Last week The Printed Blog – a US experiment in printing a selection of blog entries as a newspaper – gave up the ghost after 16 issues. Around the same time I was contacted by theblogpaper, a blogging community website which by September aims to… you guessed it: publish a selection of blog entries as a free newspaper (in London). The people behind the project are Anton von Waldburg and Karl Jo Seilern.
In a series of emails I asked co-founder Anton von Waldburg why he thought theblogpaper would succeed where The Printed Blog didn’t. Here are his responses:
The obvious question first: how does theblogpaper differ from The Printed Blog?
I suppose we differ from The Printed Blog in several ways. Most importantly we are trying to build a platform (theblogpaper.co.uk) which aims to incorporate users not only into the creation of the content but most importantly into the editing process.
By rating and commenting the content, which ultimately promotes content to print (highest rated and most discussed content will be promoted) we hope to directly incorporate the community rather than “deciding” ourselves what we are going to publish. We hope that this will increase the level of interaction with the blogpaper as well as the brand recognition.
By leaving the decision to the community what should be promoted we can therefore focus our attention on the business part of publishing the paper.
Second of all we are focusing on London. London already has an established free sheet market. We are very aware of the current situation of the advertising market especially in the free sheet segment, but we are hoping that our “self regulatory content promotion system” (in other words letting users choose via rating and commenting what to promote to print) will attract advertisers, since the advertising content will be associated with the best content of the online community.
What is the business model? And how are you funded?
Its based on advertising. We are also currently in negotiation with several angel investors.
Furthermore I have to say that we are trying to keep the cost as minimal as possible until we actually publish the newspaper (which will hopefully be in 3 months). That secures us with an easy exit stradegy, because if we do not generate a critical mass of bloggers until our deadline to interact as well as post quality content the whole concept itself obviously does not work.
We believe that publishing “the best content” (as voted and discussed by the community) could create a distinctive character for theblogpaper. Readers get a quick weekly summary (in the form of a newspaper) of quality content, or at least content that has been declared “quality content” by a community rather that a few editors.
Why do you think people will contribute to the Blog Paper? Especially writers who already command a large following on their own blogs?
Our ultimate goal is create a platform for bloggers to reach out to new readers, increase thier profile and redirect traffic back to thier blogs. The main idea is that it should be as easy as possible to post content on theblogpaper.co.uk, making it convenient to get the chance to be published (of course only if the communtiy “likes” your content).
We thought about adding a feature to make it possible to [submit your blog's RSS feed] but at the moment we will focus on getting people involved manually. So we would aim at people to maybe upload your best articles onto theblogpaper, (it only takes couple of mins :)) and kind of engage with it the content which is rather important especially when it comes to voting for the best content.
We also thought long and hard about a reward scheme, but for that to work we must first of all make profits, and this is not going to happen any time soon. The cost margins are so high especially when we are going into print that we primarily have to focus on generating enough advertising to even be able to publish the newspaper in the first place…
How do you ensure that content is still fresh by the time it is printed?
We acknowledge the fact that we can never be as “fresh” as for example a daily newspaper, but that is not what we are focusing on. Our research shows that especially daily newspapers stuggle due to the fact that breaking “fresh” news are being concumed online through online newspapers, twitter and other social networks (obviously spreading much faster than through print).
So we want to publish a weekly review of the best content (or at least what the community believed to be the best content). We won’t publish articles or photos which have been online for weeks of course.
What have you learned already so far?
It is rather hard to get noticed online. We are aware that we havent created the next killer app, we just aim to create a new opportunity for online publisher. It takes much longer to build up a substantial user base which makes live much harder for us obviously especially when negotiating with potential investors.
Anton says they welcome “all the feedback / criticism / help we can get on our concept”