Why Joshua Karp Believes Blogs Should Be in Print, too

Chicago entrepreneur Joshua Karp is a busy man. He's running three businesses -- all social media related. He publishes The Printed Blog, a subscription magazine, which includes content from all over the blogosphere; The Top Sheet, a one-page hyperlocal newspaper covering Chicago neighborhoods that includes content from blogs and other sources; and Kumbuya, an online community platform originally built for bloggers that allows marketers to target specific niches. SocialTimes recently caught up with Karp to discuss why he's so passionate about social media and print, and how his business models work.

The cover of the next issue of The Printed Blog.
The cover of the next issue of The Printed Blog.
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Chicago entrepreneur Joshua Karp is a busy man. He’s running three businesses — all social media related. He publishes The Printed Blog, a subscription magazine, which includes content from all over the blogosphere; The Top Sheet, a one-page hyperlocal newspaper covering Chicago neighborhoods that includes content from blogs and other sources; and Kumbuya, an online community platform originally built for bloggers that allows marketers to target specific niches. SocialTimes recently caught up with Karp to discuss why he’s so passionate about social media and print, and how his business models work.

The first version of The Printed Blog was launched by you in January 2009, but it folded in July. What lessons did you learn from The Printed Blog 1.0? Talk about how the business model worked — or didn’t.

The objective of The Printed Blog 1.0 was to create a twice-daily newspaper. The primary business model was to be largely the same as traditional newspapers – print ads. Before we even had a design, the press caught wind of what we were trying to do, and we received more press in a shorter period of time than pretty much any other company in history. There was so much excitement about what we were doing that we got pulled off the notion of actually generating revenue – we figured that if we focused on building a great product, we’d secure an investment and worry about building a business model later. We decided to publish The Printed Blog 1.0 in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and to quickly grow into a national brand. Unfortunately, with newspapers in a tailspin in 2009, investment never materialized. The unfortunate truth is that we never really tried to make the business model work. The most important lesson was a general “startup” one: it’s better to have a functioning business model on a small scale — revenue generating — and to grow it over time than to try to be big at first and worry about revenue later.

You decided to bring back The Printed Blog in August 2010 in a new format and subscription business model. Why did you decide to reincarnate The Printed Blog with a subscription model and in a magazine format?

The new business model is a result of a number of factors, not the least of which is that thus far, we’ve not secured any substantial investment. To be fair, however, we haven’t really sought it until now. I could continue to fund a model that allows us to publish one issue a month in a magazine format, so that’s what we’re doing. Also, with the addition of The Top Sheet, we now have our “solution” for the daily print newspaper. In terms of the subscription model, the thought process is that there are millions of bloggers and photographers who publish their work online, and we’re hoping that they see the promise of The Printed Blog and will subscribe to it. We also intend to pay our contributors from a percentage of our revenue, so the more subscribers, the more contributors get paid – another motivation for bloggers to promote The Printed Blog subscriptions. We are also about to distribute a media kit to potential advertisers, with the caveat that ads must be “content,” too, and that we’re going to be very selective about which brands we work with.

You must be pretty passionate about both blogs and print. Why do you think people like to read blogs in print? Doesn’t it make more sense for them to just read it online?