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 Deb Weinstein/MEDILL

 Michelle Doellman, intern for The Printed Blog, handed out free copies of the debut issue on North Michigan Avenue.


 Deb Weinstein/MEDILL

 The Printed Blog Founder and Publisher Josh Karp handed out issues of the debut issue near the Tribune Co.'s headquarters.

New free newspaper debuts at Tribune's door

by Deb Weinstein
Jan 27, 2009

Just feet from the front doors of Tribune Co.’s headquarters on North Michigan Avenue, teams were competing for attention.

To the right: Greenpeace activists.

To the left: Josh Karp, founder and publisher of The Printed Blog and staffers handing out copies of the Web-to-print publication’s first issue.

“I consider us a direct competitor for the RedEye,” he said of Tribune Co.’s free entertainment and news daily publication.

“We may not look like a traditional newspaper,” he said, referring not just to the content—which is pulled from the Web with permission from the authors—but also its oversized 11 inch by 17 inch pages, stapled spine and heavy paper, “but I consider us a newspaper.”

In Tuesday's Politics section, for instance, political blog Daily Kos was reproduced under the headline, "Hoping for Obama's Failure," about conservative commentators' critiques of the president.

In addition to the copies handed out on North Michigan Avenue, 2,100 to 2,200 issues of the free publication were distributed during the morning commute at the Red Line’s Belmont El Stop, the Blue Line’s Damen stop and the Brown Line’s Southport stop.

Except for the copies near the Tribune Tower, finding an issue after 11 a.m. was a challenge.
Finding an opinion was not.

“I don’t like this format,” said Tony Daioi of Garella Liquors next to the Southport station. He laid RedEye on top of The Printed Blog to show how the two compare. “It’s too big. Way too big,” he said.

In front of the Tribune Tower, a passerby returned his copy after scanning the front page.

Student Rachel Gauvin, interviewed while traveling on a Loop-bound Brown Line train, said she doesn’t regularly read blogs but liked the idea of the new publication.

Gauvin said the coverage would probably be “more diverse” than in other publications. She also saw an added benefit. “There are so many blogs that people don’t know about, so this will probably open up different blogs to different people,” she said.

Tuesday’s issue – distributed in San Francisco as well as Chicago – was the same at all locations in both cities, but Karp said in the future the oversized layout will not be the only thing that will grab attention. His goal is to have readers submit blogs to reprint, to create different neighborhood editions based on reader requests and to work up to publishing two editions a day.

Karp’s model maintains the identity of the contributing Web sites.

“The topic of whether or not we should edit blog posts has come up quite a bit,” he said, adding that if editing becomes necessary it has to be done with a light hand.

“When people pick the blogs [they want us to publish], they know the voice of the person and we don’t want to change that. The idea is to take what has been posted and take it into a different form of consumption,” he said.

Currently financing the paper with his own funds, Karp hopes to attract investors as well as local advertising support for the publication so it can accelerate from a weekly to a daily.

Karp says the 11 inch by 17 size, which gives The Printed Blog a distinct presence in the pool of free publications, came about because of business constraints. He could afford only desktop printers, and desktop printers handling paper of that size made the most sense.

For Karp, the larger-than-tabloid size, along with the increasingly neighborhood focus of each issue, gives him an advertising edge over publications like the RedEye. Karp says the large pages means he can accommodate more ads and offer them for $15, $25 or $50, compared with the RedEye’s rates which he estimated to be $1,000 or more.

He also said advertisers will be better matched to their communities: rather than having ads appear in distant neighborhoods, small businesses will be paying for editions that go only to specific locales.

“We’re not one-size-fits-all. You can pick and choose which ones you want to advertise in” he said.

The Printed Blog will be distributed every Tuesday for the next three weeks at the Belmont Red Line, Damen Blue Line, and Southport Brown Line El stops.