/ 25 January 2009

Newspaper to bring blogs into the real world

Who says print is dead?

A Chicago-based start up is hoping to both revitalise and revolutionise the newspaper by reprinting blogs in hyper-localised free papers that offer business the same kind of targeted – and cheap – ads found online.

The Printed Blog hits the streets of Chicago and San Francisco on Tuesday and will be launched in New York within the next month.

“What we’re trying to do is apply some of the principals that have worked online in aggregators to the newspaper industry and see if it works,” said founder Joshua Karp, who has a background in management consulting.

Print runs of just 1 000 issues will allow the paper to be tailored to specific neighbourhoods — which Karp envisions could one day result in as many as 50 to 100 different editions in large cities — and users will be able to vote on what type of content they want.

The paper will be focused on “your physical social network as opposed to your online social network”, Karp said.

“It’s a different idea than the one size fits all you get with the [free daily] Red Eye or Chicago Tribune.”

The venture comes at a time when daily newspapers across the United States are slashing staff and budgets and struggling to compete with the online advertising market.

The respected Christian Science Monitor was forced to abandon print distribution and has become an online-only publication and the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week joined the Tribune company — which owns the LA Times and Chicago Tribune among other titles — in seeking bankruptcy protection.

“I really hope the print newspaper doesn’t go away,” said Karp. “I for one appreciate the physical nature of it — you shuffle it on the train and ink rubs off on your fingers. It’s not the same experience as a screen.”

The Printed Blog has a significant advantage over traditional newspapers in terms of cost structure: the content is provided in exchange for a share of advertising revenue as opposed to a journalist’s salary or the kinds of fees paid to professional freelancers.

There will be no editing, and Karp is hoping to automate layout and distribute the paper through local franchisees who publish the editions on an $8 000 printer in their homes.

Ads will cost just $15 to $25 and the small, localised print runs will allow local businesses like clothing boutiques and restaurants reach a specific target audience.

“This will be the first time we’ve advertised in an offline media in any shape or form,” said John McCaw, who runs Directory of Schools, a website which helps users access online education and degrees.

‘The audience in the area where the Printed Blog is being distributed tends to be a good fit for the type of demographic that uses our service.”

Karp hopes to soon publish the blog twice a day to reach commuters on their way to and from work.

He’s had no trouble finding the content to fill the three double-sided pages.

“There is a phenomenal amount of remarkably well written blogs out there,” Karp said.

Chris O’Shea is one of the bloggers who have signed on to provide content. He currently works as a full-time journalist writing about advertising for a trade publication in New York but dreams of being able to eventually become a full-time blogger.

“I decided to contribute because I think it’s a great idea — offering blogs to a different set of people, like someone getting off a train, opens up a whole new audience,” O’Shea said.

“As bloggers you always want more exposure.” – AFP