Inspiration: The Secret Sauce for Printcasting

    by Mary Lou Fulton
    December 9, 2008

    We’re underway with alpha testing for Printcasting, our Knight News Challenge-funded project at The Bakersfield Californian. It’s great to see everything coming together! The alpha period will give us feedback on how well we’ve done in presenting the basic functionality of the product. But even if every single thing about Printcasting is perfect, that won’t mean it will be embraced. The secret sauce for all online self-expression is inspiration — why would you want to become a Printcaster, anyway?

    Getting people to try a new online product is an uphill battle, given how many web sites and social media tools are competing for our attention. To improve your odds, you need to have a clear idea of who you think will use your product and why. Printcasting is a complicated product because it aims to “unbundle” a number of roles that exist in traditional media. So in order to be successful, we need to attract multiple audiences, each with a different motivation.

    The first people we’ll pursue are what we call the Contributors. These are the people and organizations that create original content in the community on their blogs and web sites. We want them to put their content in the “hopper” for use in Printcasts that will be dreamed up by local Publishers (more on this in a minute). Because the Printcasting model aims to share revenue with Contributors whose content powers successful Printcasts, one obvious motivation is money. We also hope the financial motivation will help to improve the quality of content. The Printcasts with the best, most interesting content will attract the greatest audience, so the better your content is, the more likely you are to profit from it.


    Of course, Contributors are not solely motivated by money. We’re excited about the idea of getting community organizations and schools involved in Printcasting. While I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down the revenue, they also want to keep the larger community informed about what they are doing. They want distribution, and Printcasting can help them get into the local information ecosystem in a new way. To get the word out, we’ll be doing lots of presentations in the community – to schools, nonprofits, churches, volunteer organizations – and explain the benefits of being part of Printcasting.

    The next group we’ll target are Publishers. These are people with a Big Idea for a new local publication. Their motivation is both creative and financial. They will pore over the content from Contributors, selecting topics and articles that fit the theme of their Printcast. Once they have selected the content and template, all the articles and pictures will automatically be turned into a PDF, suitable for online distribution or printed out for physical distribution. If they want their Printcasts to be successful, Publishers will need to think about their own marketing plan. Who would be interested in their publication? How will they recruit subscribers, and where are the best locations for physical distribution?

    Last but certainly not least, we will target Advertisers, specifically smaller businesses that have a targeted customer base. We’ll provide them with an easy, low-tech way to create an ad online, and make the pricing simple and affordable, say $5 or $10 per ad at the start. They can select one or more Printcasts and be good to go. Their motivation is the easiest of all – they want customers! They want the phone to ring, or the customer to walk through their door, or a purchase to be made from their web site. The difficulty here is in getting the word out to them, because small business owners are notoriously busy and usually focused on serving their customers rather than thinking about marketing. So we will work through established business organizations in the community – our Small Business Development Center, local chambers of commerce and other networking groups — to tell them about this opportunity and offer hands-on training in how to get started.


    OK, so let’s put this all together. Say that I am a would-be entrepreneur who is attending a training class at our local Small Business Development Center. As part of the marketing section of that class, I hear a presentation about a new local marketing opportunity called Printcasting. I love Mexican food, and after this presentation I’m inspired to look into creating a Printcast for all the people who love Mexican food in Bakersfield (and there are a lot of us!)

    I go to the Printcasting site and I choose Food as the topic for my Printcast, which I call the Taquito Times. I find several Contributors whose content would be a great fit. I come across a local cook who blogs about her Mexican recipes. She heard about Printcasting through a presentation at her church. I find reviews of local Mexican restaurants first posted on Bakersfield.com. I encounter a blogger whose passion in life is trying every single chile verde dish served at a Bakersfield restaurant. And I have a few things to say about Mexican food myself, so I include my own blog in the mix, too. So far, so good.

