Do niche print magazines still have a role to play in the digital age? Media outlets in five different cities around the world are using the Printcasting publishing network to try and answer this question.
We’ve added three partners in two weeks. They are:
- La República, one of the leading newspapers in Lima, Perú.
- El Nuevo Día, the dominant newspaper in Puerto Rico.
- Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a hyperlocal news site run through the Temple University Urban Publishing Lab.
- And in a purely technical sphere, we’re also working with HP on a Printer app.
These new local tests will accomplish several goals, not the least of which is to learn how best to use printed and printable content to bridge the digital divide. All of these partners have seen the same paradox that we initially saw at The Bakersfield Californian after making significant investments in online media and user-contributed content: Namely, that the value of hyperlocal content increases exponentially when it is distributed physically in printed form. By contrast, when a niche local content brand doesn’t have a physical presence, you end up missing out on a lot of readership and potential ad revenue.
About Our New Partners
So who are these new partners, and why did we choose them? Here’s a short introduction of each.
La Repubública is a relatively young, innovative and independently-owned political newspaper in Lima, Perú. It has a history of empowering and engaging citizens, which it does currently through its innovative print edition and Drupal-powered website. It also backs its words up with action. In 1992, La República was a staunch opponent of Peruvian President’s Alberto Fujimori’s coup, and has been an important defender of freedom of speech and
democracy at a time when most other local media was controlled by the
In addition to using Printcasting locally, La República will also be co-developing with us, thanks to the fact that they use the Drupal content management system.
El Nuevo Día is the dominant newspaper in Puerto Rico, a U.S.-owned commonwealth of 3.9 million people. It also operates an edgier tabloid, Primera Hora, which has been well received since its creation in 1997. Based on its success with Primera Hora, El Nuevo Dia is planning to create even more niche products, and it will be experimenting with Printcasting as one cost-effective way to do that. We first started talking to El Nuevo Día after I spoke on a panel with the editor of Primera Hora at a SIP–IAPA conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina and we both realized that we share many of the same ideas about where local media is heading.
Along with La República, El Nuevo Día will be translating everything in the Printcasting system into Spanish so that we and they can launch Spanish versions. This will help us learn how to serve Spanish speakers everywhere. I expect they’ll show that Printcasting is also a good fit for Spanish speakers in the United States.
According to the U.S. census bureau, there are 34 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. — a large and growing proportion of its 304 million residents. That’s a huge number that’s hard to ignore (although plenty of media companies do, to their peril), and now we’ll have partners to help us plot our Spanish strategy.
Philadelphia Neighborhoods is a hyperlocal journalism site tied to the capstone course at the Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab of Temple University. Each year, Temple assigns 160 reporters from its 700 undergraduate journalism majors to 25 underserved neighborhoods. The demographic makeup of these neighborhoods is very diverse, including African Americans, Hispanics, Koreans, Polish and other ethnicities. The quality of their student-reported stories is extremely high, with one Philadelphia Neighborhoods journalist recently beating out the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News for an award.
Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab co-director Chris Harper told me that a lot of the people in these neighborhoods don’t have reliable access to the Internet, so they’re not always able to read the stories about their community that are online. Many have been asking for local print editions of the stories that Temple’s students are writing. For this reason, I have a feeling that Philly will be the most ambitious local test of Printcasting yet. The local community there is asking for it.
Our HP Print App Project
Finally, there’s our little side project with HP.
At February’s O’Reilly Tools of Change in Publishing conference in New York City, I gave a sneak peak at an upcoming “printer app” for HP’s TouchSmart Web-connected printers. It will let users sign in, view and print editions they have created or subscribed to by simply swiping their fingers across a touch-screen. Imagine a little iPhone screen perched on the front of your printer with content that you want to access and print quickly.
I think HP is on to something with these devices, and they could be the start of a complete reinvention of home printing — something that replaces the printer’s connection to a desktop computer with “the cloud.” You can use a TouchSmart printer app even if you don’t have a computer, as they go directly online to fetch content based on your input. Think of it as a kiosk that can be placed anywhere in your house, or even at a public place like a shopping mall, to create instant prints from digitally stored content.
The best part is that HP has given us permission to open source the code we write to create the Print App interface. Along with the Drupal modules that we open source, future developers will have everything they need to make print-on-demand services that are able to interface with HP printers. (Note that the software we’ll open source will simply help you build an interface for their touchscreens. It’s separate from the HP server-side software or anything proprietary to the HP printers themselves).
Who Will the Next Partner Be?
Interested in using Printcasting locally? We have an opening for one more partnership. If your organization is interested, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this online form. We’re looking for organizations that have local information needs for which printable content is a good fit, but are also nimble enough to do something before June 1.
Also remember that anyone can use Printcasting without making a deal with us. Just go to http://printcasting.com and click the Create Publication button on the home page.