Printcasting in BusinessWeek Story about Newspaper Innovation

    by Dan Pacheco
    March 9, 2009

    Printcasting is mentioned in a BusinessWeek story about “online experiments that could help newspapers”. 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.


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    • Kathryn

      I think this is an awesome marketing strategy to help out local businesses and help promote them. If a business is granted the printing of their magazine and other local businesses were made known of their success they are highly likely to help support a fellow community member by purchasing ad space that will target their local audience. Especially if ad space is made affordable, it is highly likely that there will be a strong response in support despite the recession.
      By promoting the use of printcasting by the broader population, this will inspire many people and owners of businesses to join in this effort. With the availability of printcasting people will be able to easily create their own digital magazines that can serve as advertising and marketing strategies for their company even if they don’t make physical print. In addition, Bakotopia may be able to sell additional online ad space to local businesses if they can simply get the URLs for local company’s magazines out into the community. The advantage of this digital magazine is that it can be updated quickly and easily, thus keeping information readily up-to-date and allow for businesses to keep customers informed to daily specials, weekly changes, or monthly promotional events. This endeavor allows both the digitally minded person as well as the print viewer to enjoy accesses to local businesses while boosting this economy that is in dire need of assistance.

    • Clay Christensen says there are three kinds of business models. One is the solution shop, the other is a value chain business, the third is the facilitated user network.

      His argument is that as the solution shop – the independent blogger? and networks of prosumesr?- move to value chain – input- transformation – output -the previous value chain businesses – move into facilitated user networks.

      I think that is what we are going to see with newspapers and the family owned Californian and the family owned Gazette Communications in Iowa are putting into place models that are both facilitated user networks.

      My bet is that it’s the end of the beginning of the great “what is the business model for newspapers” question.

    • Thanks to you both for your kind comments, and thoughts. This blog doesn’t offer a way to e-mail comments so I tend to miss them sometimes. Apologies!

      I agree that Printcasting will at least start to answer the question of what the future business model is for newspapers. However, I think it’s important to point out that saving the newspaper in its existing form is now what we’re trying to do. Printcasting itself is also not, as some have suggested, the “personalized newspaper.” Like citizen journalism, it’s something separate that newspapers (and really anyone) can use to aggregate new, local niche audiences in a way that also pays for itself.

      Newspapers can also participate in that. For example, we have talked at the Californian about creating and promoting a few Printcasts that contain niche content that may not be getting as much readership in the general-interest daily newspaper. When ads are eventually sold (they’re free at the moment), the paper will get some of that ad revenue. But if there’s not enough content in a particular week, we can pull some from the community and those contributors will receive some of the ad revenue in exchange.

      Here are a couple of examples of those types of Printcasts:

      1) Bako Sporting Times:
      (Sources: Sports feeds from The Bakersfield Californian and The Tehachapi News)

      2) Politicast:
      (Sources: Politics feeds from the Californian, and politics columnists)

      I think there’s significant opportunity for newspapers to use Printcasting to create their own niche publications, and also to more effectively monetize and pay for some of their niche content when it is used in other peoples’ publications. But that doesn’t mean that people who want the daily newspaper stop getting it, and it doesn’t make the existing daily newspaper better than it is. It’s really something different.

    • Hasheem

      This idea is right up my alley and sounds terrific. Having a method to help you explore something you read about in detail helps a lot when you’d like to learn more about a particular subject. I think it would also help with finding authentic sources of information. Chances are if you find one reputable source most likely articles related are of the same credibility at least in this case. It’s also a perfect way of making online information more accessible and available to others who may not have a computer. In some ways it would be like creating your own newspaper customized to your liking!!

    • While we didn’t build Printcasting for this specific use, your’e gith — it is possible to use it to make a personalized newspaper. We see the personalized newspaper as just one of many possible niche products, verus being the ONLY niche (there is no such thing as just one niche, is there?)

      People will be able to easily create personal-newspaper Printcasts in Bakersfield because we’re making all of our news story feeds available, as well as those from our other niche web sites. This may be possible in other cities when we extend Printcasting to other cities through partnerships, but how much local newspaper / news provider content is available will be up to the partner for that city.

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