Aggregate, Curate, Publish To Create Local Media

If I was starting The Village Voice today, I would not print anything. I would not hire a ton of writers. I would build a website and a mobile app (or two or three). I would hire a Publisher and a few salespeople. I would hire an editor and a few journalists. And then I'd go out and find every blog, twitter, facebook, flickr, youtube, and other social media feed out there that is related to downtown NYC and I would pull it all into an aggregation system where my editor and journalists could cull through the posts coming in, curate them, and then publish them. I'd do a bit of original reporting on the big stories but most of what I'd do would be smart curation, with a voice, and an opinion.

The good news is I wouldn't have to build that aggregation and curation system. Our portfolio company has built it and they launched it earlier this week. It's called For Publishers (OIP). If you are interested how it works, you can click thru and read that post. If you want to see what the curated pages created with OIP look like, here's one from Milwaukee Wisconsin.

What would the P&L of this new local media company look like? Well Peter Kafka of All Things D and Mark Josephson, CEO of have been collaborating on that and Peter published a strawman local media company P&L on his blog the other day.

As you might imagine, it's a "honey we shrunk the kids" story. The topline goes down by an order of magintude and so do the costs. The profits are still there (at least in theory). In Mark and Peter's strawman model, a local media business with 40mm monthly page views does about $7mm in annual revenues and almost $3mm of pre-tax income. You can go click on that link in the above paragraph if you want to see the model.

Of course, there are going to be a lot of variations on this model. At Huffington Post, I believe the formula is create 20% of the content and link to the rest. I think you could make this model work with a 50/50 creation/aggregation model but it would have to be the right locale, the right journalists, and the right advertising market.

Whether the tools come from or someone else, I am confident that this is the direction of the local media business. As Mark says in the post:

Quite simply, everyone is a publisher today.

And if that is true, and I think it is or will be, then the local media companies that leverage their audiences for their content, create communities and conversations, will win. And they'll be profitable businesses worth owning and investing in.

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#NYC#VC & Technology#Web/Tech#Weblogs

Comments (Archived):

  1. barakkassar

    very cool! have you seen David Pogue’s new book, coming this fall? The World According to Twitter… It’s ALL smart curating and editing and attitude… but written not by him but by his followers in response to questions HE asked.

    1. fredwilson

      i had not heard about that. very cool.

  2. thisisananth

    This is pretty cool. is for particular locality or community right, but is there something like this for a topic? Suppose I want to build something on ‘Education’ is there anything like this which can help in aggregation and curating.

    1. fredwilson

      that would be called zemantatheir api and tools can help you do that

      1. thisisananth

        Thanks Fred, I will check it out.

      2. William Mougayar

        Fred- you might want to clarify that point re: Zemanta. api’s/tools aren’t the same as an aggregation platform. The end-users are different: an API+tools is for developers whereas an aggregation platform should be aimed at the non-technical user. And you’ll need a lot of programming efforts to get from APIs’ to a fully functional site that serves deeply a vertical topic, if you want stickiness.

        1. fredwilson

          what i meant by that suggestion (zemanta) is you can use zemanta to create tags that allow curators to easily source relevant blog posts

      3. howardlindzon

        i wonder how zemanta will work for stocks. have you tried that?

        1. Bostjan Spetic

          heya,zemanta recognizes stocks pretty well, you should just try it… ;)best, bostjan—

    2. William Mougayar

      That’s what we are doing at Eqentia- smart aggregation with semantic-indexing and more. We’re focused on professional topics, a few are already available, e.g.

  3. marcelofrontiereconomy

    As Mark wrote, everyone is a publisher today (great phrase!). This also means everybody is a competitor. In that regard, I’d like to know more about how you see the competitive advantage of a local media like this versus, say, my Facebook/Twitter/etc network of contacts? (of course, it’s not that my friends are producing either more of better content in objective terms, but it’d certainly be *very* narrowly targeted to my interests). I think that local media is a great field for new companies, but that’s a term in the equation that I haven’t seen discussed much yet.

    1. fredwilson

      Editorial curation and voice are the competitive vectors. Sales and the look and feel of the site are also critical. And community is possibly the most important thing a local publisher can focus on

      1. marcelofrontiereconomy

        I agree very much with the assessment, although I think individuals might have a relative advantage in coming up with a voice, and social networking tools reduce some of their scale disadvantages when it comes to communities. In sales and curation, though, I don’t see (most) individuals competing successfully with even small organizations, if nothing else because curating material scales in a different way than creating a voice. I do wonder about site looks. On one hand, I’m very swayed by good design, but on the other, some of the sources of news I trust and follow the most I only read through their feeds.

      2. SandyGibson

        Take a look at (part of the hyper-local network). They are great proof to me that editorial curation + voice, blended with great amateur input and an active user community is the right blend. Their “Best of Toronto” lists on topics like Best Shawarma in Toronto- blend curation and user input very well and produce- imo- a better result than purely user generated lists. Take a look at their Montreal site- to see how the site compares to your personal visit to Montreal a while back.

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks for those examples. I’ll check them out

  4. Alan Warms

    Ah but Fred — you’re glossing a bit over the traffic. I looked at some potential local models and any way you slice it you need 40-50MM page views. That is a really tall order – -and a big number to nail down on a monthly basis, especially for local news and information. That’s the issue – can a local market really support that level of traffic? Really hard to get there imo.

