Posted on March 17th, 2009 No comments
This entry was cross-posted on PBS MediaShift Idea Lab. You can read that version here.
This week we publicly launched Printcasting in Bakersfield, California. While our focus is on outreach to the 330,000 people who live there, anyone can now use the site to create an automatically updating, printable PDF magazine. I invite you all to give it a try at http://www.printcasting.com and let us know what you think. The more early usage we have the better. One easy way to get started is to browse through a list of recently updated Printcasts and subscribe to a few.
For those of you who haven’t followed the progress of our Knight News Challenge funded
project, the gist is that Printcasting lets anyone participate in niche magazine publishing, and if they do a good job they also stand to benefit from advertising revenue when we begin charging for self-serve ads. It’s an admittedly radical idea to come out of a newspaper at a time when many newspapers are cutting back or shutting their doors. As a result, we’re starting to attract media attention, with positive mentions in The Miami Herald and Business Week.
But that’s all talk. We’re launched, so now instead of telling you about it you can jump in and try it out. One fun way to do this is as a Printcasting subscriber. With the permission of Mark Glaser, we’ve set up a Printcast for this Idea Lab site. Check it out here:
And for members of the Printcasting Community site, here’s a widget that promotes a Printcast version of this blog:
The thumbnails above comes from a special blog widget that’s available for any Printcast. Click on it to flip through a facsimile of what the printed version will look like. To get a copy to print, click the Download link. And if you want to receive an e-mail whenever a new edition is available (which happens about once a day for the PBS Idea Lab blog), click “Subscribe” and provide your e-mail address.
It’s also really easy to get a blog widget to promote your own Printcast, or one that you like. Just find a Printcast in the directory (or your own), then click the “Share” link at the top of the page. Copy and paste the HTML code into your blog template, and your blog or Web site promotes a printable PDF version for those who may want to print it out or read offline. When a new edition is published the thumbnail and link will update automatically.
If you have more time you can create a Printcast using feeds people have already registered, including some very good ones from The Bakersfield Californian newspaper. To get your own site’s content into your Printcast or make it available for other Printcasts to carry, simply register your RSS feed. All of these tasks take only a few minutes.
You can also print a few copies yourself and leave them at local coffee shops, bars, your local library, or anywhere that people in your community may be looking for local information. That’s exactly how we plan to start local promotion of Printcasting in Bakersfield, starting out with the 3,600 blogs on the Californian’s eight social networking sites. In addition, those sites have more than 53,000 public user profiles, which is a good indication of active participants who may take 5 minutes out of their day to register a feed or set up a Printcast.
That’s how our outreach will begin, but as with all local products, traditional street marketing is what will make Printcasting a long-term success. Our marketing evangelist Tom Webster — armed with mouse pads and t-shirts — is already setting up meetings with places such as the Kern County Library, which after one demo offered to let us use their computers for community training. The library’s Web site also has RSS feed content, so we’re showing the librarians how they can automatically feed their online content into printable flyers that people can take with them. Tom is also planning a series of blogger brunches to get bloggers on board, and also collect feedback.
Just because our initial rollout is complete doesn’t mean that we’re finished with development, though. This week we’re testing out a feature we call “review and approve,” which is akin to the copy editor telling the publisher to give a publication one last edit before it goes to the presses, and we hope to launch that very soon. We’re also gearing up to work on something a journalism major like myself never expects to be involved in: integrating e-commerce payment into the ad tool. To be honest, this is something we’d hoped to have finished by now, but we intentionally put it off so that we could give the core product the focus it deserved before launch. (Since we planned to make ads free for the first few months anyway, this doesn’t hold us back at all and may even make local advertiser outreach easier — especially in this crazy economy.)
It’s been a big year, and a very big week. Thanks to all of you who have followed our progress and given us suggestions, feedback and moral support. Do us a favor and post a link to your Printcasts in a comment. And as always, let us know if you have any questions or need help.
Posted on March 9th, 2009 No comments
Printcasting is mentioned in a Business Week story about “online experiments that could help newspapers”. And the story leads with Bakotopia.com, the social networking site I started for The Bakersfield Californian back in 2005. This is fitting, as Bakotopia’s later success with a printed magazine helped inspired the Printcasting concept.
The story also cites other good examples of things newspaper companies are doing to change with the times, including collaboration with Outside.in and Yahoo and the upcoming Plastic Logic e-reader.
