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The Printed Blog: Experimental model still alive after 2 years

In 2009, an experimental publication called the Printed Blog launched to some acclaim, and then quickly disappeared into oblivion when it folded after only 16 issues.

But founder Joshua Karp wasn’t deterred, and had faith in the concept of a print publication containing curated content from blogs that span the Web. So in 2010, he re-launched the Printed Blog. But this time, he went about matters a little differently, and started it off as a digital product. Initially, the plan was to produce it in print when the publication reached 3,000 subscribers.

Although two years later the Printed Blog is still kicking, Karp hasn’t reached the 3,000 subscriber mark. But that didn’t stop Karp, who decided to print on a monthly basis anyway. With more than 10,000 bloggers in the publication’s network, there’s no lack for content. And while bloggers gain exposure when a post runs, they are also now paid a $50 “thank you” fee for the use of their content. Meanwhile, Karp now employs a team of six who help curate the content that makes the Printed Blog possible.

The U.S. isn’t the only country with its own edition of the Printed Blog. Karp said he is now licensing the model to other publishers. In St. Petersburg, Russia, the Printed Blog prints every other week. It has a social media following of 100,000 or more and is expanding into Moscow, he said. He also licensed the model to a publisher in Lisbon, Portugal, but the publisher folded it due to personal issues. However, when it was running Karp noted it had a lot of advertiser success.

Indeed, Karp noted that’s how The Printed Blog is different this time around. By working to build subscribers and advertisers, there is a stronger focus on the commercial aspect of the product.  Celebrity photographer Tyler Shields is also a co-founder in the venture, and in the past has brought in celebs as guest columnists. More recently, Shield’s girlfriend Francesca Eastwood, Clint Eastwood’s daughter, was featured with a cover photo. “It’s certainly different from the first time since we had originally thought the entire model would be different,” Karp said.

In addition to the Printed Blog, several other projects have come to fruition, shaping The Printed Blog Inc. into a new media company. Several months ago, it launched Top Sheet, a one-page newspaper featuring summaries from big news of the day that’s curated from the biggest media to the smallest. Prepared the night before, it’s distributed to train stations throughout Chicago. Local content is also included and is specific to each neighborhood where it’s being dropped. Although he has hopes for it to become a daily at some point, it’s still in the pilot phase. However, it will start a five-day distribution cycle in the near future, he noted. “I’m not in a giant hurry to do it, as long as we’re getting the interest, I’ll let it happen when it can be supported by advertisers.” He also launched a social commerce site called Kumbuya.com, which allows consumers and merchants to create and offer deals to the right buyers in communities, kind of like a social network for businesses and community leaders.

But despite these ventures, Karp did admit they aren’t turning a profit yet, noting he would like to get to the 3,000 subscriber number. (A subscription, by the way, costs $3.00 a month.) “I think a lot of it is under our control, we need to do a better job at getting it in front of people. I wish we had more,” he said.

In the meantime, Karp said they will be looking to go for another round of fundraising to support the project and more ideas are coming down the pipeline that he hopes will be supportive of a “real new media company.” “We’re sort of taking the foundation we built and leveraging it into other interesting media,” he said.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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