Posted on February 20th, 2010 No comments
Yesterday, we announced our second media partner: an innovative newspaper in Lima, Perú called La República. Our press release explains who they are, how they’ll be using Printcasting and why we chose them. But the bottom line is that it really came down to good philosophical alignment between our organizations, and the potential for true collaboration that benefits both parties.
For some time now, we’ve seen a steady trickle of users from other countries. A common thread in many of them has been Spanish, and we’ve been asked repeatedly when we would offer a Spanish-language version. This makes sense even in the United States, which has at least 30 million Spanish speakers, and even moreso for the global population of 300 million Spanish speakers. So La República’s offer to translate everything caught our eye.
But in addition to that, La República has a very good site built on Drupal, which is the same platform we use for Printcasting. As we got to talking more with La República and actually met their developers (who are excellent), we realized that there was the potential for joint development.
As we get closer to releasing Printcasting under an open source license (which will happen in June), we feel it’s more and more important to get the Printcasting code to a point where other developers can just jump in and customize it to their liking. La República will help make sure that’s the case long before our open source date. And in case you’re wondering, any change they make to the code will also be open sourced — so everyone will benefit from what they do.
We’ve also learned from other partnerships that existing organizations really aren’t that interested in pointing to the Printcasting network, or to any external Web site. La República is no exception. They and others see Printcasting.com as a demo site for tools they can deploy directly on their own domains.
While that’s different from what we originally intended for Printcasting.com, it actually makes a lot of sense to us. In the long term we plan to offer such customization services, but we haven’t been allowed to do that while working from non-profit grant funds. Based on how U.S. tax laws work, our grant money can’t be used to economically benefit only one organization. (That also goes for grantee The Bakersfield Californian, which to date has not made one penny off Printcasting for the same reason).
However, things changed when La República said it could contribute something back to the project. By providing real value through custom coding and translations which will be part of the open-source project, they started to look more like a grantee. They’ll initially be putting a lot more into the project than they get out of it, and they’re fine with that.
I also know for a fact that La República isn’t that interested in making tons of money off ads in Printcasts between now and June, when our Knight News Challenge grant ends. They see it simply as a way of empowering citizens. The independently-owned La República has a history of supporting citizen engagement, and a whole lot of cool plans for how to use the Internet to empower Peruvians. It was a staunch opponent of the dictatorship of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori after his coup in 1992, and has been an important defender of freedom of speech and democracy at a time when most other local media was controlled by the Peruvian government.
They see Printcasting in that light. When we asked La República’s director Gustavo Mohme how he’d use Printcasting locally, his first inclination was to use it to encourage readers to create and distribute magazines that put pressure on corrupt Peruvian politicians.
I find this mindset refreshing at a time when most U.S. newspapers are more preoccupied with shoring up their bottom lines than in defending democracy and free speech. I mean, we all know that the economics that historically supported journalism are eroding. Everyone, including me, is thinking about new business models. But if you’re a journalist, be honest. Did you enter journalism because you thought it would make you a lot of money or because you wanted to sell ads? No? I thought so. Yes, we need to figure out how to support journalism and journalists, but the “supporting” part means nothing if we don’t stay focused on the reason it needs to be supported.
After spending an afternoon with various people at La República, which I got to visit on my way back from Argentina, I came away feeling empowered myself and remembered what it was that attracted me to the journalism field in the first place. In general, I get the sense that Latin American newspapers haven’t forgotten why they exist because they can’t afford to. At any given moment, a corrupt government can step in and threaten their existence.
So this gets to the really exciting part of this partnership, and Latin America in general. I’ve been fortunate in the last year to get to visit both Costa Rica (where I spoke at newspaper trade group Grupo de Diarios de América) and Argentina (for the Inter-American Press Association). What I’ve learned is that the digital and economic divides in Latin America make it the perfect testing ground for Printcasting, which is a true bridge between the digital and physical worlds.
Average Internet penetration in South America is around 33% versus 73% in North America, and those who do access the Internet for personal reasons often do so from Internet cafes or mobile phones. While 75% of the people in Latin America live in urban areas, the 25% in smaller towns are often out of
luck when it comes to information. They often don’t have newspapers available for a simple reason: the delivery trucks can’t reach them every day. And for the same reason, newspapers can’t invest much in hyperlocal coverage for these areas.
I don’t know exactly how La República will use Printcasting, and as a partner I can’t really tell them what to do, nor would I want to. But I have a feeling that Printcasting could be a way for Latin American newspapers to reach that lost quarter of the population in a new way. Instead of investing in hundreds of expensive trucks and fuel, they could enlist the help of thousands of citizen bloggers who have home printers. It can be a vehicle for both getting important journalism out to the people who need it most, in addition to helping them tell their own local stories.
This is why our announcement is about not just one partnership, but a general expansion south. Regardless of what we do in the U.S. (and don’t worry, we have some cool stuff ahead for El Norte), we feel that working with Latin America will help us in ways we never envisioned. And we’ll get something back: the ability to reach out to Spanish-speakers right here in our own borders.
Posted on February 4th, 2010 No comments
We’ve been busy working on a new version of Printcasting.com with completely new templates that give your publications more polish, while also giving you more control over design and layout. It all launched this morning, so jump in and give it a try.
This is just the first of two major upgrades, with much more to come in Printcasting 2.0 in the coming weeks. You can read more about our release schedule and future plans on PBS MediaShift Idea Lab.
Here’s what you have to do to take advantage of the new templates and functionality, depending on which publishing mode you use.
- If you publish each edition manually …
- Sign in and go to the My Publications tab, then click the Publish New Edition button next to your publication. That’s it! You’ll see the new features immediately.
- If you set up your publication to publish automatically …
- Sign in and go to the My Publications tab, then click the Edit Settings link under your publication. Check the box next to Create Each Edition Myself and and then click Save Changes. When the screen refreshes, click the Publish New Edition button next to your publication.
There are a lot of improvements in the new interface of the Edition Builder, some of which you can see in this video and in the screen shots below. Here are some of the juicier ones:
- Live Previews as you Edit: The Edition Builder now doubles as a live preview of your magazine. It updates the preview right on the same screen as you add stories and change layout options.
- Cool New Header Design Options: The header tool has some new options that make you look like a pro without having to be a design wiz.
Add transparent overlays to make otherwise average photos look like professional design elements, change font colors and more.
- Granular Layout Control: You can change the layout for text and photos for every story.
Want three columns instead of two? Want your photo to appear at the upper right instead of the left? Just choose a sub-template layout and see everything move into place.
- Add and Crop Photos to Appear in Stories: You can now upload a photo from your hard drive to appear in any story spot, and even fill in the entire space with a photo instead of text (great for charts!) A slider lets you to position and crop it in seconds.
- Instant PDF Preview Download: At any time, you can download a preview of your PDF (marked “Preview”) so you’ll know exactly how it will look when you publish.
We hope you’ll give the new features a try and let us know if you have any questions or feedback. You can e-mail us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org and a real, live human being will get back to you within 24 hours.