The UK newspaper The Guardian is launching a print edition in the US today, only they won't be assigning any staff to write or edit it. Rather than create a new publication, The Guardian is building on one of their digital products and crafting a new print edition which will be distributed to U.S. media and ad agency offices.
The new print edition is called #Open001, and the articles in each issue will be selected algorithmically. Proprietary algorithms will sort through articles recently published in The Guardian's online edition and find the more popular stories. Only the longer content is included, and the articles are chosen based on based on social media metrics like the number of Facebook shares, tweets, and comments discussing the article.
This is at least The Guardian's second experiment with algorithmically-driven content, and like the first experiment it is based on the work of former The Guardian developer Dan Catt. Several years ago Catt started an online project similar in concept to Longform or Longreads:
The idea was to harvest the paper’s feature pieces and longer stories into a stream of articles best meant for RSS or a read-it-later queue. These were the stories that lent themselves to dedicated reading time, that quiet moment after work or a lazy Saturday morning.
Catt built an algorithm that scans The Guardian’s API, stripping away blog posts, multimedia, and other pieces in favor of articles over a certain length. ...
His work was later expanded into The Long Good Read, a weekly 24-page tabloid newspaper that is printed by a London startup called The Newspaper Club and distributed for free every Monday morning at Guardian Coffee.
I myself first learned of The Long Good Read via The Newspaper Club, which is a POD newspaper printing service (how cool is that?).
It's not quite true to say that there are no humans working on #Open001; The Long Good Read has at least one editor culling the articles, and I would expect that the US edition has at a minimum the same amount of oversight. But aside from that single editor, much of the process is handled automatically - just like WordPress runs this website for me.
The Newspaper Club has developed a platform called ARTHR which is designed to accept articles and automatically format them for publication in a print edition of a newspaper, which are then printed in short production runs and shipped all over the world.
When The Newspaper Club started 5 years ago, the minimum production run was 1,000 copies. They have improved their platform to the point that they can produce a single copy. It's pretty expensive, but it can be done.
#Open001 is expected to have a print run of around 5,000, and it is more of a marketing gimmick than a newspaper:
Gennady Kolker, spokesman for the Guardian in the U.S., said it’s more a way to introduce the Guardian’s content to the U.S. media community. “We’re on mobile, on tablets and online in the U.S. This is a way to get people to lean back and enjoy the long-form content,” he said. “Some of our stories are more conducive to that print feel. It’s a way to show that audience, here’s what Guardian content is.”