The Printed BlogAfter 16 issues, The Printed Blog is no more.

The startup national newspaper — based on the premise of printing prominent blogs from cities in San Francisco, Chicago and other metropolitans — has folded due to a lack of outside investment, according to a blog post by the company’s owner and publisher Joshua Karp.

Karp wrote:

Despite a significant personal investment on my part, and the additional support of six or seven credit cards, we were unable to raise the minimum amount of money required to reach the next stage of our development. This was a difficult decision for us, but the financial reality of the situation demanded that we suspend further publication immediately, and indefinitely.

Last year, I had an idea. I wondered what would happen if some of the business model principles that work online were applied to the troubled newspaper industry. The more I thought about it, the more the curiosity got to me. So I registered a domain name, developed an action plan, and started the process of building a new kind of newsprint publication.

Everyone said I was nuts, but I did it anyway.

16 issues, 80,000 print copies distributed, another 100,000 or so copies downloaded, and countless new friends, fans, and collaborators all around the world later, I may still be nuts, but I have zero regrets.

Editor & Publisher wrote about the closing here.

I find this particular failure interesting because of the possibilities of the endeavor, which were touted by the New York Times and E&P, as well as what it means for local Jeff Pelline, the former editor of my newspaper who had been working on the project. Surely we’ll be expecting an announcement from his blog about why things didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, the journalism industry will continue to search for new revenue streams that are sustainable on their own merit.

13 thoughts on “The Printed Blog folds

  1. Zuri,
    Your post is a little out of left field, but I will attempt to respond. Your question should be directed at Josh. I had nothing to do with that decision. I can say this, however: There is a big potential to “reverse publish” voices from our community into a print product and sell display ads around it under the banner “Nevada County Voices” or “Sierra Voices.” The Union has chosen to focus on Russ Steele and George Rebane, but not present “the other side.” I hear that daily. Why don’t you approach Peter Van Zant or Bob Joehnck to write a monthly column to counter theirs? In the meantime, why is there a “news blackout” on the Nevada City Advocate, a weekly newspaper launched in The Union’s backyard. Not writing about it makes you look petty. It’s news!

  2. Left field??? Haha. That’s comical. No, my questions are directed at whether or not you’re going to report on your own job going under seeing how you advocate personnel decisions be made public with everyone else. It would be good to get another insider’s perspective. Obviously it wasn’t your decision, seeing how Karp was the publisher. But I have his reasons. In fact, I quoted him above and linked to the post where he explained why he was folding. I’m wondering whether or not you have something to contribute. Obviously, not so much right now. Instead, you hark on your favorite enemies, The Union included. Petty doesn’t look pretty.

  3. Zuri,
    You are unclear on the concept of an early stage startup like this. It was never a “job” in the first place, like yours. It was a startup, with a product in “beta” being funded by family and friends. None of us were paid, pending an outcome on financing. We were experimenting, really. It just happened to get a lot of media attention because of the timing. The reason it folded is what Josh said: It didn’t get funded. Josh did not want to make it revenue self-sufficient from the “get go.” He wanted an angel investor. That’s a long shot. I believe it could easily be revenue self-sufficient, but you need an ad sales staff. That costs more money, and Josh didn’t want to spend any more. I’ve been involved in other things for several months now, as have others in the group. This decision was made a while ago. Still, what we learned from the venture can be applied anywhere, even here. I would like to try it some day on a smaller scale. You could do it in the foothills, in Sacramento (more blogs such as twinsoup.com there) or anywhere. All of us have been working on other ventures at the same time. You should read a book such as Jerry Kaplan’s “Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure” to get a better sense of this.

  4. As a footnote, I’m still curious why you are paying more attention to a publication such as The Printed Blog rather than the Nevada City Advocate, the new weekly. Unlike TPB, The Advocate is not a “beta” product startup. It is generating revenue from ads and is an up and running “for profit” enterprise. It is right in your own backyard too. I do think it’s petty not to write a feature or even blog about it. It’s like ignoring The Elephant in the Corner. Three local publications have been sold to new owners in recent months too. I do find your perspective on covering the media a little backwards for a community journalist. Ignore what’s in your own backyard and selectively report on the other stuff.

