Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Voice of San Diego launches a magazine - yep, a magazine

May 22, 2012, 3:43 p.m., Posted by Scott Lewis

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Knight Foundation announced today its support for Voice of San Diego's new membership program - which includes the perk of a new print and digital magazine - as part of its efforts to support sustainable local news models. As a nonprofit, the organization relies on contributions from individual members, major donors, corporate/community partners and foundations to maintain operations. With this support from Knight, the news organization is crafting a diverse revenue strategy that places greater emphasis on building a community of individual members who see the value in its awarding-winning investigative reporting. Voice of San Diego's CEO Scott Lewis writes about the launch in a piece first published in a member newsletter.

So we're launching a magazine.

That caught a few people off guard, I know. We're the digital news team. That's the point, right? To save all the money spent on print and use that for reporting. Make news more efficient.

Don't worry, the core philosophy that was part of the founding of Voice of San Diego still reigns: Don't build a radio station, don't build a printing press. Use the Internet. All you need is a connection and some software.

But the Internet is so amazing, it even made print possible for us.

Let me explain. Last year, it was an actual face-to-face conversation (and then the Internet) that led me to MagCloud.   

MagCloud is an online service that facilitates magazine printing on demand.

Here's how it works: Say you have an idea for a magazine. All you have to do is come up with the content and design and then upload it. People can buy it if they want to hold the magazine in their hands, spill coffee on it without worrying or stuff it in their purse or briefcase.

And MagCloud offers an iPad version.

Obviously, producing stories and photos etc. is not easy.

But we already have the content. Tons of content. We put several stories out every day. Some longer and more in-depth than others. When we gather them all up over the course of a month, we have reason to be proud.

At the same time, not everyone can keep up with the daily chaos of news, let alone read some of our longer pieces.

So, when I discovered MagCloud, I got an idea and couldn't shake it. Rather than let our stories sit on some virtual shelf, why not offer the chance for people to catch up?

We floated the idea to Knight Foundation, which loved it and decided to help with the experiment by funding it.

Here's how it works. We design and upload the magazine. If you decide to buy it, either the digital or print version, MagCloud takes a cut and sends the difference to us.

At the same time, we built the magazine into the benefits of our Raise Your Voice membership program for those who join our community at the Speaking Up level.

If we can generate enough support for it, through sponsors who want to put messages in it, people who buy individual copies and members excited to have it, then we can keep uploading new editions.

And then we get to have this great package of our content that we can take around and show people. They can fold it up and put in their bag.

It's print as an accessory. As John Bracken from Knight Foundation put it: "Print is the new vinyl."

If printed newspapers and magazines can develop the kind of cult love that vinyl records have, that will be a great featherbed for this media to fall on as the Internet continues to disrupt the way we consume information.

The magazine is available to those who want to step back from the daily chaos of news and take in some of our most interesting stuff. It will also, eventually, contain some member updates, photos from our events and special nuggets about our own story as we evolve as an organization.

We'll continue to try new things. We're able to pull off about one out of every 100 ideas I have. And I'm glad this one made it.