This is great timing for us, as we recently opened our beta site to the public and are putting the final pieces in place to publicly launch in Bakersfield later this month. Here are some excerpts worth mentioning:
“… the independent, family-owned Californian is preparing to take the idea of Web-created niche magazines national. Using an $837,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge and about $200,000 of its own money, it’s launching a site called Printcasting.com later in March. The site will allow individuals, schools, homeowners’ associations, wine clubs, and the like to create their own digital magazines. ‘If we see a magazine that really has potential, we’ll print it, place additional ads in there, and distribute it, [first in Bakersfield, then in five other cities as early as this summer],’ Pacheco says. The Californian will get a cut of ad sales while spending little on the product itself. ‘This is cheap and targeted,’ Pacheco explains. ‘Even though there’s an ad recession, it doesn’t mean there’re no more ads.’ ”
And later on …
“This reinvention is taking publishers such as Bakersfield Californian away from selling ads just for their own news content. ‘Our future may be very different from how we started, in newspapers,’ Pacheco says. ‘[Going forward], we are the network that allows people to communicate among themselves.’”
That accurately sums up what we’re trying to do with Printcasting. Thanks to senior writer Olga Kharif for good reporting.
Of course the real story will begin once we launch later this month and are able to point to how regular old people are using Printcasting to make their own magazines and newsletters. Our local outreach is already starting in beta, and I can tell that what people do with these tools will ultimately be far more interesting than the tools themselves. The same has been true of Bakotopia and other social-media initiatives — connecting with people and allowing them to connect with each other is what the user-generated content space is really about.
Posted on March 4th, 2009 No comments
I’m extremely proud to announce that Printcasting, our Knight News Challenge project, is finally in open beta. You can check it out at http://beta.printcasting.com. Or, click on the thumbnail on the right of my blog to see Danzine, the printable magazine version of Dan’s Diner.
We’re finishing up a few last features before we launch in Bakersfield (more on that here), but the rollout to early adopters has already begun with a post on Bakersfield.com by Tom Webster, the new “marketing evangelist” the site. Then later this month, we will “launch” — which simply means the URL changes to remove the “beta”, and heavier marketing begins.
As a Knight News Challenge project, Printcasting is focused on local news and information. For that reason, during the next few months most of our marketing efforts will focus on outreach to people who live in Bakersfield, with more to-be-determined cities rolling out in the future.
But as I’ve written about before, we have a lot of people following us from across the world (since I wrote that post a month ago, more than 100 more people have joined our Printcasting social network to bring its membership up to 325). So we invite anyone who has been following us to go to http://beta.printcasting.com and do any and all of the following: register your blog feeds, create Printcasts using your feeds (and those of others), and place self-serve ads. Then share your feedback by posting it online or sending an e-mail.
This is a really big milestone for a project that started over a year ago by me filling out a few forms on the Knight News Challenge site. Since then, we’ve gone through many iterations of PRDS, designs, prototypes, and now alpha and beta. Many people have made this possible and it’s hard to list them all, but I would like to specifically thank the following:
- The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Bakersfield Californian for giving us the funds and other support to make Printcasting happen.
- Mary Lou Fulton, my boss and long-time colleague and friend for encouraging us to submit our concept to the Knight News Challenge — and all of the great marketing and outreach ideas.
- Justinian Hatfield, for helping us fine-tune the proposal, and lending his image and likeness — as well as his camera and tripod — to a video we submitted with the proposal.
- Lead developer Ron Robinson for, well, turning Printcasting from a concept into a working tool … and then some!
- Designer Don Hajicek for design, Drupal consulting, camaraderie and wicked funny jokes that continue to keep everyone sane.
- The good people at Photon Infotech for ongoing development and testing in conjunction with Ron.
- Tom Webster, our brand spanking new marketing evangelist, for jumping into Printcasting with such fervor.
We are now on the verge of entering the next phase of our project: going out on the street to show how various individuals and organizations in Bakersfield can be citizen publishers. I’ll continue to post updates here, on Printcasting.com (which will change to Community.printcasting.com after we launch), and on PBS MediaShift Idea Lab. But it’s important to take a step back and be proud of what we’ve built. Ahh ….
OK now that that’s out of the way, back to the grindstone! The real hard work (and the most fun part) is just beginning.