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Printed Newspapers

flitzThe world is shrinking with the Internet, and what was once considered state of the art only a few years ago (i.e. satellite communications) is now almost commonplace no matter where you are in the world – on land or at sea. One would be hard pressed to find a boat of any significant size today without some form of high speed internet. Today modest fishing vessels, tug boats, container ships and yachts which sail in European waters can receive affordable high speed internet access via a television antenna from Wired Ocean, while luxury cruise ships and super yachts who choose to invest in more sophisticated solutions select providers like Great Circle Systems or E3 System for their VSAT satellite communications systems.

But whatever it is…from basic cellular service to sophisticated satellite systems, there is a high speed solution built for every boat and every budget.

Given that connectivity issues seem to have been solved for quite some time now, it’s hard to believe that something as simple as a printed newspaper, which is taken for granted by millions of people everyday, has been so difficult to attain by even some of the richest people in the world.

Let’s take a look what some yacht owners have done (or made their captains and crew do) to get their “must have” daily newspaper fix for themselves or their guests…

According to Roger Horner, Group Managing Director, E3 Group, it is not atypical to see an owner spend thousands of dollars to get a current edition of a favorite newspaper on his/her yacht.  “I remember a captain of a super yacht telling me about his owner wanting a copy of an English language newspaper (I believe it was The Times).  So the captain sent out some crew members in tenders to Saint Tropez to try and find the paper.  They spread out using taxis and scoured for the newspaper on shore but to no avail.  So then the captain sailed to Monaco to see if they could find the newspaper there – no luck.  Finally in desperation the owner sent his helicopter out and finally found it - $8,000 dollars later!”

And as they do so well in the world of the rich and famous…let’s “one up” this story…

A captain of a yacht sailing up near Alaska was telling Craig Tafoya (former captain of Limitless, now owner of Penumbra Marine Logistics), that when his owner wanted her favorite newspaper, she just sent her private jet to fly to California to pick it up for her.  “Of course, her jet couldn’t land anywhere near her yacht,” chuckled Craig, “So she had to spend even more money and hire a float plane to fly the paper from where her jet landed in Alaska to her yacht.”

The stories go on and on…from making deck hands sit out at an airport for hours waiting for the planes to come in that carried yesterday’s newspapers to owners being so desperate to get their WSJ or NYT that they’d send out a crew member to drive around an island or port city for hours looking for the paper.  “It’s like they think newspapers grow on palm trees”, shared Sven Harder of NewspaperDirect Antigua.

“On Limitless, with all the latest and greatest equipment and technology I put into her, I still had to send a crew member ashore in the tender to find a real newspaper. Sometimes it was a day old, sometime only the local paper from the island or town, and sometimes in a language unfamiliar to the owner.”

Craig Tafoya, Penumbra Marine Logistics

 “I worked on a boat where all the news came by fax over the satellite, said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , COO, Director of Sales of Great Circle Systems. “A 60-70 page fax took more than an hour to download and cost a few thousand dollars.  But, that could equate to hundreds of millions of dollars in a deal, so it was worth it to the owner.”

A few years ago at the Monaco Yacht Show, E3 Group had a stand set up in the conference centre. “Typically these trade show booths are pretty boring with computer screens, electronic equipment and people talking shop”, said Roger Horner.  “But this show was different.  We decided to print newspapers in the booth.  Well…the stand became alive!  We ended up printing newspapers from all over the world and handing them out all around the trade show floor and even delivered them out to some yachts.   Then a yacht owner’s wife came to our booth (a first for us).  She had discovered what we were doing and she was so excited, she said, ‘Let me go and get my husband’, and off she went.  The next thing you know, we have her multi-billionaire husband in our stand wanting to know more about how to get newspapers printed on his yacht.   It was quite an eye-opener for us.”

But this story gets even better…

At the same show, an Australian hostess from one of the yachts at the show who had been working in the industry for many years in the States and Europe saw a copy of The Age in the E3 Group booth and became very excited. “For years, I’ve been looking for this paper everywhere in my travels and I have never been able to find it.”, she exclaimed. “Can I please buy this from you?”  “No go ahead,” Roger said “Just take it…it’s yours.”   She took the paper, looked at it in her hands and then she just burst into tears, clutching it to her chest. Roger was speechless. “It was just so extraordinary. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

Today dozens of yachts around the world have discovered that full content newspapers are available to them on board, on demand, and now the capability is quickly becoming a demanded amenity in the charter business.  Tafoya goes so far as to assert, “I believe getting their favorite newspapers on board is now influencing people’s decision on which boat to charter. It’s just like ZeroSpeed™ stabilizers – those boats are always chartered before boats that don’t have it.  I see a print-on-demand newspaper service in the same category – its make boats more charter-able.”

