What can we learn from the death of the world's first printed blog?
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Remaining papers, such as the Boston Globe, have struggled to deal with declining print ad revenue – much of it lost to Craigslist, and other classified sites – while shifting to a web-centric marketing strategy. (In April, the Christian Science Monitor began publishing its daily edition online only.)Skip to next paragraph
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“For most newspapers in the United states, we would not buy them at any price,” Warren Buffet, the world's foremost businessman, said this year, when asked about the possibility of investing in newspapers. “They have the possibility of going to just unending losses.”
Well, maybe not
This was the landscape Karp faced. It was grim all around. Still, he persevered, telling Wired that contrary to popular opinion, print media was not dying. For "people around the world, who need to and want to consume information, whether it be in developing countries or emerging countries," he said, "newsprint is still going to be a main mechanism for information for years to come."
Karp told the Times today that he ultimately put "six figures" of his own cash into The Printed Blog.
“My biggest mistake was letting myself get carried away,” he said. “I kind of lost sight of the fundamentals of what I should be doing and said to myself, ‘Maybe I have a bigger thing here.’ I expanded too fast.”
"It won’t surprise me at all to find some of our ideas strategically implemented elsewhere in the months ahead," Karp wrote in a letter to readers. "I suspect our relatively short run will have some long-term effect on the evolution of newsprint."
Karp did not specifically discuss that effect, and he did not immediately return a request for comment. [Karp's response at bottom of the post.]
But I think we can speculate as to the nature of the lessons learned.
First of all, don't muddle the medium. Blogs work because they are blogs, and putting a blog post on paper doesn't make it a better blog post. It makes it a newspaper article. This doesn't mean one is lesser than the other. As novelist Benjamin Kunkel has noted, many print folks write better copy on their blogs than they do under the "official" masthead of a major newspaper.
Still, Karp is right when he points to one major success of The Printed Blog: creating a community. Newspapers these days are dying to create "communities;" it's an industry buzzword. Many papers hire experts to manage their online communities, and to facilitate a back-and-forth between the reader and the newsroom. The Printed Blog did this effortlessly and it did it quickly – thousands of folks contributed to the newspaper, and thousands of folks read it.