Thursday, March 19, 2009

Journalists, the PRinternet, and fixing education

Since new developments in Print tech are coming fast and furious, most of my focus the last two weeks has been at Tough Love for Xerox, where I blog for the Print industry. But I think today's post would be interesting for printers on the ground and newspaper people. So I'm reproducing it here.

The post follows:

This has been a very interesting week and it's only Thursday.

The outlines of the PRinternet are becoming more clear. Pull Printing in the UK showed what it can look like within the enterprise. The Time/Lexus collaboration demonstrated how it might play out in the service of helping dealers sell cars. The New York Times has mainstreamed hyper local journalism. Oce is replacing web offset presses with digital presses for a newspaper publisher in Spain.

And Vertis. Are they the UUnet of the PRinternet?
from Wikipedia:
UUNET was one of the largest Internet service providers and one of the nine Tier 1 networks. It was based in Northern Virginia and was the first commercial Internet service provider. Today, UUNET is an internal brand of Verizon Business (formerly MCI).
What if FSI's were redesigned so that they could "sell" learning, as effectively as they sell groceries? Given that Print is now embedded in an internet world, it's possible to use just the right tool for just the right job at just the right time. I would be glad to point to any of a number of design studios who could solve the visual part of this problem.

To be clear, my passion is to fix High School education in the United States. My focus is the fifty percent of our children who drop out of High School and educating our very large incarcerated population.

Below is an imaginary story written about the PRinternet and Education. Here's the link to the real AP story about Time/Toyota at Yahoo.

Imagine if . . .

XYZ Inc. is experimenting with a customized magazine that combines teacher-selected sections from eight domains as it tries to deliver in Print the right content in the right form at the right time to high school dropouts.

Called "ours," the 15-issue, 15-week experiment aligns content with the high school curriculum determined by National Education Standards. The content is presented in the form of stories developed by editors and journalists at (AP? Reuters? New York Times?) It's as customizable as the recent Time, Inc/ Toyota collaboration.

The content is free online, but participating school boards purchase print copies for their students. It's available around the globe in English and Spanish. Other languages are being planned.

Sign-ups are available 24/7 365. Classes do not have to begin in September and end in June. Whenever and wherever a class starts, each student can access a digital edition that looks just like the printed version, but in a special format that allows virtual page turns with clicks.

Teacher/mentors can select five subject areas from nine created by the network of journalists working with The National Education Standards Board, World History, Community History, Philosophy, Law and Civics, Science, Mathematics, Visual Arts, World/Community Literature, Anthropology. The list of sub - specialties will grow as local needs are co-ordinated with local news networks.

Educators + editors will pre-select the stories that make it into every weekly issue, and students won't have the option of changing the picks from issue to issue. Summary quizzes are included in each issue. The quizzes are in a machine readable format so that the data can be stored, accessed and provide ongoing assessment of student progress.

There are 56 editorial combinations in all. Based on surveys by the on site teachers, who pull the content from the Cloud by filling out an online survey, the students will also find special items that are needed by that class during that week of delivery.

A sample message tag line for a 16 year old student named Steve, who lives in Los Angeles and loves basketball might be "Hey Steve, your friends will be really impressed when you learn from Magic Johnson's story everything you need to know to succeed on the court . . . and in life." It would be accompanied by snippets from the book. The full text of the book is available in the school library, the public library, on the web, can be downloaded to an e-reader, or delivered in paper to the student in class.

The Commissioner of Education in ABC state, which came up with the idea, will be the lone message manager and will buy four full pages of messages for each 36-page magazine. The message ads will be focused on low cost college opportunities, career paths for non college bound students, suggestions for entrepreneurial paths, and local apprenticeship/intern openings.

"I wouldn't call this an public service announcement, this goes much beyond this," said Ms. XYZ, Coordinator of Education Delivery. "Our message of 'the power of knowledge' and ' learning means winning" will come through a lot stronger."

Without specifying, Ms. XYZ said the venture did not cost more than other teaching/learning campaigns. She suggested that the potentially higher costs of individualized printing will be easily accommodated by redirecting dollars from the textbook and professional development budgets. In addition, some of the new Federal education money helps with the necessary proof of concept projects, until they get to scale.

The State, Local school district and Department of Education plan extensive research on how students, parents, teachers and administration react to the textbooklet magazine series.

Ms. XYZ, Co-ordinator of Education Delivery , said the magazine series strikes the right balance between student choice, classroom teacher mentoring and the school district's editorial control.

"This is the most unique project that we've ever done. It combines clear curricular content with the power of fitting the content to each student in each class." she said.

The "ours" experiment represents the latest effort by traditional educational organizations to appeal to students increasingly accustomed to picking and choosing what they see on the Internet. Online computer education, through growing, hasn't yet delivered on the promise of better outcomes for the bottom of the pyramid. Personalized print products could help fill some of the gap.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Digital News-on-Paper emerges in Spain

Consider that 6,000 80 pages = 24,000 20 page papers.

