Here’s an idea (or several) that has been banging around in my head for a little while now: print on demand (POD) magazines generated from blogs.
It’s not a new idea—ironically, shortly after I began thinking about this, I discovered OpenZine, a site/service which seems to do the same type of thing—but right now it would be stupidly easy to implement it. All you really need is some software on your website (in PHP, ASP.NET, whatever) to insert blog posts into a nicely formatted PDF, and hey presto, instant magazine that a user could read online or print out.
But extending the idea a bit more: what if instead of the "owner" (or blogger or whomever) doesn’t select what to publish to the "magazine" (since it’s virtual), but the end user gets to pick what articles should appear? Either by selecting specific articles (blog posts, reviews, whatever), or by setting some search or filter parameters (the last 10 new articles in the "beer review" category).
Then not only do you have a print on demand magazine built out of your blog—at no other work from you than writing your blog (like you’re doing anyway)—but it’s customizable on a user-by-user basis.
Sure, they could just go to your blog (or a specific post) and click "print"—but this would be just as easy and they’d get a (custom) layout that looks like a magazine and could be (should be) much more readable than a straight printout.
Again, there’s no magic here; it would still be stupidly easy to accomplish.
What about monetizing your POD blog magazine? Some bloggers are going to want compensation, after all. Since the user is already choosing what content they’d like to have in their magazine, why not let the user also select what advertising they’d tolerate in it? This would be more complicated, of course, because then you’d actually have to be selling adspace and have a variety of ad topics to give the user lots of choices. And they couldn’t be clicky ads, either—it’s intended for print, remember, so clicky ads don’t make sense.
But I’m sure that if there’s not already a third party service out there to broker ads for you in this type of manner, someone could set one up pretty easily. Maybe?
I don’t know quite how the payout would work for this… perhaps when the user builds their POD ‘zine and selects their ads, it would mark that ad as "sold" and you’d get a payout of whatever set fee. No commitment, no risk, and no cost to the end user (other than the paper they print it out on).
All the pieces are out there, there’s nothing from a technical standpoint that would prevent this. The questions then are:
- Has anyone put all the pieces together and is doing this?
- If not, why not?
- Would (enough) people be interested in a POD zine?
- Would people actually do the "print" part of POD? Or just read a PDF? (If they don’t print it out, then it’s pretty much pointless)
- Would advertisers be interested in this?
- Is there such an ad broker that I speculated about?
- Would you use it?
Seriously, this could be a WordPress plugin by next week.