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah, but if you do 10mm, you’ll have a 1.5mm business that does 700k in profitsThis model scales up and down very well because the costs of entry are small and there are no fixed costs other than editor and publisher

    2. Dan Lewis

      I second this concern. 40MM is a *lot* more than what’s being done today. Gothamist does under 5MM, for example (see… and roughly 12MM across their 15 site network (…. If you cut to a smaller locality — say, the Upper East Side — you only have 200,000 residents. Expecting 200 pv/mo per resident and 100% adoption is a recipe for failure.If you assume even scaling, and that 10% of the 40MM target is doable, you’re looking at 4MM monthly pvs and $700k in revenue — is that enough to make it work?

      1. fredwilson

        what if you are operating all by yourself using OIP and third party ad networks?

        1. Alan Warms

          Right – these are opportunities for journalists, individuals — even 10MM is tough to get to.In any case, this is sole proprietor type business, not imo investor-backed business – unless there is super-cost effective way to leverage, other aggregation technology out there or home grown across multiple localities — seems like that would be a tough slog

          1. fredwilson

            That has been true of local media forever. The venture scale opportunities are in the platforms that serve the local publisher

        2. Dan Lewis

          Still pretty difficult, I think. My CPM is going to fall to $1, tops, and if I’m looking at 5 pv/mo/resident, that $1,000/mo in revenue. A great hobby but a crappy job.

          1. plazure

            I share some of the same concerns regarding traffic. At, we’ve adopted a similar model, except we currently serve over 22K U.S. towns. Even w/that scale, we don’t expect 40MM.

          2. MattCope

            I love this micro-discussion!I think the goal of millions of PV’s is absolutely attainable – for established media brands, e.g., the Village Voice.When everybody is a publisher, those streams that can capture market share are the ones that accumulate credibility, reputation, and/or brand equity. The easiest way to do that is with the mass media megaphone that VV, NYTimes, WSJ, et al already have.If you were to start from scratch today (the point of this post), I think you would have to answer the question: how do I build more credibility, reputation, and/or brand equity than the other million publishers out there? It’s not easy, but those who manage to do so – the HuffPo’s of the world – are those that will rise to the top of the heap.

          3. fredwilson

            You can put multiple ad units on a page. does about $5 per thousand on its own pages out

          4. Dan Lewis

            At what scale?

          5. deancollins

            and at what ‘cost per sale’, those ads dont just appear without any intervention.

        3. rick gregory

          The traffic is my main concern too – any model that starts off at 40m PVs isn’t dealing in the reality of most sites. Scaling the size of the staff down so that it’s a 1-a few person business works if you can focus and keep CPMs up but that’s an iffy assumption. There might be enough people in NYC to make a topically focused, local site work financially but is there in Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis?Peter’s model also assumes 2/3 of page views are off some network – so it’s not really a single site model. Assuming I can get 1m pageviews a month on a highly trafficked local site is one thing (and doable). Assuming I can build a network that delivers 2m more seems less certain.However, the big news here is the API. We can debate this all we want, but it’s great to have the tools out there so we can actually go try out ideas. Kudos to on this.

          1. fredwilson

            We can argue the model and we should. Its a strawman.But your end point is the big one. Let the experiments begin!

          2. rick gregory

            I did a bit of research and the site seems to be holding at around 1.5m pageviews a day close on the 40M per month the model assumes. Now, they had the advantage of being a newspaper for 158 years… but they now are a much leaner online only site in a mid-sized market.At the other end of the scale, the West Seattle blog is run by a couple and gets around 650k pageviews a month. A new news coop is getting about the same across several sites. There’s also a site by a bunch of former PI staffers that seems to be doing well, though I couldn’t find traffic stats for it. Some other PI staffers decided to do their own blog and the Post-Globe (the new site, – the name’s a spin on the PI’s globe icon) is aggregating those to provide things like a food critic without actually having one (the food critic won a Beard award for writing the week after she was laid off 🙂 ).One thing the demise of the PI did here was kick a bunch of people into gear – some out of necessity – and there are several new sites like this. I understand some of the same thing is happening in Denver. Together, those markets should tell us whether there are models that will work in the broader world outside of very large cities like NYC and LA.Finally, I thought this was a very interesting development in getting small community papers into new media – taking older content and getting it online.

          3. fredwilson

            Great comment! I wonder what I can do to help denver and seattle show the way. Very exciting times

          4. rick gregory

            Interestingly, the Post-Globe, the West Seattle blog and the other site I mentioned but didn’t link to – – are all based on WordPress. I wonder if there’s a play in providing a set of tools to enhance WP for news sites. Zemanta is an obvious one, Zotero or some such on the writing/research side. But an tool, some hooks to Calais, etc could be interesting. While you can likely string together several plugins and make it work a matched set targeted at the platform might be interesting. One of the issues I can see with these efforts, especially while they’re getting started and playing with revenue models, is that they won’t have a real technology budget for in-house developers, etc. More research…Oh and in time for a mayoral election, Publicola stole one of the better political reporters in town from one of the weeklies. The next few years should be interesting.

