Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August Observations - Kickstarting the Printed Blog

also published in Photizo io360

Observations: Kickstarting the Printed Blog

 When ideas or trends come together, it can be a beautiful thing. And that is how I felt when I read about The Printed Blog’s (TPB) efforts to raise funds on the popular crowd-funding Web site Kickstarter. On August 21st, founder Joshua Karp and The Printed Blog became one of nearly 4,000 “live” Kickstarter projects, seeking $25,000 in pledges over a 45-day period to be used for “… a number of things to get the ball rolling on our unique publication,” according to the Kickstarter listing.

I have been a long-time follower of TPB and its adventures “swimming upstream,” at least in the minds of some, as a print-centric publication making a go of it in today’s world. One of my favorite topics over the nearly seven years I have been doing my monthly Observations column has been an irregular series on Karp and TPB, first covered here in April 2009. (That piece followed significant attention for TPB in the general media.) Describing TPB’s efforts as the “Ultimate Countertrend”, I related founder Karp’s passion for print and his business aspirations. I followed up with a piece on TPB ceasing publication in 2010, then rebirth andexpansion (via technology license) to Russia and Portugal in 2011, along with anew one-page print product, The Top Sheet.

Expanding on plans for the $25,000, Karp explained to potential pledgers on the Kickstarter site, “It will be used to begin the production of a 3-issue series of The Printed Blog, which includes content gathering, printing, mailing, and the paying of our wonderful bloggers and photographers $50 for their published contributions (more as our budget increases!). You will also be funding our publicity and the development of non-invasive advertising contracts to allow The Printed Blog to become a self-sustaining publication.”

My interest in Kickstarter goes back some time, too, by first participating in several projects (iPad-related accessories) beginning in early 2011. In March, 2012, hard copy got into the act, and I blogged (over on the Lyra Insider blog) about the “hot combination” of Kickstarter, and Instagram-inspired Instaprint, a printing solution for Instagram photos (see “Instaprint – Hot Combination Includes Print”,  ). Instaprint’s creator was seeking $500,000 to roll out a shippable version of their product, which had been shown off in prototype mode to positive reviews. This Kickstarter project, unlike my iPad-related ventures, fell quite a bit short of its goal, and from Instagram’s creator, Breakfast, per their website (, is word that they are now pursuing a rental model.

According to a recent analysis by Micheal Wolf of GigaOm, a good indicator for success is when a project gets to 20 percent funding, and 30 percent is even better. Says Wolf, “Talking to crowdsourcing platforms, some believe once you cross 30 percent funded threshold, it gains momentum by moving outside of your own personal network and attracts strangers.” This is mindful of the sociologically-based theory of “The Strength of Weak Ties,” and when I look at my Kickstarter “backer history” (to use their terminology), most were spurred by media coverage, outside direct communication with the companies or Kickstarter itself (Instaprint being the exception, discovered via one of Kickstarter’s e-mail newsletters.)

And as long as we are checking in, what else is new with TPB, outside the Kickstarter initiative? A couple of months back, I had been in touch with Karp on his requests for information on printers capable of producing substantial runs of the firm’s Top Sheet. According to Karp, “We went with the Ricoh Aficio 8200DN. We’re publishing The Top Sheet at two locations [in the Chicago area, at] 1,000 copies, twice a week. We’ve started to get a bunch of advertiser inquiries, too (we’ve run a few paid ads already). I’m hopeful that we’ll be cash flow positive for five days a week at two locations in about four weeks. After that, we’ll aggressively expand to other locations. By next year at this time, we’ll be the highest daily circulation print newspaper in Cook County.”

The TPB project is well short of its $25,000 goal in just a few days, and in fact well short of the 20 percent and 30 percent marks, as well. But best of luck to The Printed Blog with its Kickstarter initiative and other endeavors. I have a feeling you will be reading more about them here, in the future.

Full disclosure department: As with the Instagram Kickstarter initiative, I am “in” with The Printed Blog, as a backer. The mechanics of Kickstarter offer various pledging levels for each project, with some “perks” at each level. In the case of The Printed Blog, I pledged $100, which, if and when the effort reaches its goal, I get a TPB t-shirt and “a unique postcard collage made from words and images from our magazine!” Other levels included some preferential editorial treatment for writers in the TPB itself, but I figured I have enough editorial coverage already.

Jim is a regular contributor of news and analysis and the author of a monthly column, Observations, for the Imaging Observer 360, in addition to serving as co-director of Photizo’s Digital Workflow Transformation Advisory Service. He also blogs and tweets on developments in the printer industry. In addition, Jim is a faculty member at the University of Phoenix, teaching marketing and economics in the school’s MBA program. Past columns, links, and other musings may be found at Follow Jim on Twitter, @jflyons.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Updating April 2012 Observations - Facebook and Instagram

In my April 2012 Observations, "What A Difference Seven Years Makes", I covered the (then) recently announced Facebook acquisition of Instagram, characterized then (though Facebook was still pre-IPO) as a One Billion Dollar Deal! In case you were off with the Curiousity on its way to Mars, or somewhere else equally off the grid, Facebook has had their IPO, and now with a stock price currently barely half of its $38 offering price. And most recently (yesterday), the FCC approved the acquisition. On SAI Business Insider, Owen Thomas has some great "new math" on the deal, including the fact the deal is now estimated at a $747 buy.