People Powered Magazines

Could a project out of Bakersville, California save the newspaper industry? Some think so.  Now in open beta and launching at the end of the month is Printcasting.com, a people powered magazine (on Ning) that makes it possible for anyone to create a local printable newspaper, magazine or newsletter that is supported with local ads. The content is interest-driven, most of it coming from RSS feeds and blogs of the printcaster. The printcast will eventually use paid advertisers, but for now the ads are free.  The initiative is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation via the Knight News Challenge.

Simply choose the feeds of participating writers you like, pick a template and a logo — and bingo, you have a magazine! When new content is available, we’ll notify you that it’s ready so you can tweak a headline here or there, then approve it for publishing. You can also decide to have it publish immediately. Anyone who suscribes to your magazine will receive an e-mail alert about a new edition so they can read it online, and download and print it out if they choose. (We also hope to provide online ordering of prints — so stay tuned!)

Back to Bakersfield…the guy behind this project is Dan Pacheco, a Knight News Challenge winner who started a social networking site called Bakotopia for the Bakersfield Californian newspaper and according to Business Week:

….the Bakersfield Californian is an anomaly in the newspaper business. While other papers are shutting their doors and filing for bankruptcy, it’s expanding. The reason is the paper’s 2005 launch of an online social network, called Bakotopia.com, aimed at reaching nonreaders, especially the young people in this city of nearly 329,000.

What else and how does this all mesh together? They’re also targeting ads to specific Printcasts, you have the ability to choose individual articles that appear in each edition of a Printcast, there is an ad-sharing of revenue with publishers and contributors and the Printcasting network.

The background:

Using an $837,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge and about $200,000 of its own money, it’s launching a site called Printcasting.com later in March. The site will allow individuals, schools, homeowners’ associations, wine clubs, and the like to create their own digital magazines.

Printed blogs, customized mainstream papers and printcasts.  Could teaming up with one of these online experiments actually help newspapers?