Printcasting, the Knight News Challenge project that aims to “allow individuals to easily create ad-supported, customized publications with a mix of local news and information” has announced a partnership with MediaNews Group. The partnership expands the reach of the publishing platform.
The Press Release from Printcasting:
Printcasting Expands to More U.S. Cities Through Partnerships
(Bakersfield, Calif. June 25, 2009) Today Printcasting (http://www.printcasting.com), a democratized publishing technology funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Bakersfield Californian, announced that it’s expanding service to more cities across the United States through partnerships. Among the new cities are Denver and Boulder, Colo.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and the San Francisco Bay area.
New city-focused Printcasting sites are launching throughout the year in partnership with other local newspapers and organizations. The first partner is the targeted publishing group of MediaNews Group, which owns 54 daily newspapers in 11 states, including The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News.
Printcasting (http://www.printcasting.com) allows anyone to be a publisher by tying online content to publication templates which can be printed out and viewed on the Web and mobile devices. By going to Printcasting.com, anyone can quickly create a self-updating, printable magazine that features their own content, as well as content from participating news providers and bloggers. Target users range from individuals who are passionate about local interests, to organizations such as schools and homeowners’ associations, to professional publishers who are building a portfolio of targeted niche products. They can also make money from their publications through an integrated self-serve advertising tool that small local businesses can use to create highly targeted ads.
The Printcasting project is funded by an $837,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge – which is a five-year, $25 million contest that seeks to find new models for local news and information that use digital technology. Printcasting has been profiled in Business Week and The Miami Herald, and has been called a “Must-Do Strategy” by the World Association of Newspapers.
The first Printcasting pilot site launched in Bakersfield, Calif., in late March in conjunction with The Bakersfield Californian newspaper. Since then, hundreds of people have created magazines (called “Printcasts”). In addition, The Californian plans to use the site to create its own topically oriented niche publications.
“We’re excited to take what’s worked in Bakersfield and see how it plays out elsewhere,” said Dan Pacheco, Printcasting’s founder and Senior Product Manager at The Californian. The project has received interest by people in almost every continent, and especially from newspapers.
“We’ve known for some time that local readers and advertisers respond well to printed content as long as it speaks to their unique interests. This started with citizen-journalism pioneer The Bakersfield Voice in 2004, and was then proven with Bakotopia.com, which provides content for the ad-supported Bakotopia Magazine.”
MediaNews Group, which also has its own experiments with “Individuated News,” will be using Printcasting initially as an engine for its own staff to create niche magazines that use content from MediaNews Group writers, supplemented with content from local bloggers. “By using Printcasting, it’s easier and less expensive to create new magazines and see how they resonate with an audience before investing more time and money,” said Peter Vandevanter, MediaNews Group’s Vice President of Targeted Products.
MediaNews Group has also agreed to make its own content available to citizen publishers, and to promote Printcasting in its markets.
Pacheco said that early experiments in digital-print hybrid magazines in Bakersfield, such as Bakotopia.com and Bakotopia Magazine, show that there is money to be made in niche publications. However, you need a lot of them to replace the revenue that daily newspapers have lost in recent years. “We think one way to do that is to turn the publishing role over to people in your community, and get your salespeople to promote a self-serve advertising tool. This increases your profit margins by decreasing your costs,” Pacheco said.
Profit isn’t limited to newspapers, either. One unique aspect of Printcasting is that ad revenue is shared with participating citizen publishers and content providers. “We’re starting out by sharing 60% of the revenue directly with publishers – the people who put the most time, effort and money into promoting their publications,” Pacheco said. In addition, content contributors receive 30% of all ad revenue on the network, in proportion to how often their content is used.
The Printcasting network keeps only 10% of that ad revenue for operating expenses. “In keeping with the spirit of the Knight News Challenge, our primary goal is to find a sustainable way to allow news and information to be shared within local communities. Our portion will only ever be high enough to allow us to keep the network going and expand to cities that are a good fit for the product,” Pacheco said.
Printcasting’s revenue sharing system creates unique opportunities for companies such as newspaper publishers that already have people who specialize in content, publishing, marketing and sales. The more they put into the product, the higher their reward, Pacheco said.
“We didn’t originally design Printcasting for newspapers to use internally, but just like citizen publishers, they’re permitted and encouraged to use it to lower their production costs – and maybe even make some money from underutilized content,” Pacheco said.
Because newspapers are seen as content experts where they live, Pacheco said that it’s in their interest to establish an early lead with Printcasting by seeding their markets with their own local content and magazines. “If they put time and money into printing and distributing their magazines, more people will read them and they will be able to charge more for advertising. And if citizen publishers use newspapers’ content to fill the pages of their own Printcasts, the newspapers will get a share of those publishers’ ad revenue. It’s a win-win scenario no matter how you look at it,” Pacheco said.