Hope for Publishing in 2009, Part 2

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Jan 6, 2009

Yesterday I posed this question: “If JPG Magazine‘s attempt at this new [community-based Web and print publishing] model failed, what hope does that give to other publishers to adopt this model or other new models to keep publishing energized?” After all, 8020 Media, JPG‘s parent company, was shopped around to larger publishers/media companies like Conde Nast to no avail before having to fold. Obviously, lack of interest in acquiring the group is largely due to the current economic climate. Though, if JPG was a truly viable platform, wouldn’t there be some interest to pick it up and keep it going? Well, the power of the community built around JPG has rallied together and 8020 CEO Mitchell Fox has gotten over 20 fresh offers to buy 8020/JPG.

All is not lost for JPG, nor lost for publishing overall in 2009. There are a number of interesting publishing concepts and projects that I’ve been keeping an eye on that will hopefully make some waves in the industry in 2009. Most of them focus on community involvement (whether online or physical) and making publishing more accessible for the masses overall.

  • As detailed in a previous blog post, HP’s MagCloud publishing platform allows anyone to easily upload, print, and distribute their own magazines. This platform not only enables more people to publish, but also drives volume to print service providers. HP’s partnership with MySpace and its related Smart Web Printing technologies are also important publishing developments to watch in 2009.
  • The “web novel” or “wovel” concept (not to be confused with the world’s safest snow shovel) is gaining media traction (I just heard a story about it on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday). Wovels are a product of Underland Press and are delivered by authors as serial novels in the same way Charles Dickens used to distribute his books (one new chapter every Monday). Readers influence where the story goes via a voting system on the wovel’s Website, and when the wovel is completed, the entire story is published as a book. I will be watching to see if this concept goes beyond Underland Press and takes hold with more mainstream publishers.
  • Printcasting, a project that received funding from the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge program, aims to help anyone be able to publish a newspaper, magazine, or newsletter by aggregating news feeds with original content, supported by advertisers local to the region or related to the topic the piece is being produced for. Printcasting is currently developing and testing some of its tools and is on target to deliver some proof-of-concept items in 2009.
  • The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Open Publishing Lab (OPL), an off-shoot of RIT’s School of Print Media, is working toward many of the same goals as Printcasting, especially with its Page2Pub and Innovation News projects. All projects developed are open source and made freely available to the public to use and modify. The OPL received a grant from HP Labs in 2008 to support the development of its projects.
  • On a more general level, newspapers are increasingly toying with the concept of user-generated content and providing more localized content to communities. The Chicago Tribune has been successfully using Kodak’s microzone publishing technology to reach smaller communities with relevant information. The Denver Post has implemented a similar model. Talk of personalized, individuated newspapers has also increased, especially after many digital print newspaper applications were showcased at drupa. However, newspaper companies showed their true weakness in 2008 and enter 2009 hurting. Will 2009 be a renaissance year for newspapers despite their current condition? Adopting new technologies and models may be able to spur new growth.

While this list is brief and there are many other new publishing projects and ideas out there, these are the projects that give me hope for the print and publishing industries in the upcoming year and beyond. Even though an innovative publishing product like JPG Magazine has had a few speedbumps, people can learn from JPG‘s mistakes as well as its successes and build newer, better, more innovative platforms that create community, encourage creativity, and promote the power of print.

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