          5. fredwilson

            We’ve got a bunch of companies in our portfolio like disqus, zemanta,, etc that would love to work more closely with wordpress

  5. goldwerger

    The advertiser part of the equation makes a great case for this as advertiser ROI is linked directly to user base and the cheaper content can be aggregated and community engaged, the better that end is achieved. I wonder though how this affects the readership part of the equation. Readers are deeply engaged by community, but in content sites presumably they look for the value of information. The original/curated % breakdown comes at a price of quality/reliability of content. That fact would be important to the extent the investment in enhanced quality is offset a monetary reward from the readers. Direct user payment reduces audience dramatically and rarely pay offs in content models (with few notable exceptions). So how does one get consumers to indirectly pay for a higher investment in quality? And if one cannot, does that mean we’re facing a gradual decline in quality since it cannot be valued? I believe not. the right indirect pricing model will be found. I just have no idea what it would be… I am sure next 2-4 years will spur up new moentary schemes that are user facing. It will be fascinating to find out…

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t buy the argument that user generated content is lower quality eyal

      1. goldwerger

        I agree with you on content’s origin. Investment in quality mostly not in content, rather in editing user gen content, e.g. filtering tweets from Iran to form the real story (perhaps modicum orig. content).Thought – Google News’s investment in automation works well on non user gen content aggregation. Can tech progress beyond aggregation, to qualitative filtering of user gen content (semantic/contextual technology threshold). Perhaps the quesiton is “when” and like offer a fantastically cost efficienc publishing model. New players – will differentiate in their choice of cost of filtering/editing. They will compete. And perhaps find ways to correlate their cost/quality decisions to monetization.Perhaps issue of quality will become irrelevant in large numbers, and as eventaully editing will itself become commoditized as well. Is that possible?

        1. pangaro

          “quality” has multiple dimensions. losing journalistic values, where they are important, creates risks. VILLAGE VOICE is an interesting example; would we feel differently if it were the NYTIMES [an edge case] or even BOSTON GLOBE [more local but still with strong editorial and reporting values]. much has been written about citizen journalism but the curating of journalistic practice appears to be under-served. see for a project aimed at that aspect.

          1. ShanaC

            For the sake of history: What’s a good list of Journalistic Values and Practices?I don’t think Hearst would believe the content in Newspapers if he saw them today…blogs seem closer to what he orignally published, I think.

      2. ShanaC

        I don’t buy that either fred-I do buy the followingIn this system- how are we rewarding breakout editorial content? Breakout writing content? Is there a way to move up the food chain from those who product the content’s perspective?If I covered my local beat- where could I be in ten years if I wrote well? Copyedited well? Could I make it to the Huffington Post? Great my word is now out there- but is it now out there enough to get noticed to make a lateral move when I need to?I realized the fiduciary duty is to the stockholders- but will people stay with it long term if they don’t see some breakout successes for those who produce the writing?

  6. Henry Yates

    Very cool. If it is any good, which I am sure it will be, I will be using it as an add on for our business.

  7. mariew

    This is another great post I would have also loved to post onto my Facebook page. Am I missing this functionality on this page? Or, it isn’t on here? Actually, I would also like to email this to some friends/colleagues.

    1. fredwilson

      you want a “share on facebook” button at the end of every post, right?

      1. mariew

        Yes, connections to Facebook and other social media tools helps readers share your content.  If you look at a blog entry on my site, you’ll see that there are options at the bottom to share.  It’s a great way to spread your content and drive traffic to your site.  Granted, I haven’t had my blog up for that long, but I can say it from other work I do in this space.  I’m mainly interested in sharing some of your content with my friends/colleagues in the way I send around articles from the, and other online publications.  Right now, I’m physically copying and pasting links of your blog to a handful of friends/colleagues, and it could be automated if you had the Facebook and other social media tools already connected.  Plus, it would be easier to share with even more friends/colleagues.  I sent around the link to a couple of people this morning, and they loved the entry!        Marie Web Site: global brain candy on http://www.mariewiltz.comTwitter: mariewiltzFacebook:

        1. fredwilson

          I use a service from feedburner/google called feedflare thar does that. Its been on this blog for 3+ years. But it hasn’t been working reliably lately. I may have to scrap it and go with something else

          1. mariew

            I look forward to being able to share your content in an automated way!  Great insights for peeps who work in media-related fields! Marie Web Site: global brain candy on http://www.mariewiltz.comTwitter: mariewiltzFacebook:

          2. fredwilson

            i fixed the feedflare issue on my blog and it’s now active. you can share on facebook and whole bunch of other social media interactions

  8. Tereza

    This is right on the mark. In researching a business like this in the ‘vanity’ space, where most advertisers are local, you can juice it up by connecting the dots to some clever conversationally driven lead gen, like what I pitched at speed dating roundtable on Wed. See Curator’s voice is key – needs some edge to make the conversation happen.BestTereza

    1. fredwilson

      Is looking good launched?

      1. Tereza

        it’s launched in beta. one ‘g’. LookinGood. Just content right now, blog/newsletter format.

  9. jonathanmendez

    Fred- The P&L model assumes $7 eCPM. That’s an incredible assumption especially for the types of advertisers that would be relevant to this content. Also local ads are typically “intent” driven services stuff or classifieds, both that lend themselves to a different non impressions based models/opportunities/issues. Have you seen what Patch is doing in this space? Really like their sites.

    1. markjosephson

      Hi there. Small clarification: the model is actually based on RPM — Revenue per 1,000 Pageviews. There should be mulitple impressions per page. In our experience, we’re seeing that is attainable target. Today a lot of that inventory is going to national advertisers looking for local audiences. There is a lot of innovation happening on the “solving local advertiser dilema” front and we’re starting to see some interesting traction. See Clickable, AdReady, Yodle, etc….

      1. jonathanmendez

        thank mark. i just backed your numbers out to eCPM. In any case if you guys can do RPM in the $5-$15 dollar range your clearly on to something big and congrats. As you probably know large pubs like Yahoo have RPM in the pennies and more targeted vertical pubs (say are in the .25-.75 range. Maybe local (and by extension mobile) are the home run.

