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September 6, 2005

How about a national blog tabloid?

-- by John Emerson

(This post is a response to Dave's post below, "We're still only talking to each other".)

Blogs are basically an elite form of communication. It makes possible almost instant dissemination of information, but only reaches people who are motivated enough to make some effort. Blogs don't help much with the Democrats' biggest problem -- the passive voters who pick up the ambient opinion from radio and TV. Blogs also don't reach active citizens who, for whatever reason, are not internet-savvy.

I'm proposing a printable blog tabloid which would aggregate news and opinion daily and post it in printable form. That way, individuals could print off copies and distribute them to friends and acquaintances or leave them in public places.

In order to work, this tabloid would have to be attractively and professionally formatted, with punchy stories, quick summaries, nice graphics, and a bit of humor. Hopefully there is a widely-used software available which would make it possible for tens of thousands of people to print off nice-looking copies. This would effectively be a free national hard-copy tabloid printed off at thousands of locations.

The tabloid would also be readable online, of course, but the selling point would be its printability. The net is tremendously powerful as a tool for gathering and quickly disseminating information, but it does not reach everyone.

In order for this to work a lot of people would have to be involved -- at the editorial end, but above all at the tech and finance ends. Hopefully someone will pick up the ball and run with it.

Posted by John Emerson at September 6, 2005 6:57 AM

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Comments

John, I left this comment on the original post:

John, that's a good idea. I was in fact thinking of something similar myself yesterday. A little background, then I come back to the point.

One of the things that arose out of the opposition to the nomination of Gonzoles for Attorney General was the "Indy 500" blogs (to which STF is a member)

I've been maintaining a DailyKos like diary recommendation system for this set of blogs, with 430+ blogs scanned every three hours for new posts and the results collected. Several of us scan for the best stuff and recommend things, which then are seen by other people carrying the feeds, who further recommend them. (Come over to Dr. Laniac's laboratory and visit the PBRC. Not linking to minimize "blog-whoring")

Back to the point. I was thinking how it could be a good print medium daily publication, if we had the resources to put it out.

If the money could be put together for it, we have an editorial infrastructure for it already.

eh? eh?

Posted by: Dr. Laniac [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2005 9:12 AM

Steal the resources. How much does it cost to produce a PDF? That's the total expense. Distribution is simply posting on the net, allowing interested local distributors to print out as many copies as they can afford on their own dime or as many copies as they can get away with on corporate resources they have access to. I especially like stealing the paper and toner from corporations. For me, it's maybe the very best part of the idea.

Posted by: richard [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2005 1:54 PM

It's not that there's a lack of resources or interest in the concept. A good sales team could tap into progressive advertisers - and yes, you do need those advertisers, because the publication isn't going to sustain itself in the long run on a patchwork of activists.

You need a solid stable of columnists that create a loyal following, the way Chuck Shepard has built with News of the Weird, and you need to pay them.

The key to making it this work is figuring out the distribution problem. For any publication to reach a critical mass of readers, you have to go through mainstream distribution channels, and that's the big bottleneck.

The Net is great, but it's fragmented.

There are some places with newsstands that accept quite a variety of publications and have a fairly widespread presence. I'm thinking of Books-A-Million and Borders bookstores. Get a publication placed on those newsstands and work outward from there, and I think the concept could fly. Start with the channels used by urban alternative weekly tabloids, and build on that.

Progressive Perspective Weekly, anyone? Lots of humor - be generous with editorial cartoons. They educate and amuse at the same time.

PDF will work for production, the Net becomes the distibution channel for files that go to printers in each market. Then you need a crew to get the paper out reliably each and every week. They have to be paid too. If it's not out consistently, it won't be taken seriously.

I've thought about this often. It should be done.

Posted by: DeafScribe [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2005 6:21 AM

I'm with DeafScribe, maybe because I've spent many years in book and magazine print production. I think a print weekly could fly. Of course, you could do both--a daily webzine with a weekly print edition. But if you're going to do a print edition, do a print edition that can be distributed through print venues, like newsstands. You don't have to do a four-color glossy; two colors on newsprint would work, and be considerably cheaper. I don't see the point of having web users printing out PDFs, though.

Posted by: maha [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2005 11:05 AM

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