    I publish the Taquito Times and start getting the word out to my friends. I also print out a few copies of it and ask if I can leave them at my favorite Mexican restaurants, where they know me and are glad to do me this favor since I eat there all the time. A few weeks later, as I am refreshing the content in my Printcast, I see that two advertisers have created coupons that would like to have included. Of course, the dollars are small, but every new business has to start somewhere. And now that I have a little traction on this, I’m thinking of starting another Printcast about Thai food called the Curry Chronicles.

    That’s how it all gets going. But it takes good old-fashioned community outreach — dare I say community organizing? — to paint the picture of all the possibilities and inspire others to become a part of it.

    Tagged: community printcasting promotion publishers
    • robin

      while i find this interesting, i also find it troubling. What’s to keep a printcaster from just stealing web content, printing it, and making money on other people’s content?

      also, doesn’t this just perpetuate paper waste?

    • For the entrepreneur and publisher piece, you might explore local printers.

      Especially the smaller ones. Reason one is that they are right now looking for new revenue streams. It’s not about making more money, it’s about the fear of losing what they have. Always a better motivation for change.

      The other thing is that they can print hard copy for distribution at essentially no cost. Plus they might well view Printcasting as a marketing tool for themselves.

    • Mary Lou Fulton

      Hi Robin and thanks for your comment.

      With Printcasting, we are dealing with the issue content use by requiring the owner of the content to give permission before their posts can be included in a Printcast. If a blog feed isn’t registered on Printcasting.com, then it can’t be used in a Printcast. There are always a few cheaters out there, of course, but we plan to police things very closely to keep that to a minimum.

      Better yet, there is a revenue share for people who contribute content that ends up being used in a Printcast that makes money. We hope that will be an incentive for bloggers and other writers to become part of Printcasting.

      Regarding paper waste, Printcasts can be viewed online or printed out. It’s up to you.

      Mary Lou

    • Mary Lou Fulton

      Michael, great idea about local printers!

      We hope all kinds of local businesses will take advantage of Printcasting because they are local experts. Business owners can keep in touch with customers and share their knowledge via Printcasts. Great marketing tool for them.

    • Thanks Mary Lou,

      I think that it’s a natural for local business. The problem for most of the them is that mostly they don’t have the time. no doubt some will, but that won’t scale. On the other hand, for printers, graphic designers and writers, who are trying to get a gig while the job market settles out, I think it’s a natural.

      it’s sort of like the stores that grew up doing ebay transactions for people. They could do it themselves, but don’t have the time.

      My bet is that Printcasting could go down the same path. The thing is that if ytou concentrate in your locality on getting printers, designers and writers invovled by face to face meet ups, I think this might be ready to pop when it comes out of beta.

      My 2 cents.

    • Hi everyone,

      I’m the product lead for Printcasting. These are great questions, and Mary Lou pretty much nailed them. A couple of additional points:

      – Robin: in addition to requiring bloggers to register as content providers, every piece of content will have a violation-reporting link on it so that anyone (the content owner, or someone who suspects content stealing) can report it. We will investigate every one of those claims. In fact, we will be legally required to do so. This is how we and many other community sites currently moderated user contributed content. It’s the reason sites like YouTube are allowed to exist. Yes, a small percentage of people publish content they don’t own, but they are usually quickly reported and the content is removed. Most people, however, are decent and they adhere to the rules. This is even more true when you’re working with local community content.

      – Michael: we’re also developing a VERY simple self-serve advertising tool that makes it easier and cheaper than ever for local businesses to advertise their stuff. It will take only 5 minutes for them to publish and pay for targeted ads. We’re still fine-tuning the ad tool, but it will be alpha tested soon. I may post some screen shots and videos of it soon because it’s coming together very well.

      I think some local businesses will create Printcasts (some, like realtors, already do), but it’s not something the majority will do. That’s fine — they’ll have the quick and dirty five-minute ad tool.

      I encourage you both to register to participate in the just-launched Printcasting alpha test. More on that here: http://tinyurl.com/5kva85
      We have about 20 testers so far, but have room for more. You both have great ideas and we’d love to get your feedback. -Dan

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