      2. ShanaC

        I’m really curious what the smallest market could be. How many people are we looking at?I mean, I don’t know the precise stats but OnlySimchas must have a model similar to yours already. At only ~15% of about 5.5 million people in the US and Canada, with a certain percentage who doesn’t even use the Internet, and as an English only website- I’m really wondering what their model for advertising revenue is. It can’t be just clickthrough… Maybe it is something similar to yours>Or better yet- what is the breakpoint, where you know the community targeted is going to be tiny- how tiny is too tiny?

    2. fredwilson

      Patch is nice but I don’t see how it scales

  10. Barrett

    Very interesting. I think this business model would also work in Corporate Learning. Aggregate all the learning content out there, add some new information, and publish it. I feel this is the biggest threat to existing CL vendors, including us (http://ww3.harvardbusiness….

    1. fredwilson

      This model is being used in a bunch of places right now.

  11. bombtune

    I said the same thing about music magzines a while back:…There has to be a way to link out to the best blogs in aggregation while holding on to your own editors.

  12. PCD

    Love the idea, but I did searches for my current location (Hoboken, NJ) and found that pretty much all of the info came from Hoboken411 and Hoboken Now (a well read blog and a subsite of respectively).Did the same search for my hometown in NJ and found great results but again, all from very well known news sources. Where are the tweets/small blog posts/youtube vids/flickr pics/etc?

    1. fredwilson

      The local publishers who use the platform will fund those feeds and add them to the index

  13. Danny Moon

    Looking at the Milwaukee example you link to, every story on the map was from 2 sources: WITI (local Fox affiliate) and Milwuakee Business Journal. Not one blog, twitter, flickr, etc.If we consider the above sources to be “old media”, unless they change their business model they will go out of business. Once that happens, exactly what content will available for aggregation.Or, both sources change to the new local media model and thus fire their writers and look towards aggregation. Again, exactly what content will everyone be aggregating.Outside of Brooklyn and other blogging meccas, there does not appear to be enough quality, news worthy content being generated to replace the stories being filed by local reporters.Local media does need to change. And presenting new business models are key to keeping a local news alive. Yet, too many local models believe that reporters and original content can be replaced by aggregation of individual bloggers, tweets and facebook. What we are seeing now is simply the aggregation of other news sources which is not sustainable.Are there examples of local sites solely based on user generated news (50%) and original content from their own reporters (50%)?

    1. fredwilson

      What you are seeing is a failure of that media company to aggregate and curate beyond what has already given themThe publishers that drill down into their markets and find the local voices that using blogs, twitter, facebook, flickr, youtube, etc will winI pointed to that page to showcase what a standard neighborhood page looks likeThe publisher to does some work to pimp it out with custom css and custom content will do well

  14. David J Bland

    Hyperlocal & mobile = peanut butter & chocolate.

    1. howardlindzon

      and real time

  15. Rob Freeborn

    Sorry Fred, but you’re chasing all the flaws of the Webvan model down an echo chamber of your own creation.Sure, this might work in NY, Chicago and LA. After that, there are two massive problems – content and revenue.In Sault Ste. Marie, MI you’re simply not going to get enough user generated content. In Sault Ste. Marie, MI you’re simply not going to generate enough revenue off of page views.Yet, Sault Ste. Marie MI is able to support the Sault Evening News newspaper.Re-run the financials for the “average” sized town here in the United States….it will look disturbingly like the “hobby” or “crappy job” that was discussed in the micro-focused Upper East Side idea within the thread.r

    1. ShanaC

      I wish I had logical demographic information- The downturn makes things funny. The midwest is emptying, slowly.Here’s the next question- in 20 years, how large will the next Peoria, be? I’m hedging that that the reason we even had an ex-burb and not small town America in recent years was because of drive for Urban Jobs.That trend, might stay with us, even if the exburbs die.

    2. fredwilson

      We’ll see about that rob. Webvan wasn’t a bad idea but their cost structure was all out of whackIf everyone is a publisher then this is a low cost model that scales

      1. Rob Freeborn

        Doesn’t their out of whack cost structure mean, de facto, it was a bad idea? If it was a good idea to begin with, the cost structure would have been in line with what could be supported. Or, I guess, that’s the difference between an idea and execution?I just emailed you a .pdf from Booz (this was in a dusty folder of the HD!!) that hit on many of the reasons the Webvans and Kozmo’s of the world flamed out – email is subject line “Last Mile”. To be honest, it has some parallel thought processes to the micro-media you’ve been talking about (scale, cost, revenue, density), something I think it would be worth having a summer intern spending some serious time white boarding/researching.Regardless, this has been a fascinating conversation thread to follow! – it would be a cool feature if we could attach things, like the .pdf I just sent, to our comments.pps – in retrospect, I feel kind of bad about “abusing” Kozmo a number of times….I would order a single soda or single candy bar to be delivered to the girl I was dating….we would laugh at the silliness of it all

        1. ShanaC

          If you taught me about cost structure- I’m in the NY metro area until approximately Yom Kippur- I would research that.I enjoy researching for fun. And I do wonder about the smallest size these groups can service too. Alongside why we choose what techonologies we do (if we are talking about the gaussian bell) in our lives…How else did I end up here?

