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    Printcasting Launches in Bakersfield

    by Dan Pacheco
    March 17, 2009

    This week we publicly launched Printcasting in Bakersfield, California. While our focus is on outreach to the 330,000 people who live there, anyone can now use the site to create an automatically updating, printable PDF magazine. I invite you all to give it a try at http://www.printcasting.com and let us know what you think. The more early usage we have the better. One easy way to get started is to browse through a list of recently updated Printcasts and subscribe to a few.

    For those of you who haven’t followed the progress of our Knight News Challenge funded
    project, the gist is that Printcasting lets anyone participate in niche magazine publishing, and if they do a good job they also stand to benefit from advertising revenue when we begin charging for self-serve ads. It’s an admittedly radical idea to come out of a newspaper at a time when many newspapers are cutting back or shutting their doors. As a result, we’re starting to attract media attention, with positive mentions in The Miami Herald and Business Week.

    But that’s all talk. We’re launched, so now instead of telling you about it you can jump in and try it out. One fun way to do this is as a Printcasting subscriber. With the permission of Mark Glaser, we’ve set up a Printcast for this Idea Lab site. Check it out here:

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    The thumbnail above comes from a special blog widget that’s available for any Printcast. Click on it to flip through a facsimilie of what the printed version will look like. To get a copy to print, click the Download link. And if you want to receive an e-mail whenever a new edition is available (which happens about once a day for the PBS Idea Lab blog), click “Subscribe” and provide your e-mail address.

    It’s also really easy to get a blog widget to promote your own Printcast, or one that you like. Just find a Printcast in the directory (or your own), then click the “Share” link at the top of the page. Copy and paste the HTML code into your blog template, and your blog or Web site promotes a printable PDF version for those who may want to print it out or read offline. When a new edition is published the thumbnail and link will update automatically.

    If you have more time you can create a Printcast using feeds people have already registered, including some very good ones from The Bakersfield Californian newspaper. To get your own site’s content into your Printcast or make it available for other Printcasts to carry, simply register your RSS feed. All of these tasks take only a few minutes.

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    You can also print a few copies yourself and leave it at local coffee shops, bars, your local library, or anywhere that people in your community may be looking for local information. That’s exactly how we plan to start local promotion of Printcasting in Bakersfield, starting out with the 3,600 blogs on the Californian’s eight social networking sites. In addition, those sites have more than 53,000 public user profiles, which is a good indication of active participants who may take 5 minutes out of their day to register a feed or set up a Printcast.

    i-0ffa87b87412f940e5408e55aa4ff1a0-printcasting_tchatchkes.jpg

    That’s how our outreach will begin, but as with all local products, traditional street marketing is what will make Printcasting a long-term success. Our marketing evangelist Tom Webster — armed with mouse pads and t-shirts — is already setting up meetings with places such as the Kern County Library, which after one demo offered to let us use their computers for community training. The library’s Web site also has RSS feed content, so we’re showing the librarians how they can automatically feed their online content into printable flyers that people can take with them. Tom is also planning a series of blogger brunches to get bloggers on board, and also collect feedback.

    Just because our initial rollout is complete doesn’t mean that we’re finished with development, though. This week we’re testing out a feature we call “review and approve,” which is akin to the copy editor telling the publisher to give a publication one last edit before it goes to the presses, and we hope to launch that very soon.

    We’re also gearing up to work on something a journalism major like myself never expects to be involved in: integrating e-commerce payment into the ad tool. To be honest, this is something we’d hoped to have finished by now, but we intentionally put it off so that we could give the core product the focus it deserved before launch. (Since we planned to make ads free for the first few months anyway, this doesn’t hold us back at all and may even make local advertiser outreach easier — especially in this crazy economy.)

    It’s been a big year, and a very big week. Thanks to all of you who have followed our progress and given us suggestions, feedback and moral support. Do us a favor and post a link to your Printcasts in a comment. And as always, let us know if you have any questions or need help.

    Tagged: bakersfield launch marketing printcasting
    • Congratulations, Dan! I really hope more local/online folk take advantage of what you’re doing. It’s been a pleasure making introductions to that end.

    • Thanks so much, Lisa! And likewise with Placeblogger. Thanks for telling people about us, and we will happily continue to do the same for Placeblogger. In some ways we are trying to solve the same problem from different angles: if you’re a local blogger, how do you build a local following: It’s not easy.

      By the way, I actually had YOU (and others like you) in mind when I wrote those instructions about how to make a blog widget because I remember you once blogged about how you wanted to use that on your own blog. So give it a try!

      You can see an example of how nicely the blog widgets look on a site on my blog’s sidebar: http://www.futureforecast.com/dansdiner

    • MichaelJ

      Congratulations!
      I think you are really on to something and have at least some idea of the work and focus to be able to go live as promised.

    • Hi Dan,

      I have been following the printcasting project and it looks great! I’ve been trying to come up with a similar solution as a way to bridge the gap between growing online media and reduced access to technology here in Peru. Would be great to get your thoughts/insights on it at some point. Let me know if you’re interested!

    • Eduardo: Nice to meet you! I would be more than happy to talk, so feel free to e-mail me and we can get a conversation going. As I wrote about here earlier, there is so much interest in Printcasting and personalized print around the world. I wish we could help everyone, but there is this little problem of multiple languages. Our product is not as internationalized as it would need to be to provide global solutions just yet, but I’m always more than happy to share what we’ve learned. The global movement is as important to me as our specific initiative in that movement.

      Michael: You gotta start with something! I’m a firm UNbeliever in “paralysis by analysis.” I’ve been working in digital product management for a while now and have learned that it’s always best to put something out there that is “good enough,” then work day and night responding to customer feedback until it meets 80% of the needs of normal people.

