I’m very excited to announce that Printcasting.com, my 2008 Knight News Challenge project that democratizes print magazine publishing, is expanding to more U.S. cities. And I’m equally excited about the first partner: Denver-based MediaNews Group. Here’s a link to the full press release about our arrangement with MediaNews. We’re in discussions with other newspapers and organizations and will add more partnerships throughout the year.
So what does this mean for the average person? Up until now, the Printcasting site was focused on Bakersfield, California — in keeping with the geographic focus objective of the Knight News Challenge. The site has been open to anyone since March, but there wasn’t a way for people in other cities to create and find locally-targeted publications for their areas. Now people in Denver, Boulder, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area can also create locally-focused Printcasts in a way that lets local readers and advertisers find them.
Partners like MediaNews Group will seed those markets with content and use Printcasting the same way as everyone else, but by doing that they also provide content that the community can remix into their niche publications. When we begin to charge for self-serve advertising (which we plan to do very soon), MediaNews — just as any content contributor — will receive a portion of ad revenue from Printcasts that use their content. Likewise, if MediaNews — just like any Princasting publisher — creates Printcast publications, and they use content from local bloggers, those bloggers will receive a portion of the ad revenue. In this way, Printcasting’s partnerships also create grass-roots partnerships between professional and “citizen” media that is mutually beneficial to both parties.
The experience on the Printcasting.com site doesn’t change much on its face, as all of the real changes are on the back-end. When you go to the Printcasting.com home page, you’ll now see a search box to “Find Printcasting Near You.” Enter a zip code and it will tell you if there’s a site in your town. If there is, you’ll be taken straight to a site that aggregates Printcasts from your area. If not, you’re asked to create a Printcast and tag it to your zip code. If we start to see a large number of Printcasts in a particular area, we’ll create a site that features it like this one for Bakersfield: http://printcasting.com/bakersfield.
But we’re not opening city sites for the entire U.S. just yet. Because Printcasting is such a new concept, we need people to help seed their markets with content (from blogs and professional sources) and publications that use that content. And we also need people who are willing to do the local foot work, and meet with bloggers and community organizations to show them how Printcasting can help them communicate with their audience. I invite you to register your content and create Printcasts, then let me know so that I can start to see where new geographic communities are emerging. If enough people use Printcasting from a particular area, that’s a sign that we should open a city site there.
When we first announced our intention to partner, we said we’d work with any locally-focused organization that had expertise in using print to build community. The most natural partners are newspapers because they have local content, local people, and an interest in growing local audience and revenue. Printcasting offers a way for them to do that at lower cost while also leveraging content from bloggers in their communities. Local bloggers will also benefit through ad revenue share, assuming a newspaper chooses to use their content in one of their Printcasts, and that Printcast makes money. In this way, Printcasting provides a way for newspapers — long leaders in local community development — to work in partnership with local entreprenurial-minded content providers rather than in competition with them.
This is where MediaNews Group comes in. I met Peter Vandevanter, MediaNews Group’s Vice President for Targeted Products, a year ago at his Individuated Newspaper Conference (thanks to former Rocky Mountain News editor John Temple for the introduction!) Peter has been working on his separate I-News initiative, which will soon let readers of certain MediaNews Group papers create personalized editions that contain only the content they’re interested in. The approach is different from Printcasting, but the end-result is the same. It creates more opportunity for targeted advertising.
I think Peter is more committed to content personalization and what he calls “individuation” than anyone working in media today, and he proves it by running an open-invitation conference every year about personalized news. Peter is the one who came to me with the idea of using Printcasting as an internal niche-magazine engine. While that wasn’t what we created Printcasting for, it made sense. Add to that his and MediaNews’ openness to letting citizens in their markets create publications — even with content that starts within MediaNews — and we knew that we’d found our first partner.
But there are others out there who are equally interested. From the very beginning of this project we’ve received interest from organizations around the world — often newspapers, but also organizations such as universities and membership groups. It started as soon as we posted a prototype in the Fall of 2008, and it caught us by surprise. We’re responding to demand rather than going around asking people to participate, and that’s a good sign.
Between now and December we will continue to talk to interested parties and roll out more sites in more cities. If you think your organization may be a good match, please let us know! And regardless of that, please feel free to start using Printcasting wherever you are. If you enter your zip code (or international postal code) when you create content, that will be a sign to us to open a Printcasting city site near you.