        2. fredwilson

          I don’t get the connection between kozmo which did have an out of whack cost structure (a lesson I learned painfully but well) and micromediaThey seem on total opposite ends of the spectrum

    3. howardlindzon

      great point and why you have to think about the size of the niche too and how much passion you really have

  16. joshuakarp

    Fred… wow, I think you are way off on this one. It’s true that I’m a bit biased (I recently stared the first print newspaper comprised entirely of blogs and other online content called The Printed Blog (, but regardless, I’m going to do my best to tell you why.First of all, the belief that newsprint, or printing a newspaper, is going to go away, is simple not true. We’ve been able to view documents online for 20 years… is Hewlett-Packard’s printer business teetering on dissolution? Are Xerox, Canon, Epson, and Ricoh about to go bankrupt? Of course not! The reason is, reading something on paper is simply a different experience than reading something online, regardless of how easy it is to do so.Online is about exploration. Print is about consumption. Reading the printed word is a physical, tactile experience. It is not the same as reading something on a 22 inch monitor, or on a 2 by 3 inch glass screen sitting in the palm of your hand. How often have you been handed something that you really wanted to read and thought, “Gee, I’d rather read this in electronic form.” I’m guessing, never. In fact, for many people, it’s a relief, sometimes, to get to read something enjoyable, interesting, or humorous on a sheet of physical paper.In January of this year, I started The Printed Blog in response to a couple of trends, 1) the newspaper industry was, and is, in turmoil, and I figured that there might be an opportunity in that fact alone, 2) I thought it would be kind of interesting to apply elements of successful online business models to the print industry, and 3) I thought it could be a good business in a down economy.I’m not a journalist and I have no background in the media industry. But I am an entrepreneur, and I have just enough hubris that although every person I told the idea to said I was crazy, I decided to try it anyway. I put together four business model principles for a new type of newspaper.1) User generated – all content in The Printed Blog is generated by the community, i.e. bloggers, photographers, etc. In fact, it must appear online for it to appear in our paper.2) Self-selected – The Printed Blog is a community paper, and we think about publishing in increments of 1,000 readers. Depending on where you pick up the paper (like a train station), you can vote on which blogs are important to you. Neighborhood by neighborhood, the paper can reflect your interests. You vote by going to the blogger’s site (and of course, bloggers will be paid). This keeps the paper relevant to the readers, and it gives advertisers trends to place ads next to.3) Not “one-size-fits-all” – Because we’ll have dozens, or many hundreds of locations, each serving 1,000 readers, our ad inventory is much greater than traditional papers, so our price per ad is dramatically reduced.4) Scalable – The Printed Blog is designed to be printed on printers that fit in a house or a storefront, not in a warehouse. This allows us to bring The Printed Blog to any neighborhood, in any city, in the world; all I need is a printer, to flip a switch on a web site, and a person to hand it out.Even before we published the first version of the paper in January of this year, we attracted international press. We were first written about in a blog (Epicenter), then the New York Times did a half-page piece with two photographs, on an unknown entrepreneur and his team of unpaid interns ( then, we’ve been in more than 200 major media publications around the world, on US and national radio, TV, on thousands of blogs, etc. We were up to nearly 7,000 printed copies a week, and we distribute in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA (and in Chicago, different community versions). We’ve sold ads, and we print, with permission, blogs and bloggers like Mark Cuban, Mashable, The Daily Koz, TheBloggess, BastardLife, and the American Express OPEN Form, and we syndicate content from Yelp, Eventful and Guidespot.If you launched your version of The Village Voice today, in six months, you would be, 1) lamenting about how your site is just one of tens of thousands of aggregators waiving their hands for attention, 2) lamenting about how much work it is to get permission from the bloggers and photographers that you wish to re-publish (and you MUST get permission, 3) lamenting about how CPM is approaching zero faster than your page views are able to keep up, and 4) lamenting about going into a WAY over crowded market with zero that differentiates you.You’d probably sit back and ask yourself what would happen if you actually printed out some of the best blogs, and sold some print ads.I have no inside information at all, and if I had any money left I would bet it all that The Huffington Post is planning a glossy monthly magazine of its best content, for one simple reason: there’s MUCH more money in print ads than in online ads. Period.I can tell you, my experience trying to raise money from venture capitalists has not been successful thus far, and I’ve pitched many of the top firms in Silicon Valley… O’Reilly’s Jacobson, Alsop, Liew, Efrusy, F. Gibbons, Ciporin, and four or five others, to no avail, and we’ve temporarily pulled back from publication to see what our next steps should be.Josh

    1. fredwilson

      drop the idea of printing stuff and you might have a better shot at raising money

      1. joshuakarp

        But less of a shot at making money… (IMHO)

        1. fredwilson

          Printing and delivering is expensive and its not obvious that consumers value it enough to pay enough for it. Just look at a newspaper’s p&l per paper delivered. You’ll see how expensive it is

