Sunday, February 01, 2009

By Victoria Vickers

The calls were flooding in.

Media outlets all over the world wanted to know why he did it -- I did too. So when Joshua Karp answered the phone 4:05 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, I immediately began firing questions at him. But all he had time to tell me was, "Its been a crazy day today. I'd be happy to answer your questions and talk to you at length tomorrow. I've been handling calls from national press outlets all day," said Karp.

When I called back the next day, at 1 p.m. Chicago time, Karp's phone was still ringing non-stop. Just about every caller wanted to know why, at a time when newspapers are laying off and going under, Karp launched The Printed Blog. Yup, it's exactly how it sounds. Selected blog posts, pooled into an 11x17-inch, full-color, eight-page, print newspaper. The Printed Blog hit the streets in Chicago and San Francisco on Jan. 27.

"I don't believe that newspapers should go out of business, or will go out of business," Karp said. "I believe the model has to change."

The Printed Blog is chock-full of posts and photos extracted from a variety of blogs including the national, political blog Daily Kos, as well as, lesser knowns like Baster Life, which offers dish on steamy topics of the bedroom variety. The paper is distributed twice daily -- in the morning and evening and offers commuters and readers who prefer print an opportunity to read blog-form writing. It's also downloadable in PDF format from the Printed Blog Web site.

What's the journalistic process like? "For the first issue, we laid out the content starting at around 7 p.m. in the evening, sequenced it at 2 a.m. and were proofing at 7 a.m.," Karp explained. "We have a reasonably automated process. It really doesn't take all that much. We are distributing by person right now because it gives us attention. We just need a printer and to flip the switch on our Web site."

How much does it cost? "Right now it's difficult to study the numbers because it's going to work so different in the future," Karp said. "Our prediction is $1,000 per week in each location. Right now it's weekly, but soon it will be daily."

The stories featured in the The Printed Blog are selected based on reader-generated comments and local appeal. There's a little bit of everything, except hard news. It's more of an eclectic collection of musings ranging from thought-provoking to entertaining to, well, provocative. There are also lighter features like the daily play-list of suggested songs to sample. And a profile of "a unique person." The ads and a small social events calendar are also weaved in.

Karp and his staff sought out bloggers for the first edition, but all that changed as soon as the first edition was printed.

"At first we did have to approach bloggers that we liked and then after the New York Times article came out and the first issue came out, bloggers are approaching us. One every few minutes," said Karp. "Even [while we're] on the phone right now, I'm seeing people sending their blogs. I just got one from Mexico. We're getting requests from all over the world, inquiries from all over the planet."

Experience is not a criteria for The Printed Blog bloggers, they need only have a voice that people want to hear. "We have some national bloggers and some people who are writing in their basements. There is no minimum experience," said Karp. "We're less interested in the mainstream bloggers and more interested in the individual."

However, reporters looking for a gig, don't get your hopes up. Bloggers do get a portion of the revenue from ads that run next to their posts, but traditional benefits aren't on the horizon.

"We're going to stay away from offering benefits," said Karp. "We're trying to be a lean organization. We're paying [our bloggers] because they're taking the time to do the writing and we're respecting that effort. Bloggers are writing for a different reason. They're not writing because they want a job, they're writing because they have something to say."

Photos courtesy of the New York Times.

Writer Victoria Vickers is a graduate student in journalism at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

blah blah blahg. another one looking for 15 minutes of fame. "Experience is not a criteria [sic] for The Printed Blog bloggers. They need only have a voice that people want to hear." I guess that says it all, as far as quality is concerned.