Hello again. This is a continuation of yesterday's write-up of a presentation I did on Monday. Make sense? Good. And on with the music.
I introduced this bit by saying I think this is the message the internet has for a lot of traditional media businesses. I was sort of joking and sort of not. But a little back story is required before we get there.
It's not news that the internet has stimulated all sorts of creativity in the real world. From communities and marketplaces of crafters like folksy to new forms of personal manufacture like shapeways; technology is giving regular people access to tools and markets that once they couldn't reach. And these aren't necessarily new tools or technologies. It's just that suddenly masses of people get to use them where once it was only large organisations that could. And the example I wanted to focus on was paper. (It was for The Guardian Media Group after all).
Tim O'Reilly has a great idea about the power of Watching The Alpha Geeks. And if you did that now, you'd notice that an interesting subset of alpha geeks are getting all excited about books and paper. You only have to look at BookCamp this weekend. And its attendant PaperCamp.
Two things got me really excited about all this stuff. (The first was hearing Aaron talk about The Papernet. But I didn't mention that.) The second was seeing Dave Gray's Marks and Meaning book. (Above on the left.) This is a book in Version Zero. It's unfinished. It's notes for a book.
Mr Gray was smart enough to realise two things; firstly that Lulu have made the mechanics of book-making so cheap and easy that you can move straight to the physical form of the thing as soon as you want. The best way to write a book is bundle all your notes and rough thoughts together and stick them in a book. Then carry that around, make amendments, even invite other people to do the same, until you fancy making another version. And one day, who knows there'll be a definitive 'finished' version. But maybe there never will be.
The second is that, in many ways, that's a more interesting and involving thing to own than a finished book. You're getting an object, but you're also getting into a little community.
He inspired me to make my own book (above on the right) cleverly entitled Notebook 1. I've always wondered how different notetaking styles might work for me so I've put them all together in one place so I can try it out. Grids. Shapes. Boxes. Lines. Plus I've added various things to do in case meetings get boring. Like a simple drawing of Pikachu so I can practise that, get good and impress Arthur.
You see what I'm getting at here? Books/paper are proven technologies. Brilliant things. Really good at all sorts of stuff. We're not in an age where books are about to disappear. But many of the business models associated with them may do. Because we're getting direct access to book technologies ourselves.
And closer to the newspaper world are these three things:
MagCloud is a way to make your own magazine. You upload a pdf. They print it. If you can get people to buy copies above a set base price you make money.
Tabbloid takes RSS feeds you select and turns them into a PDF that looks a bit like a tabloid newspaper. Which they email to you.
ViaPost will take electronic documents, print them out for you and post them for you.
These aren't connected things yet. (Though HP are involved in the first two.) They may well never be. But they point at all sorts of interesting infrastructural possibilities. A way that you can make beautiful print objects without any of the legacy business issues. Cheap and easily enough that you don't have to make money. Or you can find other ways of funding things. These seem like exciting possibilities.
(Picture by Ben, from this set here)
I suppose it was a combination of thinking about all these things, plus finding out how cheap newspapers are to print, that led me and Ben to make this newspaper thing. It's exciting because putting it in the world has clearly made all sorts of people think again about the newspaper format. Cheap paper, cheap printing, can make something beautiful and interesting. It's a great form factor. Just because it's attached to struggling business models doesn't mean it will inevitably disappear.
So you add all these things together and you realise that there are all sorts of interesting possibilities around the corner. For community media projects, personal media projects, for the creativity that's running rampant online to emerge in physical forms in lots of places. Blah blah blah. You know what I mean.
And at that point I just sort of tailed off. I don't have a great conclusion yet.
But there's something in all this. Something worth thinking about. I think. Anyway.