      Newspapers, traditional media and traditional companies in general have trouble with that approach. They sit around mulling ideas hoping to be perfect, and when they respond until it’s too late. There is very clearly no more time for that anymore, so I hope we inspire more to try harder, fail faster and keep at it until they find new models for journalism that work.

    • Congratulations Dan!

    • Thanks, Jose! It wouldn’t have happened without you and many others at the Knight Foundation.

      There’s lots more fun ahead as local people start Printcasting. For example: a newspaper carrier in Wasco, CA ( to the north, population 20,000) has created a new Web site on Ning called http://wascotopia.com for the purpose of creating a Printcast that he will print and distribute there. Here’s a story about that: http://is.gd/nRjU

    • stefie

      I’m really glad to hear about this idea. I’m always eager to hear about local happenings particularly from those who personally live and experience the area. And it would also benefit readers if/when the project becomes available in other languages. I’ve been interested in local viewpoints by other ethnic groups in the area. i know it would really help my family to communicate with those of a common background. this will really help us and others to reach out, even past our city. i’m excited to read more.

    • Thanks, Stefie. Since Printcasting has been built on top of Drupal, which has multi-language support, it’s always an option. We don’t have any immediate plans to surface that in the U.S. but we do have a steady stream of people from other countries asking us if we would provide support for their language, and/or allow them to run a Printcasting network there which is localized by them.

      This year, our focus is on making things successful Bakersfield, then other U.S. cities where we have strong partners. After that, we may do an international experiment or two, but it will depend largely on interest by partners who are commited to local outreach and marketing. In our experience the local outreach is what really makes hyperlocal community products work. Without it you end up with an empty shell.

      If nothing else, our code will be open sourced at the end of our grant (late Spring 2010), and once that happens it could be localized by people in other countries who want to use it.

    • Bridget Bilodeau

      Hello! I think this project is great! I have a few questions about it. Do you put local magazines on your website and can this site be accessd from anywhere? Also, depending on what state and city you are in, does the local magazine come up and change depending on what city you are in? Thanks!

    • Dustin Pate

      Congratulations on the project Dan! It looks like an awesome. I think your idea will truly help out local people who want to publish small magazines but didn’t think they could go through with the process and your project will help their dreams grow. I was wondering if you could maybe set up a server so that people who make their own magazine on your website can upload their magazines to a database to share with others online? I will be keeping up with your project because I believe it will definitely go places.

    • Reghan

      Hi,
      I was reading through some posts and found yours intriguing. I have recently become a big advocate for citizen journalism. There is a huge market for it but I definitely think there aren’t enough outlets for them to communicate their ideas. Your mag is perfect! Giving access to people who otherwise couldn’t get their voices heard is an awesome innovation!

    • Jessica

      I think this project is so great. I love the idea of giving anyone a chance to publish their writing and I am so glad that it is on paper! I love reading the newspaper so I am glad to see one coming out whether than going away.

    • Janine Villeneau

      Congratulations on this project! This is such an innovative idea! Giving people a free way to share with their community in such a difficult time. I really hope people take advantage of this idea and hopefully it will catch on and become a part of more communities around the country.I am looking to see what kind of progress this idea gains in the near future. One of my favorite features of your project is being able to print out a copy to leave for people that may not have internet access to share ideas even more and spread your project even farther.

    • Janine Villeneau

      Congratulations on this project! This is such an innovative idea! Giving people a free way to share with their community in such a difficult time. I really hope people take advantage of this idea and hopefully it will catch on and become a part of more communities around the country.I am looking to see what kind of progress this idea gains in the near future. One of my favorite features of your project is being able to print out a copy to leave for people that may not have internet access to share ideas even more and spread your project even farther.

    • Wow! Thank you all for your kind comments and questions. I apologize for not seeing them until now. Here are some belated answers:

      Q from Bridget: “Do you put local magazines on your website, and can this site be accessd from anywhere?”

      A: Yes, we do that via an online directory. Go to http://www.printcasting.com and click “Browse Printcasts” near the bottom, or click here: http://www.printcasting.com/publisher/categorylist

      You can view Printcasts online in magazine form (a method of flipping through “pages” online which seems retro, but some people really love), or in a web-friendly view. See the two tabs at the top of the microsites that house the Printcasts. And of course, you can download the full PDF to print out on your home printer. In the future we hope to have print-ordering in place so that you can pull out your credit card and have 10 or so copies printed and mailed to you. But you can also just put the PDF on a flash drive, take it to your local copy shop and get prints that way. Or use your home printer.

      Q, also from Bridget: “… depending on what state and city you are in, does the local magazine come up and change depending on what city you are in?”

      A: Anyone can use Printcasting from anywhere in the world, but right now our marketing is all focused on Bakersfield, California (because remember, the Knight News Challenge is all about local communities). I will be explaining this more in the future, but later this year we plan to create what we’re internally calling “city hubs” that surface content that is specific to cities with a lot of Printcasting interest, and strong local partners who will do the same kind of marketing and outreach we’re doing in Bakersfield.

      Q from Dustin Pate: “I was wondering if you could maybe set up a server so that people who make their own magazine on your website can upload their magazines to a database to share with others online?”

      A: Good idea, but … there are sites that do this already. See HP’s http://Magcloud.com, which I really like and have written about before. We may offer this capability in the future, based on demand. But remember that our goal is to open up publishing to people who are unlikely to have the software, skills or know-how to create a magazine. If we find that a lot of users ask for that we may add it in the future, but right now it’s not part of our plans.

      Thank you all for your interest, and your great questions!
      Feel free to jump into http://printcasting.com and register your feeds, and create magazines. It will help everyone test out the system so we can make it better. And it also increases the possibility of you getting a little cash on the side when we begin to charge for ads and share revenue with network participants in the summer.

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