Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pulp fiction?

Previously, I've posted on various dismal assessments of the newspaper business (here and here for example). Of the many options that didn't involve variations on the status quo, one idea was to enlist citizen reports (i.e., bloggers) to make newspapers the ultimate local news to be printed on demand.

Here comes an entrepreneurial precursor to making it happen: The Printed Blog.

The Chicago-based company will take the usual news gathering and distribution model and ignore it. Here's a few key features:

  • Anyone can submit content.
  • A physical paper will be printed twice daily and distributed at high traffic areas around the city.
  • Editors will select articles around an issue theme, but the article copyright is retained by the author.
  • Local versions could enable as many as 100 different papers being printed on any given day.
More on the many basics here.

So What?

Traditional news outlets have made half-hearted attempts to include video, blog postings and even Twitter-scratch in their news reports, oftentimes as a side show. But a couple of things stand out in The Printed Blog model that might be taken more seriously by Big News:

1. The model of journalists (in this case, interchangeable with the term 'bloggers') as owners of their work is something the traditional papers have been slow to make eye contact with. Except for celebrity opinionaters like Thomas Friedman or old-school investigators-turned-book authors like Bob Woodward, most electron-stained wretches get a by-line and a paycheck--but not the copyright--to their words.

2. Readers will select the blogs/bloggers they want more of. In this meritocratic approach to selecting who gets to be a reporter, one sees a different type of accountability being applied to local news reporting. Some may pine for the mythical days of the fourth estate as a place beyond the subjective demands of the marketplace or, worse, populist vagaries. But that bridge has already been crossed thousands of times. The Printed Blog acknowledges and embraces reality.

Like anything in the hype machine, the proof of concept will be told in the execution. But if the cause of any decline can be traced to a failure of imagination, The Printed Blog may at least provide a bit of inspiration for mapping a future that includes newspapers.

Required Pulp Fiction headline reference link:

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