"Oce strengthened its prime position in the emerging short-run digital newspaper print market by signing an agreement with Imcodavila, one of the leading Spanish publishers, where six thousand colour newspapers are to be printed digitally every day.

Imcodavila, located 100 kilometres outside Madrid, will be the world's first short-run production site for domestic titles in colour with average daily print runs of 6,000 80-page colour newspapers. Up to 40 separate titles - a mixture of dailies, weeklies and monthlies - will be produced on an Oc�JetStream 2200 inkjet colour web press.

Never in the history of newspapers have so many titles been printed digitally in one location. The site has the capacity to produce up to ten times as many newspapers as any other Oce Digital Newspaper Network production site in the world. Imcodavila produces titles like La Vanguardia, Diario de vila, Pablico, . . . with national and local distribution. The new Oce JetStream 2200, with a print speed of 150 metres/min or 2020 A4 pages per minute, is expected to be installed within a month. The first newspapers are due to roll off the presses in May."

Listen to the Printer. Fix the ad sales process.

In my most recent column at PBS.Media Shift I said,
As journalism is going through fundamental changes, the system for selling print ads is mired in the past. For print ads to activate the presently under-served large market of small business, it means ad sales people will need to be accessible to small and micro-business people for a quick conversation to do the deal. Few small and micro-businesses have the time to focus to buy on the Internet.
Since that venue is mostly journalists, it didn't get much of a response. Then in a thread at, I said,
What’s broken about the advertising model is not the newspapers. It’s an ad sales process that is too expensive and too complicated for micro, small and medium business.
Since Print Ceo is a place for Printers, the discussion tends to be a little more down to earth. Andy McCourt, from Australia said,
MJ wrote: “What’s broken about the advertising model is not the newspapers. It’s an ad sales process that is too expensive and too complicated for micro, small and medium business.”
Hear,hear Michael. And you could add the guy with the “trusty but rusty” ‘98 Pontiac wanting to sell it using a colour picture too.
Here in Australia, we have a very strong network of localised free newspapers such as Cumberland Community Newspapers (owned by Mr Murdoch’s News Corp) and others:
These titles look great on SC paper; even LWC - in full colour and guess what…I haven’t noticed any decline in advertising (incl. classifieds) during this recession. Why? Because these papers are free, localised and the advertising is targeted to regions and is affordable.

One, The Manly Daily (reference to a suburb, not Australian macho-ness!) is reportedly the highest paginated free daily in the world. They reach out to communities of around 30,000 households and don’t try to be mass-market ‘thunderers.’ Take this successful model further with digitally-printed, hyper-localised targeted titles and the advertising cost will be even more affordable, and wil deliver higher returns per-dollar-invested.

Having said that, I note Goss is now positioning its presses as able to do job-changes at 3,000 copies. So offset lives in this world too. As for paying for content; I’m a cynic. I don’t think people will do this in sufficient numbers for newspapers, on Kindles or on paper. Bring back the advertisers by hyper-localising, and blend DM with NP.
It's just one of the many reasons I'm so proud to be a Printer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Print Dead? It depends on who you ask.

I read my Dr Joe Webb on Mondays and found this:

"The New York Daily News didn't like it the other day when Time listed it as one of the ten most endangered newspapers. The other newspapers were Philadelphia Daily News, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Miami Herald, Detroit News, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Cleveland Plain Dealer.

After saying, “This is an irresponsible article that is totally unfounded and baseless... every so-called fact is wrong”, the paper fought back with an interesting answer. They're investing in more color printing capabilities. The response claimed, “The News just invested tens of millions in new printing presses that will enable The News to publish in color - on every page - starting in October” (just in time to cover the Mets winning the World Series, I hope)." . . .
With color on every page, the Daily News will become a daily magazine... don't they know what bad shape the magazine business is in?
Now I can get back to MSNBC, and watch Morning Joe.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Newspapers, Education and the PRinternet

Full disclosure: This is the same post as I did this morning at ToughLoveForXerox where I follow the printing industry. Only the title has been changed. Over there it's called Lessons from the Past and the "PRinternet."

This morning I found an unusual post by Tim Windsor at the Neiman Journalism Lab. He said,
I try not to do too many of those “You’ve got to read this” posts. But you’ve got to read this. Clay Shirky:
So I did.

Usually when searching through the internet you find blog posts, such as you find at this blog. Every rare once in a while you come across an essay. This is a very good essay.

Shirky says we are living through the 21st century replay of the 1500's. I agree. Last time it was a network of print enterprises.. This time it will be a network of networks of print output, both machines and print enterprises. That's the reality I'm trying to capture with the term "The PRinternet."

