John Emerson’s concept of a blog tabloid is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but I know realize I was thinking about it all wrong. I was thinking along the lines of something like the free city papers you get in every city, but John’s idea is much better — it is more like a Zine. A PDF file that anyone can print out and leave a few copies around town. Here’s how he says it:
Blogs are basically an elite form of communication. It makes possible almost instant dissemination of information, but only reaches people who are motivated enough to make some effort. Blogs don’t help much with the Democrats’ biggest problem — the passive voters who pick up the ambient opinion from radio and TV. Blogs also don’t reach active citizens who, for whatever reason, are not internet-savvy.
I’m proposing a printable blog tabloid which would aggregate news and opinion daily and post it in printable form. That way, individuals could print off copies and distribute them to friends and acquaintances or leave them in public places.
In order to work, this tabloid would have to be attractively and professionally formatted, with punchy stories, quick summaries, nice graphics, and a bit of humor. Hopefully there is a widely-used software available which would make it possible for tens of thousands of people to print off nice-looking copies. This would effectively be a free national hard-copy tabloid printed off at thousands of locations.
I don’t think that this need be as labor intensive as John makes it out to be. I think social software could do a lot of the work. I think about how effective Wikipedia is. And, in fact, we could combine Wikinews with this project. The main issue would be one of selecting articles — which could be done in the same way that Slashdot works. Articles are submitted to a central forum and users can vote them up or down and assign categories (funny, opinion, sports, etc.) Instead of Slashdot, I read Alterslash, a version of slashdot which only contains those comments which have been given high votes. Such a tabloid could be generated by picking only those articles with a certain rating. Then articles could be assigned to sections according to their category — with the top stories being given a lead on the front page.
The covers could even be generated using the Flickr Magazine cover generator!
The big issue, in my mind, would be hyperlinks. So many blog articles link elsewhere, and often require you to follow links to understand the story. This seems like the biggest hurdle. Also, bloggers use such different formatting conventions, it may be difficult to give the magazine a unified look. But if we are just thinking about producing a weekly (I think daily is too much to ask — at least at first) PDF file, it should be possible. There are all kinds of scripts which can automatically generate PDF files from web pages.
(via Body and Soul)