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:

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.

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.

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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.