Below are two excerpts from Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable .
Elizabeth Eisenstein’s magisterial treatment of Gutenberg’s invention, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, opens with a recounting of her research into the early history of the printing press. She was able to find many descriptions of life in the early 1400s, the era before movable type. Literacy was limited, the Catholic Church was the pan-European political force, Mass was in Latin, and the average book was the Bible. She was also able to find endless descriptions of life in the late 1500s, after Gutenberg’s invention had started to spread. Literacy was on the rise, as were books written in contemporary languages, Copernicus had published his epochal work on astronomy, and Martin Luther’s use of the press to reform the Church was upending both religious and political stability."

What Eisenstein focused on, though, was how many historians ignored the transition from one era to the other. To describe the world before or after the spread of print was child’s play — those dates were safely distanced from upheaval — but what was happening in 1500? The hard question Eisenstein’s book asks is “How did we get from the world before the printing press to the world after it? What was the revolution itself like?”

Chaotic, as it turns out.
This is the heart of the matter for our industry:
If you want to know why newspapers are in such trouble, the most salient fact is this: Printing presses are terrifically expensive to set up and to run. This bit of economics, normal since Gutenberg, limits competition while creating positive returns to scale for the press owner, a happy pair of economic effects that feed on each other.
"Printing presses are terrifically expensive to set up and run" is still true for offset printing. Still true for production digital printing. No longer true for printing at home, the work group, or the classroom. But it doesn't have to be a zero-sum game.

The New Value Created by a PRinternet
The deep fundamentals are Time and Space. After 40 years, the internet has redefined Time to "now." and Space to "everywhere people live in communities." Every product wants to be available now. Every information product wants to be in the language of the Space into which it is delivered.

In a previous post I blue skyed how it is plausible to believe that a "PRinternet" could enable 700,000,000 print products versioned for hyper and micro communities produced and delivered in a couple of days, with a minimal carbon footprint. The exact number is irrelevant. The issue is that it could be produced closer and closer to now and delivered in any quantity to anywhere close to a Print output node.

Below is a mash up built on Shirky's paragraphs to try to clarify how this might play out.
. . . descriptions of life in the early 2000's, the era before the PRinternet. On a global scale and at the bottom of the pyramid, literacy was limited. In all parts of society the ability to think logically was an ongoing challenge. As nation states were losing their power in the face of the most recent stage of globalization, implicit tribal divisions were becoming the basis for violent conflict. Science was written in specialized language, unaccessible to both politicians and citizens. Education, while expensive, had only minimal effect on those whose learning styles did not fit the value chain model of education. The fruits of the breathtaking medical innovations had yet to help more than a fraction of the world's population.

By 2020, when the PRinternet was only 10 years old, literacy was on the rise as information organized on the the web was fixed and distributed in space defined world on paper. Books, posters and newsLetters (newspapers for micro audiences) are written in the language of hyper local and micro local communities they serve. As Print enters the space of communities, micro cultures move closer to civility and responsibility.

Print + Newspapers for Education
Students work with teachers-as- mentors to write their own "textbooks" and "supplementaries." The focus that organizes the curricular content changes with the ever changing focus of the class group. The specific content also depends on information harvested from on line, real time diagnostic testing of each student.

The form of publishing is chosen as appropriate. Day to day, the content is organized in the Cloud and published to the Screen, appropriate to each student's learning style. A key element of education has become nurturing a responsible civil culture. Culture grows best in small groups - like familes, or "people like us." Print is the vehicle of choice for an information laden cultural artifact.

Every school and some classes have their own newspaper. But the newspaper has become central to the process of education. A team composed of an educator, an editor, a writer with the help of a designer manage the school newspaper.

The educator clarifies the standards and content the students need. The editor selects just the right stories from the morgue and current events. The writer produces a couple of hundred words and captions to frame the stories for a specific community of students.

Before publishing to Print, the newspaper is published to the screen. Students have a week to read and comment. The editor and educator go through the comments to find the most interesting threads. They ask just the right questions to move the discussion forward. As the threads get complex, the moderator -educator, editor, journalist as circumstances dictate- intervenes.

At the end of the week, the Screen version is ported to Print. The Print can be a book, a magazine, a newsletter, a newspaper, a banner or a poster. It will depend on what best moves toward the educator's goals. As standards evolve, there is a "Print as" button on the screen and/or someplace to go to talk to a person. (Staples? Costco? WalMart? local printer? a publishing center in the building? a local newspaper?) In either case, once ordered, it enters the PRinternet. Two days later it is in the teacher's hand.

If it's a book, a publishing party is in order. If it's a newspaper, the students talk about it in the lunchroom and the classroom. If it's a poster, students see a new information addition to the hallways, as they listen on their iPods, text message their friends and twitter to their posse.