It’s hard to imagine a tougher time to start a newspaper in. But Joshua Karp, founder and publisher of The Printed Blog, thinks there’s still some life in the medium — at least when it comes to free — despite all the talk lately about “the death of newspapers.” A long NYT piece casts Karp as a quixotic sort of businessman who just might find a way to make a print start-up sound like a viable proposition.
— The math: Karp’s plan is fairly ambitious. The first issues of The Printed Blog began appearing on newsstands earlier this week in its hometown Chicago and San Francisco. Eventually, Karp hopes to publish other local versions of the paper, which is composed entirely blogs and user-gen, in cities across the country. And reaching back to the days of morning and afternoon papers, The Political Blog will be published twice a day. In addition to the $15,000 in self-funding, Karp wants to sell 200 ads an issue and charge $5- to $10 for classifieds. Business ads would go for $15- to $25 with the promise of reaching 1,000 readers. Karp figures that will be enough to earn a weekly profit of $750 to $1,500. Offering some context, NYT says that one of the dozen free weeklies in MediaNews Group’s Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, which typically reaches 20,000 readers and costs $10,000 to produce, and claims an operating profit margin of 11 percent to 15 percent. Until it can get those kinds of margine, The Political Blog is also in the process of raising an unspecified amount of venture funding.
— Potential?: Even though The Political Blog will have costs associated with ink, paper and distribution, Karp is putting commercial printers in the homes of his distributors, which is still much cheaper than running a single large printing press. Secondly, with ads submitted over web and repackaging content from blogs, Karp doesn’t have to worry about paying an ad sales team — or reporters, for that matter. And hyper-local is considered an area that newspapers have been slow to tap. One of the centerpieces of Karp’s plan is to publish neighborhood-centric version of the paper for various cities; Chicago, for example, could have 50 papers for individual communities. But there are still a lot of reasons for doubt whether the online model can be so closely formatted for print. As David Cohen, a founder of Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, tells NYT: “It just sounds daunting. To me, that