The Return of The Printed Blog
By Eliana Shapiro
In recent years, one of the major themes dominating the discourse surrounding the media industry has been the mass migration to the Web. The push to create a strong online presence is evident in the large number of traditional print outlets that have turned their attention to increasing their multimedia and social media efforts. The factors fueling this trend are complex and varied but chief among them is the competition stemming from the arrival of online-only outlets that have attracted a large following and in some cases, detracted from readers' reliance on print publications.
Yet at a time when print is gravitating towards the Web, one publication, The Printed Blog, is going against the grain and delivering online content in a print package.
In early 2009, Joshua Karp launched The Printed Blog as a print publication comprised of stories and photography pulled solely from blogs and other online sources. It was advertising supported and distributed as a free newspaper at transportation hubs in major U.S. cities. Although it received a positive reception, the title was forced to shutter by July 2009.
"For a number of reasons, that particular model didn't work for us. But the reason it didn't work wasn't because the model itself was flawed. It was because of some of the things we decided to do and we focused on some of the wrong things," Karp said.
Armed with a new business model, Karp announced the publication’s re-launch in August of this year and is now on the brink of releasing the first issue this month.
"We decided that we would try to take a different path this time and that we would create a weekly print magazine. This time, though, we would ask people to subscribe to it and pay for it and we would distribute it via the postal mail as opposed to handing it out for free. It's a different model and I don't believe there's one that's more valid than the other - just a different approach to distributing this content in print form," he explained.
Even though the magazine has deviated from its original model, it's still rooted in the same striking content that it built its name on.
"The instructions I give to the editors is first and foremost, we don't want to be boring," Karp noted.
All material is handpicked by a team of editors ranging from actress Brittany Snow to makeup artist Merrell Hollis and drawn from a wide array of blogs, with no source considered too big, small or controversial to feature.
"The Printed Blog is not for the lowest common denominator and if you're not surprised or engaged or even angered by some of the content then we haven't done our jobs. The idea is to show you a part of the world that you're not otherwise seeing and give people the opportunity to love or hate, get excited or depressed, show it to your friends or throw it across the room. We don't try to be gratuitous in either the imagery or the nature of the stories but we try to be challenging. Are we going to have four million subscribers at the cross section of middle America? The answer is probably not, but we're willing to show people something they haven't seen somewhere else."
The thought provoking and emotionally evocative content lends itself well to the printed form and illustrates the value that Karp finds in the print medium. Rather than be passively consumed, the material is intended to provide an active and multi-sensory experience.
"For me, using the Web or reading something on an iPad is about linking, it's about searching and pop-ups and exploring, whereas print is about consuming information and taking the time to sit down and read something and contemplate it. It's a tactile experience. The Printed Blog is nice to hold, it's nice to look at. The photography jumps off the page. You just don't get that same kind of feeling online."
Karp isn't the only one who believes in the power of print and packaging online content in a print publication. Around the time that The Printed Blog announced its re-launch, a Los Angeles-based blog, blogdowntown, released a weekly print newspaper, blogdowntown Weekly. The blog has built a strong following since debuting in 2005 and over time, founder Eric Richardson deemed that there was a void for content in the print marketplace that blogdowntown could provide.
In a July 20 press release announcing the Weekly's launch, Richardson points to the value of print. "While many reports talk about the death of print, we believe that there is still something uniquely useful about picking up a paper. People respond to having something tangible in their hands whether it’s while having coffee or keeping a handy events guide close by," he said.
This reverse trend of repurposing online material for the printed medium is far from the norm but it is an inventive step in helping to strengthen the print industry and also in wedding the two mediums in a positive manner. While the Web has its many benefits, Karp and The Printed Blog’s re-launch offer an insightful reminder that there is still a strong cultural need for print publications.
“There’s an experience you have when you read something in print that is not replicated when you read it online. I don’t think that we, as a culture, should lose the experience of reading print.”
The Printed Blog
20 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
Joshua Karp, founder and publisher