Capt. Heinz Krodel of Zoom Zoom Zoom agrees. ”All our guests love it and they are pleasantly surprised when we present them with their favorite newspaper with their first breakfast on board.  It is a very nice addition to the service we provide for our owner and our charter guests and we wouldn't want to be without it.”

“I remember when we had to send someone ashore for hours trying to find newspapers for our guests, and they would often come back empty handed. This would result in some pretty irate guests.”  shared Sarah Kynoch, Chief Mate of M/Y Charisma. “Now my life is a whole lot easier!  The owners think it’s absolutely fantastic and our guests are very happy getting their favorite paper delivered with breakfast.”

So those who have it, love it, but then why do only a handful of the top 100 yachts in the world have the service onboard even though all of them have VSAT systems just waiting to be used?  According to Kahlich, “In the super yacht industry, owners are extremely private, and it is very difficult to inform them of new products because they have buffers to protect them from unwanted solicitation.  If they knew about print-on-demand, they would no doubt want it, but they just don’t know it exists. I believe the best way to inform owners is through their captains.”

Tafoya takes a different approach.  He sends out samples to the owners he knows personally from his many years in the business.  “You know, they are really amazed seeing all the ads and funnies in the paper just like at home.” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m not convinced the captains will be quick to recommend the service to their owners”.   Tafoya believes that some captains may be worried that it will add to their already busy day, which is a shame because Tafoya also recommends print-on-demand newspapers as a great service for the captains themselves.  “Captains often have to sail into weird and even dangerous areas.  Having the newspaper available to a captain even before it hits the news stands can help alert them about potential dangers (e.g. riots, terrorism) and assist them in making more informed decisions about whether to enter a port.”

Captain Krodel brings his perspective to this debate, “I brought the service onboard Zoom a couple of years ago and the owner loved it.  He now has it on both of his yachts.  What I like is that it is very easy to use and takes no time at all.  When I get up in the morning I know what my guests want to read and so I just click to download the papers they like, print them out and staple them.  It takes maybe 5-10 minutes - absolutely not a problem whatsoever.”

For many agents, reaching the elusive owners is a real issue, but word-of-mouth marketing (AKA “showing off”) is starting to work among this elite group.

Sven Harder of NewspaperDirect Antigua, a previous captain of large private yachts himself, recalls how he recently sold print-on-demand to the owner of a very large sailing yacht after the owner had been shown the service by another owner who already had it on board.  “Once he saw it, he just had to have it,” said Harder. “In fact, he demanded it.”

And even within families, sometimes they can’t contain themselves…

We know of an owner from New Zealand who called his wife from his yacht in Fort Lauderdale to brag that he had their local paper before she did back home.  He was so excited that he forgot it was 3 AM for her.  Needless to say, his wife did not share his enthusiasm.” laughed Horner.

And what about the cost?  “For around $400 a month, owners can access over 1,400 current editions of newspapers every day, no matter where they are in the world,” alleged Horner.  “It’s a real bargain, particularly for yachts which already have VSAT installed.”

And according to Victor Barendse of Wired Ocean, “Some owners, who balk at 200 euros per month for internet access, swear by it, downloading 40 or 50 megabytes of newspapers every day.”

One very real issue, however, is space for the printer (which is hard to believe given the size of these vessels).  “It’s quite amazing that with all the space on board, there is no room for a printer.” said Harder. “Yacht management companies need to be made aware of this service and start designing boats with room for a printer. It sounds so simple, but I’ve seen brand new 75 meter yachts where there was just no room.”

When asked what the most popular papers are, the answers were very similar.  The favorite North American papers tend to be the WSJ, NYT and USA Today. Europeans like Le Monde, The Times, Daily Mail and Herald Tribune.  Russian papers are also popular in many parts of the world as well as Arab newspapers (just remember to staple the right side, right Roger? J).