… In Which I Save the Print Industry

It's a bit of a hobby of mine to save ailing industries here on the ol' blog.  I enjoy the mental exercise and like to think that I'm a genius… and none of you have spoken up to break the sad sorry news to me that this isn't the case so for that I'm thankful.  

It's no secret that the newsprint industry is in a crisis.  Us bloggers of course say that this is a natural change in the way we gain information, and laid off journalists say that the quality of reporting from blogs and other free internet sources is simply not on-par with what was produced by "real" journalists.
The reality of course is somewhere in the middle.  
It's pretty clear that the current newsprint model is not survivable, but I'm not on the bandwagon that paper is going to die out.  Sure some say that paper is wasteful, and unnecessary these days, and eventually everyone's newspapers will be replaced by e-readers like the kindle, or smartphones, and to a large part this is true.  However certain things can be done with paper that while they can be replicated with electronic devices, there is no issue of cross-compatibility when pinning a newspaper article to an office billboard, or circling a promising classified ad to leave on the kitchen table when you're wife wakes up.  Paper has competition no doubt but sometimes paper is better.
Warren Ellis has been exploring some ideas on how to keep paper alive, and having friends and relatives in both the news and pulp industries I'm a bit interested in it as well.  One thing Mr Ellis has shared are some entrepreneurial websites allowing you to input RSS feeds, and each day it compiles the feeds you specify into a format that can be printed into something akin to your morning paper.  
Tabbloid is one such site which I see huge potential in but see the next level of this service.  Imagine a world where on your way to work while waiting at the train station you stop at a newspaper booth, but instead of picking up a copy of the Journal, you put in a login name and password to your personal feed compiler.  Within seconds the stand's printer spits out a custom paper formatted for all your feeds in the layout you prefer and your paypal account is billed $2.00.  The "newspaper" automatically adds a few advertisements including coupons and a "classifieds" section loaded directly from your preferred sellers and account information from ebay and craigslist, and might even include quotes from select commenters on the blogs you find especially credible.  Add to that a sidebar with a few of your favorite twitterers, and a comics and jokes section, an economics section showing the stocks you're interested in and you've got the perfect paper to read on the train.  The information on your preferred feeds is logged and the authors are automatically given a percentage of the ad revenue from the ads embedded on the page.  
Of course this custom paper would be available for newsreaders or laptops and saved for future reference.  Certain people might even be able to make a business out of selling their own custom layouts, or what's more likely will be that sites like DIGG will create their own papers for people to pick up at will. 
All this wonderful potential is for someone to create a printer designed to print on cheap pulp paper very quickly with a connection to a feed compiler website.  All of this is existing and proven technology.  Then all it takes from there is to get people using it, and my bet is they will.  

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About Helmsman

Importing a Vox Blog.
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2 Responses to … In Which I Save the Print Industry

  1. I'm in a publishing industry. Online versus print is one of our biggest ongoing debates. There's an audience for both right now, and bridging the 2 is challenging.It's ironic you post this today, which is the last print day of one of my hometown's (Seattle) papers, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. They are finally shutting down the presses for good after 150 years. They will continue their online version though I'm not sure how much good that will do them now. They missed the window.

  2. K. says:

    We actually had some bigshot (can't remember the guy's name) come do a lecture on print vs web, and how the web is pretty much destroying newspaper companies because they're giving their stuff away for free. He was suggesting doing something kind of like iTunes where you pay to play.
    The web does have its plusses, but the fact of the matter is, it's watering down real journalism in a major way. I mean, just look at the presence of Wikipedia. Our student newspaper used wikipedia as an reference in one of its articles. Are you KIDDING me?
    If we can pay decent journalists how are we going to get trustworthy news?

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