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Reverse Publishing: From Web to Print

What Do Citizens Contribute?

  • On New West, serialized novels and MP3 downloads of local bands.
  • On The Forum in Deerfield, a crafts column and instructions on how to make a quilt and how to repair garden gnomes.
  • On ibrattleboro, local rumblings to the “Rumors” page.
  • On Northwest Voice, recipes for locally grown crops.
  • On Blount County Voice, a series on local historical sites.
  • On Backfence, local business reviews.
  • On OlyBlog, comics and a book of memories of Evergreen State College.
  • On New Haven Independent, profiles of the “Cop of the Week.”
  • At Arbor Update, tips on living in Ann Arbor without a car.

Many citizen media sites actually turn their web content into a print publication, a process called reverse publishing. A popular form of reverse publishing for legacy media citizen sites involves the transformation of what Clyde Bentley calls “driveway rot” - those total-market-coverage, free-delivered papers filled with ads. Once My Missourian launched in October 2004, Bentley worked with the daily paper, The Missourian, to convert a free Saturday shopper into a weekly community newspaper with citizen-generated content. Launched a year later, the paper, in its first month, helped add 200 more citizen contributors to the 400 who signed up for the web site. “The impact of the print edition was enormous,” Bentley said.

These print versions have greater appeal both to advertisers and readers. The challenge, Bentley said, is to get readers to actually open them and see the transformation, instead of conveying the papers directly from driveway to trash can.

Some newspapers are also beginning to integrate web contributions from citizens into their paid-subscription daily papers. The Daily Camera, a 34,000-circulation paper in Boulder, Colorado, is trying to train citizens to go to “as a way to get their news into the newspaper.” Managing editor Kevin Kaufman said citizens who want to submit obituaries, wedding and engagement announcements or event listings are now directed to submit them online. As the paper has reduced its editorial staff, Kaufman said, “We need to figure out ways to get our readers to help us get their news into the paper.”

He said, “A lot of news briefs and community briefs come in through My Town. We have an outdoor recreation page every day with a calendar and a daily half-page listing of things to do - they’re all coming through My Town.” Once a month the paper produces a 20- to 30-page free supplement delivered to high-growth communities outside of Boulder. “All of that content comes from My Town.”

The volunteers who launched The Forum, a web site for under-covered Deerfield and nearby towns in New Hampshire, also republish citizen content three times a year in a print edition. But their motivation is quite different. Few of the local residents have high-speed Internet connections, and many have yet to become comfortable getting their news online - they still relate better to print. Site operators use the print edition to draw attention to the site and to educate readers that they can produce as well as consume news. “The print edition is advertising that we’re here, and we’d love to have you write” on the site, managing editor Maureen Mann said.

PREV: Getting Back What You Put Out

NEXT: Chapter 4: Building Interest