          1. joshuakarp

            Fred, “expensive” is a relative term. Here’s a quick rundown of The Printed Blog financial model:10 pages, 18 “small” ad spots per page, $30.00 per ad spot: equals 180 “small” ad spots per edition inventory and a potential $5,400.00 in revenue – each edition equals 1,000 copies in a single location. Publish 5 times per week, and total potential weekly revenue is $27,000 per location. Assume you can only sell 70% of inventory, and our weekly revenue per location is $18,900.00.We’ve sold a LOT of ads at that rate, and could fill each edition.In terms of costs, each issue (10 pages) costs $1.00 to print; this equates to $5,000.00 per week.Each issue requires two people to hand it out each day, at $100.00 per person; this equates to $1,000 per week.We pay bloggers / photographers a rate equal to 20% of the ad revenue that appears on the same page as their content, with avg. 3 blog posts and 3 photographs, that’s 6 pieces of content per page, 60 per issue, 300 per week (5 issues per week). Twenty percent of $18,900.00 (weekly revenue) is $3,780.00, divided between 300 pieces of content, that equals $12.60 each (ask a blogger how much money they earn for EACH posting, and it’s less than $12.60 – and, with TPB, you would get this amount for EACH edition you appear in; if a blogger appears in 10 editions, they would earn $126.00 for that one post.)We pay an ad sales person (community relations person) to walk the community each day to learn what is going on and to sell ads; a college student at $125 / day is $625.00 per week.Overhead costs are editorial and layout, but each editor and graphic designer can handle 5 editions per day. If an editor costs (burdened) $65,000 and a graphic designer costs (burdened) $55,000, their weekly cost per edition is $250.00 and $212.00, respectively.Add up all of those costs and you get $10,867.00 per week. That leaves $8,033.00 PER WEEK per location for other overhead. Yearly location revenue is $982,800.00, yearly costs are $565,084.00, and $417,716.00 remains for executives, technology, and marketing – and this is per location, representing 1,000 copies.In Chicago, where we are based, the Tribune’s circulation is somewhere around 400,000 per day. If The Printed Blog could circulate 150,000 (which can be supported by ads – there are 150 neighborhoods where I can easily distribute 1,000 copies AND there are local / regional / national advertiser interests to earn $18,900.00 per week), could we make, pure profit, of $1,000.00 per week? I EASILY think we can – that equates to PROFIT of $150,000 per week, or $7,800,000.00 per year, in Chicago ALONE.It might be expensive, but if you look at the only newspapers that are doing well, they are community newspapers, i.e. the model above.We will “win” at this business if we can take this model, and extract humans from it… the community write the stories, takes the pictures, votes on what content should appear in each issue; content providers sign up online and manage their content / accounts, advertisers place ads online via our version of Adwords equivalent… all we do is make sure the pages look good (and we use a modular layout approach to automate it as much as possible).The Printed Blog is creating the first self-perpetuating newspaper platform.Thanks for your comments, Fred…Josh

          2. fredwilson

            Maybe you shouldn’t waste your time with VCs who don’t get it and just get some angels to help you fund it

          3. joshuakarp

            Fred… I’m working on it. 🙂 I have 250K in printing committed and 250K in cash committed , I need 250K more to move forward. At the same time, I’m about to talk to a team of investment bankers about buying the Sun Times Media Group (which is really just a collection of community papers, Chicago being the largest community). I think I can apply TPB’s model and turn around the company. Cheers… Josh

    2. obscurelyfamous

      You’re right — printed media won’t go away. It is a different experience to hold something in your hand and enjoy it, physical pages and all.However, for consuming information like news, I would always 100% want to read that in digital form. For anything live, current, or socially relevant I want to interact with it. I want to copy the text, share the links, explore related content, etc.For stale or static content like fiction… sure a book is nice to hold.

      1. aaronwhite

        Ah… Disqus is like fresh air after trying (ineffectively) to communicate over Twitter!I can agree that different experiences are appropriate for consuming different types of content. Where I differ is on the importance of the medium itself. If you had the same experience you get from reading book, while using an eBook, does *printed* media still matter? No, not really.So printed media can go away, the idea of different, experience appropriate formats will not. I think people should be careful defending 1 tech (ink blots on tree pulp) when other technologies can provide the same experience, and yet radically alter the distribution & businesses that provide & handle the content being consumed.

        1. ShanaC

          Aaron- my life would change so much if there were almost no real books. I think my parents would be living in one of the few communities were real books would be normal.It functionally is huge. I can do a basic learnen of a blatt of gemara on a computer- but you seriously can’t do that on a shabbos, not where I live.And the exeperience of doing a learnin from the traditional page layout than from the Bar-Ilan Cd (where everything you will need is hyperlinked together) is radically different.

      2. ShanaC

        Daniel- A good book is never static (though the text might be). Nor is a good studying method.I can see the need for having both forms. It is not fun to read basic Greek philosophy on the internet.And I would say that the arguments in them are still relevant to this day. The essential ideas in them are some of the basic ideas of the West. Reading those ideas makes you more involved with what it means to participate here.But- having an e-copy makes quoting more doable. Not totally sure about annotating…

      3. fredwilson

        I like the kindle better than a book. Its easier and faster

    3. markjosephson

      Josh, it’s really easy to say that print is going away for ever, but to your point, there is certainly going to be some percentage of the audience that survives for the reasons you say and there will be better printing and distribution models that exist to serve them.but, imo, the current cost infrastructure to support the creation and distribution of a print publication is too high and the cost to support the creation and distribution of digital is fast moving towards zero.

      1. joshuakarp

        Mark… I posted our revenue model… high costs never bothered me if the business model was valid and achievable, and profit margins were high enough. Of course, you are right about the creation and distribution of digital moving towards zero, and that’s exactly the problem. There’s too much room for content… it’s great for advertisers who can splash their brands everywhere, but it’s bad for content providers, because the prices, too are heading towards zero (or just a little tiny bit above). Selling the infrastrucutre is a good idea… but the data… do I really need to know EVERYTHING that goes on in Logan Square (in Chicago, where I am…)? I don’t, that’s for sure… I’m sure you’re familiar with everyblock… it’s more of a novelty, rather than something that I would do every day.Kindly,Josh

        1. markjosephson

          Hi Josh, that’s where “curate” comes in. OIP lets publishers choose which stories matter and which they don’t want to promote. Editorial voice and opinion matter more than ever.Also, we’re seeing very strong engagement metrics — when people are presented with well targeted hyperlocal news, they like it and engage with, mark

  17. Facebook User

    Fred,I would love to see a post on the MJ death. What a phenomenal example of how news as we KNEW it is dying, and deserves to die. No one went to their newspapers this morning, or their evening news last night to learn about the death. Newspapers and TV news need to figure out if they are in the newspaper business or the NEWS business, and they need to adapt to the times, not ask for a bailout. TMZ has been my news source for MJ. And I trust it.

