In the roughly 14 years that I’ve been in the online industry, I’ve learned that it’s really easy to focus so much on what you’re going to build that you can easily forget about why you’re building it and who’s going to use it. The key questions to constantly remind yourself of are:
- Who’s going to use what you build?
- How will it help them solve problems in their daily lives?
- How will they find out about your product, and what will keep them coming back?
This is especially easy to do with a project like Printcasting, which is simultaneously new and old and, thus, makes people geek out about the possibilities.
To save ourselves from that trap, we’re working on a list of target users that would make perfect Printcasting publishers. We’ll be using this not only to inform our marketing plans when we launch next March, but also to decide which publication templates to create. In the end, that’s the most important aspect of Printcasting. We’ll provide templates that make anyone look like a local media mogul.
Here’s what we have so far. What do you think of this list, and do you have ideas for other types of users we may have missed? We’d love to hear from you. Post your thoughts in a comment below.
Target Printcast Publishers
1. Individual Zine creators
I think of these as the terrestrial equivalent of bloggers. Long before the Internet, people used desktop publishing apps and home printers (and way before that, mimeographs, scissors and glue stick) to create funky little magazines that they’d place around town. And it’s interesting to see that Zines are still out there, although many also now have Web sites.
For that reason, I think the most obvious Zine publishers are bloggers themselves. After submitting a feed that others can use for their publications, we want every blogger to also have a little widget that displays the latest Printcast edition of their content. If you break this down further, we could create magazine templates about common interests, such as:
- Various sports
- Other niche interests
2. Neighborhood News
We all lament about how our societies are more disconnected and that we don’t know our neighbors. And it’s not like people aren’t trying. Just because you’re blogging or Twittering about local events doesn’t mean that local people are reading what you write.
The biggest surprise for me when I started focusing on “hyperlocal” citizen media in Bakersfield is that we had to print and distribute flyers to promote our Web sites — even a youth-oriented site like Bakotopia.com. If you imagine a stack of flyers with more information on them which came from a collection of local bloggers, it starts to look like a neighborhood newsletter which could be easily printed and distributed around the block.
In all the hysteria about “user contributed content” in recent years, it’s good to remember that artists have been creating their own content for millennia, and usually in a physical medium. Those same people are now using Facebook, blogs and other services to talk about their work and meet up with other people liek them, but the fundamental way they pursue their art has not changed. They still express themselves in physical space. For that reason, I think artists will respond well to the idea of using automatically updated printable magazines as a way to promote — and even distribute — their art locally. Print translates their message back into the physical space where their art lives.
Here are a few examples of types of artists who I think would be ideal Printcasting publishers:
- Writers publishing their work, or that of others
- Musicians. (Don’t assume that music isn’t physical. We sell CDs of local music in Bakersfield that is freely available on Bakotopia.com because people also like to have the CD, CD jacket, etc.)
- Sculptors, painters, weavers, etc.
3. Community organizations
We’ve been talking a lot about organizations in Bakersfield, primarily because there are so many of them and we have done so little for them compared to other audiences. Our local Bakersfield news site, Bakersfield.com, has a list of community organizations at http://bakersfield.org. If you look through the list, you’ll see that they run the gamut from groups for children and young adults, to activity clubs for people of various ages and interests, services, and lots of health-oriented groups.
After just a little research, we’ve discovered that many organizations like this either have a newsletter that is a huge pain to produce (and thus comes out infrequently), or a Web site that’s out of date with a big old “Under Construction” graphic on it. And during an economic downturn, they don’t publish their newsletters at all.
We think organizations like this will love he idea of having an easy and cheap way to automatically generate newsletters that go to their members’ mailboxes — both in e-mail, and postal mail. And they’re open to letting local advertisers cover their printing costs as long as they have a way to control which advertisers appear.
4. Small businesses
Local businesses like bicycle shops, florists, lawyers and realtors seem like natural targets for creating magazines which present them as experts in a category. In fact, you probably already get some sort of publication in the mail from a realtor. Printcasting would make what’s already happening in this area even easier and less expensive.
Businesses are a unique category of publisher because they’re also the advertisers who will be financially supporting Printcasting. Perhaps every advertiser in the Printcasting network could automatically be given a Printcast themselves which they could easily update. But if they pay for ads in other peoples’ Printcasts, they shouldn’t have to pay for ads in their own. And should they be required to allow advertising from other businesses in their publications?
These are the sticky issues we’re just starting to explore. If you have thoughts about it, feel free to share them with the group here.
Finally, flyers are one of the oldest forms of publications around. We figure that if we can let people make entire magazines, printable flyers that let you promote an event or cause should be a piece of cake. They also present an intriguing potential seqeway into advertising. What type of advertising do you receive every day that’s essentially flyers tied to a delivery vehicle? Direct mail.
Those are the targets we’ve identified so far. What others can you think of? We want to hear from you. Post your ideas here!