It’s been about a month since Printcasting launched in Bakersfield, and our local grassroots outreach is well under way. Every week our marketing evangelist meets with several new groups and individuals. Many of them see immediate uses for Printcasts, and we’re starting to see a stream of new activity.
As of today, 180 Printcasts have been set up that have published 734 editions (You can peruse them all in the Printcasting directory ), and 144 registered content feeds. Because we’re seeding the market with our own content and magazines some of these are ours, about half of this comes from the community — which is not bad for the first month, and before we’ve done any serious marketing.
I’ll be sharing more anecdotes about community outreach in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we continue to improve the product based on feedback from people in Bakersfield and elsewhere (for example, see this review and our response on the Metaprinter blog).
The new feature we’re most proud of is a new tool that lets you create your own masthead using a photo from your hard drive.
Our development team is going down a punch list of 34 near-term projects like this. And in parallel, we’re starting on the next big round of features that will launch in early summer. Those are:
1) Ad payment and controls
We’re now working with The Commerce Guys in Jackson, Michigan to build out a straightforward, secure way for businesses to pay for ads (currently free during a trial period). Publishers will also be able to reject individual ads — or all future ads from a particular business — before those ads can appear in their Printcasts. All of this should be available in a testable mode in May, and ready to launch in June.
By the way, for you Drupal fans out there, we’re really excited to have Ryan Szrama, the lead developer on the open-source Ubercart module in Drupal who recently joined the Commerce Guys team, working on the ad payment project.
2) Revenue Share
The Commerce Guys are also helping us build out a very sophisticated, but user-friendly, system that shares advertising revenue. We will be providing more information about how this will work in the future, but here’s the gist.
Whenever a business places a self-serve ad in a Printcast, 60% of that money will immediately be passed on to the publisher via a Paypal account deposit. 30% will be set aside in an escrow account which is shared with contributors on Printcasting.com, and that escrow will be split among them every quarter in proportion to how much their content has been used. The final 10% will be maintained by the Printcasting network to cover ongoing hosting, development, maintenance and transactions fees.
Sharing revenue at all is fairly radical for anyone, including a newspaper. But we’ll also be giving much more direct revenue to the citizen publishers on our network than most revenue-sharing services do, and for a simple reason. We feel that publishers bear the highest burden for the success of everyone on the network, and the network itself. They’ll be footing most of the bill for printing, distribution and marketing of their publications to their own communities of interest, and contributors will only benefit when they do. If they incur the highest costs, we feel they should get the highest reward.
Note that the percentages above reflect only our current thinking, and they could change. One reason we can keep our portion so low is because our expenses are covered by the Knight Foundation through the end of May 2010. After that date we hope to be able to keep rev-share proportions steady, but much will depend on how much ad revenue is coming in the door by then, and how it compares to network expenses. In that sense, our own future success is also dependent on the financial success of publishers on the Printcasting network. And we like that, because it automatically aligns our interests with the interests of Printcasting.com participants.
Do you think these percentages are too high? Too low? Just right? Let us know.
3) “City Hubs”
As I’ve written about before, from the beginning we have seen organic demand for Printcasting in other cities. Our original plan was to extend Printcasting to five other cities starting in December, but based on all of the interest out there — which includes interest from other newspapers — we will be starting this rollout sooner.
City Hubs will be geographically-targeted launching pads for partners in other cities to promote Printcasting. If you don’t live in Bakersfield and you want to use Printcasting, be sure to add your zip code to your Printcast at setup. This data will be used to surface your content on any future city hubs we may roll out.
I can’t share which cities will be first because the partners have not been announced yet. But do let me know if you or your organization are interested in sponsoring a city for our national rollout.
4) Print on Demand
If you’ve ever ordered photo prints from a site like Shutterfly or ordered an on-demand book on Lulu.com, you understand what we want to do here. Imagine an “Order a Printed Copy” button on every Printcasting.com microsite and you get the idea. You click that button, enter payment details, and a few days later get a copy of the magazine at your doorstep (or perhaps pick it up at a local print provider).
When I started this project a year ago I assumed there would be numerous print services that we could tap into using free Web APIs. I was wrong in that assumption. Most of these types of companies don’t have full open APIs, although some are beginning to work on them. Now that we’ve launched, we’re finally making progress with getting some large printing companies with national footprints to talk to us, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to add printing functionality sometime in the summer.
That’s the news from Printcasting.com this week. In the future: more about revenue sharing, and how it can benefit individuals, organizations, and also newspapers and printing companies.