    1. fredwilson

      I think there were enough posts about MJ today. But I did twitter about his music just now

  18. Mihai Badoiu

    The previous newspaper model was rewriting stories from news agencies and reporting on some local stories (which are mostly uninteresting). The paper was selling because distribution was difficult. With the internet all of the sudden the barriers of entry are lowered. They have to compete with newspapers they never heard of (as well as bloggers). Also, people figured out that most newspapers add little value.Outsourcing the local story creation by aggregating the local blogs is a good cost cutting idea, but it’s also something that every “newspaper” can do. What will happen when all the newspapers will be aggregating the same data? (I can image reading the “NY Times – Cambridge, MA edition” where they aggregate data close to Cambridge, MA) We will probably be moving towards a winner takes all environment. The more “online newspapers” you’ll have, the more important the rating will be.In the longterm, it seems that bloggers and top specialized newspapers will have the upper hand. The newspapers will make an effort to differentiate between themselves, and will try to recruit expert opinions. For that they need to have some articles written by recognizable people. I’m pretty sure people would be interested in Paris Hilton’s column. It already happens with some newspapers (eg, Greg Mankiw’s articles in NY Times). So, well-known people will also have a lot to gain.The idea of outsourcing local blogs may be good, but will most likely not change the longterm projected outcome for most newspapers.Kudos on investing in the company that builds this infrastructure. I’m sure it will be used at least in the short term, as newspapers don’t see many exits.

    1. markjosephson

      I think that there will be lots of competition for the attention at the local markets. Cost to create and aggregate is so low now. Audience will definitely be spread out across lots of sites. The winners will be those with great brands, voice and sales teams.

  19. Cody Brown

    Facebook, Twitter, and yes, are good accessories to an online news brand, but adopting them and bringing a few smart writers to a wordpress theme will most likely never develop sustainable attention or revenue. Paying even 2-3 full-time writers is too expensive and advertising revenue is just too low for a local beat. If you want to talk to someone who has been working on this for about 5 years, talk to Jake of Gothamist. His ‘ist’ brand has expanded into many cities and he’s done a lot to develop what’s possible on an absolute shoestring but a great deal of his site is aggregation and as others have pointed out in the comments, he’s not even breaking 12 million hits across his entire network.You have the right insight, ‘everyone is a publisher,’ but a modern news brand will only survive if it takes a much longer leap to execute what this really means.

    1. ShanaC

      I once had the luxury of finding out how Anne Marie Cox got to her beat in Washington.It was a lot of freelance work on the side for fun on a lot of email lists. Same idea with freelancing (which is essentially what a lot of the Village Voice is now…)TV Networks use the small town beats as their minor leagues to find top talent- and even that is dying off.How will break down the Grey area of creative lifestyle for really good curation and let the top cream froth to the top?If I am not from Duluth- how will I know that Writer 204 is actually good?

  20. Guest

    Hi Fred, any thoughts on the text book industry? It’s the biggest ripoff right now, and they continue to mint money at the students expense. Do you think they would see the same fate as the music industry, as the digital publishing industry is up and coming?

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. Absolutely. I talked a bit about that in the Disruption talk at Google

      1. ShanaC

        A secret- for certain math sceince textbooks- there is already an active market in just that.You buy the indian version, or the chinese- english version online (thanks to search via isbn number).This doesn’t help with A) school lock in with programs in textbooks (like silly quizzes that only maske sense with your school textbooks- why is that?)orb) certain humanity textbooks (why are there humanity textbooks anyway outside of art history and maybe to a limited extend art as a reference point- read the text, and generally there is competition for editions of thoseclassic texts in your field).orc) certain economics book (written from certain countries perspective- Greg Makniw’s for example clearly is very all American- a British student might not care. for the US’s GDP)

  21. BobWarfield

    Conventional media’s value add was distribution (though they claim it was content). The web took that away. Curation is a reasonable new value add that works in the new media world.More on my blog:http://smoothspan.wordpress…Cheers,BW

    1. Marc Vermut

      Totally agree. Curation, point of view and community within a trusted destination (even if that includes syndicated widgets and conversations) is where value lays for consumers.I do wonder, though, if there might not be a larger advertising pie (than currently) available on the local level with more efficient advertising models for small business. And/or for virtual businesses that can service beyond a single geography.

    2. fredwilson

      Thanks for the link bob. I’ll check it out

  22. Mark Essel

    You can see clearly what has to be coming, but there’s this lag between disruption and market realignment.The conduits of information have changed and our businesses must adapt to their aggregation and dissemination in a personalized manner.Just visited with Bostjan (developer) and the CTO (briefly) of Zemanta in your town Fred. The sun even peaked out as I headed back to Penn. There was a lot of useful information Bostjan keyed me into as a semantic algorithms provider, much more researching and coding to start the API data translations moving. But Bostjan thought it could all happen on near real time. Also mentioned some coding languages he uses for processing/memory alloc speed)My favorite revenue model doesn’t include me (social platform/semantic alg/advertising aggregator /host-frontend split. That can come later)

    1. fredwilson

      Mark – I’m so glad you met up with bostjan. They are doing some great things at zemanta

