Posted by: Michael Arndt on February 11, 2009
By now, we all know that the Internet is tomorrow and the printed media are yesterday. So when, to borrow from Lost, is Joshua Karp?
Karp, a 36-year-old former consultant from Chicago, is publisher of the Printed Blog. The content buzzes like the World Wide Web: Every bit comes from the blogosphere or photos snagged from Flickr (with creators’ permission). But the format is undeniably 20th Century: ink on paper, or to be more specific, four-color ink on eight sheets of 11x17 glossy stock bound by staples. (Here’s a PDF of the latest edition.)
The free weekly debuted on Jan. 27 in Chicago and San Francisco, where volunteers and some of Karp’s 14-person staff handed out 3,000 copies to commuters at train stations. On Feb. 10, the Printed Blog expanded to New York, though total circulation stayed at 3,000. Karp plans to move into Los Angeles on Feb. 24 and, he hopes, Washington in March.
The newspaper, if that's the right word, is a huge money drain. Karp says he's bringing in $500 to $600 a week from advertising. But it's cost him more than $15,000 to print the first three editions. Add in payroll and office rent and the $30,000 that Karp says he's pulled out of savings to start his venture will be spent before the publication can roll into DC.
No worries, says Karp. He tells me that he's negotiating loans from a couple of sources for as much as $50,000. Also, by producing the Printed Blog himself on leased photocopiers, he could slice his fixed costs by two-thirds. Besides, his credit cards aren't maxed out yet.
"We are completely bootstrapping a startup," he says. "I'm doing as much as I can without risking divorce."
Most of the Printed Blog's content is about relationships and sex. There are also a few rants on politics and the economy and raves on music and technology. Karp says he's got agreements with more than 1,000 bloggers to use their material.
But if the money holds out, the content could change. Right now, Karp and his top editors pick what's printed. In the future, he wants readers to vote for their favorite bloggers and photographers. A ballot box will be available on the Printed Blog's Web site as well as on a Facebook widget and the bloggers' own sites. (Karp may be toiling in Gutenberg's trade, but this is an Internet Age biz.)
Eventually, the Printed Blog would publish more frequently and each market would have local content from citizen journalists. In other words, it would evolve into an alternative newspaper. Or is that devolve?
What comes next? The BusinessWeek Innovation and Design team of Michael Arndt and Helen Walters chronicle new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.