Thursday, June 19, 2008


I have been banging on about the future of printed media. It has been fascinating to hear people tell me about how much they love magazines for their tactile, sensual qualities. This has been the party line for the MPA for years. Magazines are intimate, so the story goes. But look, I am a magazine fan as much as anyone. I also love the sound of a V8 engine and go weak at the knees at the sound of a V12 Lamborghini in an enclosed space - but does that guarantee their future? I doubt it very much.

It isn't so long ago that colleagues in advertising insisted on letting me know that my enthusiasm for the Internet was misplaced. "It's too slow." "Women don't use it." and so on. Of course now we have broadband and watch video, and women outnumber men online in developed markets. Computers have nothing to do with computing any more. In fact we should let that term go the way of the expression 'horseless carriage'.

Much as I love magazines and newspapers in their printed form my growing social conscience finds it hard to reconcile the excessive use of resources when a better alternative exists. Better alternatives aren't always accepted by the market of course. Beta was probably technically superior to VHS… there are often forces at play that override logic; economics (the market) is an unreasonable force.

So I was very interested to find (through an almost random twitter connection) this initiative from Bakersfield, California: Printcasting.

From the site:

What Is Printcasting?
Printcasting will make it possible for anyone to create a local printable newspaper, magazine or newsletter that carries local advertising – all for free -- by pulling together online content from existing sources, such as blogs, and combining it with local advertising that matches the content.

Through web software that we will build, an aspiring print publisher won’t need any technical knowledge, design skills, software or even content to create printable publications. If you’re passionate about a local interest – which could be anything from a local sports team to a local hobby like fishing – and you have an Internet connection, you’ll be able to set up your own publication in minutes. New editions will automatically be created as PDFs and sent to readers in e-mail. The idea is similar to a Podcast, which uses RSS feeds to send out new MP3 files -- thus the term Printcasting

The beauty of this idea is its simplicity. All a publisher will need to do is choose which blogs to feed into his or her publication, pick a publication template, and choose how often new editions should be sent out. Local readers will then be able to search and browse for Printcasts that match their interests, read and subscribe. Every template will be optimized to look good on both home printers, and larger-run presses.

Get more info here on the the Printcasting site

I love the concept - obviously it is in Beta (pre Beta even - Alpha?). It takes the idea of disintermediation a step further - in that you don't need access to capital (Rosebud) to publish - although the job of curator/editor will be even more significant within the constructs of this model.

I am sure it will make the enemies of amateur enthusiasm cringe but it think it something worth exploring with the ideas of sustainability, reducing waste and being more relevant in mind.

The economics of magazine publishing are terrifying. Becoming a mag publisher, in my view rates alongside the desire to own an airline as a signifier of a buccaneer egoist impulse in the modern word.

Initiatives like Printcasting might be more viable.

Oh, and if you doubt the power of the web to deflate magazines look at the effect of online porn on the Hefner/Flint empires. Pornography, like it or not, has always been a canary in the cage cum bellwether for web developments.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, and links. Wow, "tweets" really do get around -- all the way to New Zealand!

    I just posted a video with some screen shots of VERY early Printcasting interface concepts. Please check it out and feel free to post your thoughts there:


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