What can we learn from the death of the world's first printed blog?
Updated Wed., July 8 at 6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
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absolutely everyone in the world with an Internet connection no one saw this coming: Despite "a significant personal investment" and the "additional support of six or seven credit cards," a new media venture called The Printed Blog is shuttering its presses, founder Josh Karp said today.
In January, a few days before the official launch of The Printed Blog, the New York Times profiled Karp, who explained that his newspaper would be "comprised entirely of blogs and other user-generated content." The idea was to take the things that make blogs good – the piquancy, the novelty – and apply it to the newspaper business.
"There were so many techniques that I’ve seen working online," Karp told the Times, "that maybe I could apply to the print industry.” The Printed Blog was tested initially in Chicago and San Francisco with small print runs; in January, Karp said he hoped to expand to twice-daily editions in several cities around the country. The product was printed on 11×17-inch paper, and was also available as a download from The Printed Blog site.
According to Karp, the final numbers for The Printed Blog look like this: "16 issues, 80,000 print copies distributed, another 100,000 or so copies downloaded.... [and] zero regrets."
The good old days
When Karp first announced that he was creating a dead tree newspaper made out of digital ink blog posts, critics were incredulous. The model Karp was proposing, Hamilton Nolan wrote on Gawker, eliminated "all the cost efficiencies of publishing online in the first place." Furthermore, Nolan added, "should you be economically successful via an advertising model, you will instantly generate demands for payment from your unpaid blogger content providers." Damned if you do, in other words, and... damned if you do.
Furthermore, although Karp understood what made blogs fun to read, he overestimated how exciting it would be to read a 13-hour-old post on a White Sox game. If it's true that newspapers are dying because there aren't quick enough, wouldn't the same be true of The Printed Blog, even if the content originally started life as a snappily-written post?
Print is dead, right?
And then there was the timing: These are very, very bad days for the publishing business. Well-funded magazines such as Portfolio are folding; dozens of newspapers have shuttered or cut back on their print operations. In February, The Rocky Mountain News, the oldest newspaper in Colorado, ceased printing, and in March, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shut its presses.