  23. hypermark

    Good post, Fred, and as a sidebar, I would argue that someone is going to get the “output side” of this right so that for people who want printed pubs, formatted nicely, in color, that they can see-touch-feel, that will be available. Whether that is something you pick up from Kinkos, HP comes out with a special printer or something else, I don’t know, but it feels like an inevitable piece of the equation.Another thought is that with the new iPhone 3GS having good built-in video capabilities, the premise of publications/media cos. having roving beat reporters for crowd-generated news creation, feels like a logical path, something that I originally blogged about specific to Flip Video, but iPhone is clearly the bulls-eye for.Check out the post if interested:Flip Video News Network: Crowd-Sourcing meets CNN

  24. mikenolan99

    Another great post and discussion.Back in my Radio days – I used to own and operate radio stations in out-state Minnesota – we used to have “cumes” (think circulation) of around 50,000 – 100,000 people, and AQH (average # of listeners in any given 15 minute period) of 5,000 – 15,000 people. We did around a million or so in revenue on each station.Very little advertising was ever sold in these markets based on CPM/CPP models – it was all based on small business owners knowing what worked. One car dealer told me once that advertising was like turning on a faucet – he knew if he spent $500 with us, he could expect enough customers in the door to pay his bills.At the end of the day, advertising has to work. If an advertiser, big or small, gets a decent return on their investment, they’ll continue to buy. If it works for enough people, rates go up.The flip side of this argument is that small advertisers are running out of choices. Radio, local print and local newspaper/cable all reach far fewer people today than in the past. If you run a local jewelry store, car dealership, etc. where do you turn?Local aggregation, publication and good old fashion marketing could make these local sites work for local advertisers. Just the sort of folks that need a place to reach the right people.

    1. fredwilson

      It will be great to see local online media sold and bought the way radio is sold and bought

      1. mikenolan99

        Mark Ramsey is one of the smarter guys on radio around, and has done some decent posts lately around the subject that Radio stations have to get it out of their heads that towers and transmitters are their business models. Maybe a few radio stations will become their communities local media companies, regardless of the method of transmission.…And, you have to see the new New Nielson radio diary. Ugggggggg.

        1. fredwilson

          Their salesforces and relationships with local merchants are valuable assets.

    2. ShanaC

      Sometimes it is about knowing that we do eat soylent green.It is about knowing to hunt and catch and cook the soylent green that matters, it seems. Maybe a local small source is better than trying the young, blase, big city folk…

  25. Alan Warms

    Agree on kudos to …fundamentally though the value accrues is going to be the value that others create using their api — at some point someone’s gotta make money. I think the actual point of leverage HAS to be in RPM…people who can tie the local content into local commerce and get paid accordingly means it can work on like a million page views. So if I were, I would be thinking hard about tying in their news, etc. to local retailers / lead gen / coupons / traffic — create working model on realistic low volumes of traffic. RPMs of $1 won’t cut it (and should be way higher anyway)

    1. fredwilson

      That’s called OIA – for advertisers and that’s next on the roadmap Al

      1. Alan Warms

        Excellent – that’s great!

  26. BmoreWire

    Hmm, I would love to see zemanta provide a source and research gathering tool and show iterations of original content that could snap onto this. Equip reporters with smart blogging and research tools for the original content and publishers with this and you could speed the process of pulling the rug out from under the newspaper business and open up thousands of local publishers and get money in their pockets.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s what zemanta calls researcher. Its coming at some point. Not sure where it is on the roadmap

  27. howardlindzon

    in a way we are doing this for each stock now on stocktwits and might explain the popularity :)fred…is it?

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. same thing. You made it easy by popularizing the $ tag. Stock twitters basically self tag. That’s not typical of most user gen content.But what you are doing with stocks can and should be done for everything

  28. PKafka

    Hey! I can view this story *and* comment! It’s been very frustrating not being able to do either all day. Many, many good comments here and maybe at some point I’ll come back to engage a few of them. But for now, a query/request to Fred’s community: Ideally, I’d like to find some way to present’s Mark’s work in a format that allows readers to change the various inputs (RPM, staff size, page views, etc) and see the results — without permanently changing the initial strawman model. I don’t believe Google Docs lets us do this. Any idea how we can pull this off?

  29. alainaugsburger

    Can you send me an invite? We are interested to launch a local media business in Penang, Malaysia. The state has 1.5 million people and no local paper, radio or TV.. Due to government policy on media. This is not an isolated case in the region and i believe that the platform offered by could very quickly spread. demonstrates that it is possible to run a profitable independent online media in South Asia, but, the model did not spread at the state level yet, probably due to the cost involved, could probably change that.

  30. RickM

    Print hasn’t become outmoded, the biggest problem with newspapers is that the distribution model is broken. I’m a software developer, so it is tempting to think that software is the solution, but it’s not.Solving distribution is a huge opportunity for someone and it won’t be done by existing media. Entrepreneurs will start papers razor focused on local news and opinion. They will gain traction in towns that have recently lost newspapers. Software may facilitate the creation of this new newspaper model but it won’t be the major factor in determining its success.

  31. Chang

    Korea’s top portal also carved out a significant part of its homepage and gave it out to “digital curators”:

    1. fredwilson

      Nice. We could learn a lot from korea

  32. markbrooks

    We summarize three hours of reading into three minutes of reading every day for our is a curator of news for the idating industry. But we don’t just cut and link. We summarize. Its meant for the idating industry executive audience.Cutting and reappropriating content isn’t enough. Summarizing isn’t enough. What really helps build readership and a loyal following is having editors who know how to summarize the guts of an article into something useful and meaningful in as few words as possible.