  5. Jeff,
    As you should already know, there’s not much to say about the Advocate. Free weekly looks to compete with The Union. Anything else you want to add? Buzz doesn’t mean anything until we know if they’re actually making money and can sustain their enterprise. Are you on the payroll? After giving it a look over for the first time today, I’d be hard pressed to believe Pat can sustain the output. He had a lot of time to work on a first issue after the rumors surfaced. But week in, week out will be a different matter. Plus, his Web site is down. Unlike most folks, yourself included, I like competition. It breeds better journalism. Let the sales staff duke it out for the advertisers. But don’t get on my site and pretend to care about Butler’s paper when you and I both know you don’t give a crap about him or what is and what isn’t selectively covered. Lord knows you’re the king of burying news. Mentioning KNCO around you was a pill for disaster. And now all of a sudden you think everything needs coverage. You’re a joke and you’re just playing angles here. It’s humorous and, in your own words, petty.

  6. My two cents:
    I do think The Union should run a story about the NCAdvocate; it _is_ news. It would be gracious.
    When I read this post, I did read it as a poke at JeffP. Maybe that’s just me.

    And while I have the floor, a couple of suggestions for Zuri:

    1. You should be The Union’s Tech Columnist, since you are a Young Person Of Today and are fluent in these newfangled tools. (T.U. doesn’t have a tech columnist yet, does it?)

    2. We should try to get our local CalFire command center (up by the airport, toward the end of Loma Rica Drive) set up and trained on Twitter, so when there’s a fire or other emergency they can send out appropriate details. To encourage them, we could show them something like the LA Fire Dept – http://twitter.com/LAFD
    or this Wired story, on 2007 San Diego wildfires and Twitter
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2007/10/firsthand-repor/

    Zuri, are you interested in working (with or without me) on this? It needs to happen – but I’m lousy at sales, I doubt I could reach them on my own.

  7. Zuri:

    No real benefit in engaging Mr. Pelline. He is entitled to his obesssions and delusions, so I guess we ought to feel pretty good that we’re “it.” Flattered, even. I do find it interesting that he’s so good at tellling us what we should or should not do by way of strategies, but…one of his own failed. I do believe that reverse published content is a good idea, which is why we publish Web content in print every day in our newspaper. I doubt any print product filled with that content alone would be very popular. Two different missions, Web and Print, as Mr. Pelline should know. Again…on a strategic note…better not to engage him. It only puffs him up larger than life…if that’s possible?

  8. Back on the original subject of TPB. I see 2 major reasons why it couldn’t have been a successful venture (Yeah, it’s a little Monday morning quarterbacking, but that’s just the timing):

    1) I brought up the concept of reverse publishing when I was a KDMC fellow in February. The entire Berkeley faculty participating in the panel discussion, with Paul Grabowicz leading the charge, were pretty much unanimous: Reverse publishing is great as a stopgap or acting in a supporting role, but is not feasible as a be-all, end-all solution to print journalism’s woes.

    Looking at TPB, I can understand that. Successful blogs thrive because of two things: human vanity and immediate interactivity. When you throw blog writing onto a printed page, you’re just left with the vanity, which rarely makes for a good read. Even rarer when it’s not online.

    Reverse publishing online reaction to things your publication has done, however, can at least replicate the interactivity, although you don’t have the immediacy. 1.5 out of 2 is at least workable.

    2) I just don’t think it was put together all that well. The issues of TPB I read seemed to be banking entirely on “Hey, these are average Joes and Janes just like you writing about stuff and taking pictures. You should read it because we put it onto paper, and therefore it is more important.”

    And that’s not new or innovative. That’s just being a vanity press that the writers didn’t have to pay to get into.

    Also going along this line, it didn’t really foster much in the sense of community. When I read the New York version of TPB, I didn’t really see much to identify this as being very New York-ish. Overheard in New York seemed more New York than the New York TPB. Isn’t that one of the big alleged gripes about us mainstream
    media peeps is that we “aren’t connected to the communities we serve?” Well, this really didn’t solve that problem. If you were going to have localized versions of a publication like TPB wanted to do, you had to make sure it felt genuinely local.

    And full disclosure: I fish through user-generated content for my paper’s reverse publishing features, which run every Monday on our Section C front.

    One thing about the pissing match: I think it was fair for Zuri to ponder Jeff’s reaction to TPB’s shutdown, since Jeff’s name is in TPB’s masthead as its managing editor. In fact, it’s third from the top.

  9. Note to self: never get in the middle of a pissing match.

    re Robert’s
    > “Successful blogs thrive because of two things: human vanity and immediate interactivity.”

    Vanity?
    Interactivity yes, including links.
    and another thing: a laserlike focus on one subject, combined with a whole english-speaking world’s worth of online people to beef one’s fragmented audience back up to a reasonable level. So, while I can think to myself “the bloggers at Scienceblogs.com are sooo much more interesting than what I read in [newspaper], I’d love to have a Printed Blog of their writings” – it wouldn’t fly, because the Printed Blog would need to cater to the interests of a much broader swath of humanity.

