanta, Ga.-based software developer, to create customized CDs. Subscribers can sign up to have news or columns of interest automatically downloaded to disc via the PC by 6:30 a.m. PDT, then transfer it to a car stereo.
The audio service is expected to launch at the beginning of November. Pricing has yet to be determined, but the company said in a statement that it will cost "pennies per week."
"It's an interesting technology, and we're excited to be the first to offer it," Chronicle President Steven B. Falk said.
"We see a possibility for added convenience for our subscribers, and perhaps another incentive for visitors to our popular Web site to become paid subscribers to the newspaper."
The move is aimed at preventing further declines in subscribers who prefer to read news and information online for free. Hobbled by a dramatic drop in advertising sales in the last two years, both print and online publishers are seeking to find alternate means to bolster subscription revenue. Many Web sites, including The Washington Post's online edition, are now requiring visitors to register before entering to offer improved intelligence for advertisers.
To be sure, publishers have tried and failed before in efforts to link news and information in ink to the digital world. In a multimillion-dollarwith RadioShack and technology provider DigitalConvergence, Forbes began printing small codes in advertisements and articles that linked readers to related information on the Web with the aid of a digital scanner. Other smaller newspapers followed suit, but ventures eventually fell flat.
Still, other publishers have found avenues to make it work. For example, The Wall Street Journal sells an audio version of its print publication via the Internet in a deal with Audible.com, which provides digital audio downloads of various programming. Subscribers can sign up for a free six-month trial, or pay about $13 a month, to receive automatic digital downloads of the newspaper?s morning briefings and popular columns by 6:30 a.m. EDT. People can listen to the programming from PCs, on rewritable CDs, or from mobile devices with software from Audible.
RealNetworks? RealOne media player also gives monthly subscribers access to news from the likes of ABC News.
The Chronicle's service will be similar to Audible.com's setup. Subscribers can automatically "sync" the news to MP3 players or personal digital assistants to listen on the go or view information in text form. People can also listen to news directly from the SFGate.com Web site.
For the service to work, people must own a CD rewritable drive, which the Chronicle plans to include in a subscription package.