Pimp my newspaper! Printcast my ride!

Dan Pacheco outed me on Idea Lab: I think printcasting is a kooky idea. But, what the hell – it might just be kooky enough to work. Forgive me as I indulge in a car metaphor…

For the non-Detroiters in the audience, this is an El Camino: a half pickup, half coupe sold by Chevrolet for almost 30 years. By committing to neither role, it’s mediocre at both.

el camino_MG_0852 by John Leverett
el camino_MG_0852 by John Leverett

Something for everyone

The newspaper is the El Camino of the media world.

A newspaper is part national news, part local news, part sports, part coupons/comics/love advice/cooking tips/celebrity smut, topped off with a stack of ads, classifieds, and home listings. It’s got something for everybody, but no part is as good as it could be if it were the sole pursuit of the paper.

Cable and the web are focused: they’re highways for specialized media vehicles. Craigslist is way better at classifieds than the paper. And how can the food section compete with the Food Network, Yelp, and LTH Forum? Ditto for sports and the rest – the generalist newspaper has been outpaced by expert media.

El Camino, by Linda Rae
El Camino, by Linda Rae

Printcast my ride

But the thing is, El Caminos have a passionate group of fans, especially in the custom-car niche. They love that kooky-looking ride. What if newspapers used printcasting to harness a similar passion?

Instead of making a paper for a city, make a paper for a neighborhood. Print a local, focused paper, with ads and the rest directed at a very tight group. You’d still be printing an El Camino, but for a niche.

El Camino 1960, by John Lloyd
El Camino 1960, by John Lloyd

Always crashing in the same car

A metropolitan daily kindles as much passion as a beige Toyota Camry, a car designed to appeal to the widest possible audience. It’s no wonder that the metro-area audience is dispassionate and dwindling. Who wants a gray bundle when it delivers so little satisfaction?

Instead, print out a mess of papers, one for each audience: rearview dice and retirement advice in one, hydraulics and nightclub pics in another. Pimp it out, and maybe you’ll get some folks to pick up the paper again.

4 thoughts on “Pimp my newspaper! Printcast my ride!

  1. I love it! It’s the “Dude, Where’s My Car?” media model. Everyone has their own. I want my car, not yours. (Mine is a hybrid).

    The analogy I often use to describe our admittedly strange local media model is boats rather than cars. Think of every daily newspaper as a big old honking cruise ship sitting alone on the deep blue sea. The people on that ship have been floating out there for decades, content with whatever the chefs have on the menu and the 5 activity choices the captain has chosen for them for that evening.

    One day as the cruise ship is approaching an island, some much more interesting natives come out in hundreds of little boats. The native on one boat is selling fruit nad clothing. Another is a music boat, with the pilot strumming a totally new kind of instrument nobody has ever seen before. And still another offers rides in his little boat for a few U.S. dollars.

    That night the captain realizes that 10% of the cruise population is missing. Turns out they’re out having fun with the natives on their little boats. The next day, the number increases to 20%. Then 40% What’s happening? It’s the end of the world!

    To the captain and his cruise ship, maybe it is the end. He can stay out there in the same old ship doing the same old cruise in the same way if he chooses to, and eventually he will have to shut down his business. But there is another way.

    Start throwing out some life rafts so the people can float around with the much more interesting little boats as they see fit. Instead of being in the cruise ship business, the captain is in the flotilla business. Some may move between the flotilla and the cruise ship, and some may choose to float in the same old little boat forever. As long as you operate the flotilla you’re still in business.

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