    The P.B. needs to be news; we have no shortage of people around us spouting opinions, what we need is information. And brand new information – i.e. news – has the most value for readers.

    (hopefully some of this is making sense; i fear my brain has already gone to bed)

  10. Thanks for everyone’s contributions. Unfortunately the vibe of my site, which is relatively positive and without much notice usually, was soured with Pelline’s “two cents.” Sour grapes I guess. Either way, I don’t appreciate a negative and very confrontational response especially when the question I originally posed was harmless. Compared to some of the shots that have been taken at me at his blog, I was giving Pelline an opportunity to show some face and pretend he can be respectable. We can always hope I guess. Either way, his contributions are no longer appreciated or accepted here. As I’ve long stopped subscribing to or reading his blog, I won’t allow him to spill his vitriol onto my own stage. (It’s the perks of having your own Web site.)

    Anna, to answer your questions: 1) I don’t really have time to add a tech column to my duties, although I’ll try and write something regularly for The Union. I feel it’s only right. 2) Calfire does have a Twitter account: http://twitter.com/CalFireNews. It services the entire state. (Although they are a bit political, if you notice the green tint.) Maybe we can get the PIO which serves Grass Valley / Nevada City to create their own. A simple phone call to gauge their interest will do.

  11. Anna: Yes, it made sense. Sometimes I wonder if my brain works better sleeping than it does awake.

    But yes, vanity. People like seeing their writing printed somewhere, regardless of whether others find genuine value in it or not. It’s a big part of the success of social media, is the self-worth people have in themselves and what’s going on in their lives. Whether that self-worth is overinflated, underinflated or just right is up to people to decide.

    That’s why I’ve never placed much value in the argument that the media are *the* driving force behind what the public pays attention to and what it doesn’t.

    I don’t necessarily agree with “laserlike focus” being a necessity for a successful blog. Most successful blogs are that way, yes, but there are exceptions.

    I can point out blogs that are successful without being focus on a particular topic, such as TooMuchRodBenson, or by focusing on all things happening within a geographic area, like the West Seattle Blog. There’s no one road of success, just some roads more traveled.

    The idea of TPB printing news is a good one, but I would question whether, at this point, there would be enough blogs doing original hyperlocal news to be able to develop localized TPBs. Maybe, but that would require some research by the investors beforehand to find the actual communities where this is going on instead of just picking large population centers. If it wound up that say, Sandusky had a couple hundered bloggers doing oodles of original reporting, maybe that’s where it would have to start instead of SoHo or SoMa.

  12. The Anna Karenina-esque cast of characters showcased in this thread, for outsiders if any:
    (Robert, it looks like you’re only semi-outside; FYI, the Appeal-Democrat’s site could stand to make it clearer, that it’s Yuba City based)

    The Union is Nevada County’s local ~150 year old newspaper.
    Zuri is its online community manager.
    Jeff A. has been its publisher since 2002.
    The NC Advocate is a new weekly, put out by one (of 4) of its former editors under Jeff A; this ex-editor has kept a very low profile online.
    Jeff P. was this ex-editor’s successor, until earlier this year; Zuri used to work for JP.
    I was The Union’s gadfly, until a) under JP the paper stopped running columns by global warming denialists (thank you Jeff P – signs of intelligence in the press are always appreciated) and b) I found rather more important papers and causes to attend to.

    > whether, at this point, there would be enough blogs doing original hyperlocal news to be able to develop localized TPBs.

    It won’t spontaneously happen; I think we’ve had enough time to come to realize that. It’s like teeth, the hyperlocal news writers will need gum tissue for sustenance.
    (just got back from the periodontist, sorry!)

    I agree, not all blogs are single focus; but even the more general blogs are much _less_ general than a newspaper. And since the P.B. by its hardcopy nature must be local, it can’t draw in readers by particular interest, so it has to be newspaperlike in its generality.

  13. and Zuri, thanks for the ptr to http://twitter.com/CalFireNews – IMO it is an important first step for the CalFire folks, but for it to be useful, they need to let us automatically narrow down search results to an area of interest, e.g. our county. I didn’t see an email address or contact form for them, so asked them via Twitter, how we could do that. Will they see it? will they answer? Time will tell.

    (I know how we can _approximate_ doing it, by just searching for our county name, but that’s not ideal since msgs could be dropped or irrelevant ones pulled in.)

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