Various Updates

We had a Status Meeting this morning.

Help Guide In Progress

Everything is going well. All on target. Engineering ensure us a beta launch is “geologically imminent”.

Help Guide In Progress

We also had to fill in an Investor Status Report which made us realise we’re only £500 away from reaching 50% of our revenue target. That’s got to be good, especially pre-launch. Pre-lunch in fact, as Engineering have just popped out for a sandwich.

Matt is also doing a splendid job on the Guide To Newspaper Club he’s putting together. Today he presented us a glorious flat plan. On a flip chart.

Help Guide In Progress

Made a nice change from all the PowerPoint Sales and Marketing put us through.

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Newspaper Club on the Radio

It’s been a busy week for Newspaper Club. Slowly we’re pulling things together, but it feels a bit like for everything that gets ticked off the list, another two more things get added. The only way to tackle that it to prioritise, deadline and get on with the right stuff. And that’s what we’re doing.

So it’s a well deserved weekend, and we’re all enjoying some downtime. I’ve been careering up and down the Norfolk Broads, trying to dodge motor boats in our little canoe. It’s harder than I remember to keep it in a straight line, but we had an excellent, albeit soggy time.

Just before 5pm I dragged myself out of the water, grabbed a polystyrene cup of tea and sat down to listen to BBC Radio 4’s Saturday PM.

It was a short piece about changing face of newspaper printing, the romance and beauty of the medium, and where it might be heading. Newspaper Club is featured, along with the word “flong“.

You can listen to it with the player below, or download the MP3 directly.

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“We will let you fail”

(A quick introduction: In the run up to launch Matthew will be in Newspaper Towers playing with the interaction and language of our guide. When he’s finished it should answer all of the questions you have before you put together your own publication – and if it doesn’t then that’s his fault. He’ll also be doing a few behind the scenes blog entries, kind of like our own embedded reporter. So, without further ado, over to Matthew…)

It’s worth restating that for all of the brilliant and compelling reasons there are for making a newspaper, they don’t amount to much without content. Well-designed layouts are quite forgiving of white space, but 12 blank pages is a threat for people familiar with printing, let alone newcomers: yesterday’s staus meeting made it clear that even large organisations are having trouble ‘getting those final two pages in place’.

Notebooks

(Of course, in time this may be another thing the Bespoke Service will be able to help with: “Throw enough money at us and we’ll print on gold.”)

Something I need to emphasise in the guide is the fact that preparation of content is essential. Really. Part of the fun of the system is being able to play with how your copy looks on the page. If you think you’ll want to print a newspaper around the launch then go away now and start gathering words and pictures. I mean it: Now. It’s better to have to leave things out than abandon a half full draft.

In other news, the success of the Postcode Paper prompted Sales and Marketing to secure motivational literature for the team:

Motivational literature

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Data.gov.uk Newspaper

Over the last three days we’ve been working on a side project. A design exercise if you like.

We’ve been thinking about the beta Data.gov.uk repository, and wanted to explore putting some of the information contained within into people’s hands in a form that is accessible, timely, and relevant.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, we thought a good way to do that was with a newspaper. So here it is, the Postcode Paper:

Data.gov.uk Newspaper

It’s a prototype of a service for people moving into a new area. In our exercise we imagined you might receive it after paying your council tax for the first time.

It gathers information about your area, such as local services, environmental information and crime statistics.

Data.gov.uk Newspaper

It’s not just data from central government – we also scraped TFL for travel times, and ITO generated us a bespoke spider map of transport options in our area.

Data.gov.uk Newspaper

And there’s stuff from the NHS and the council.

Data.gov.uk Newspaper

We printed 50, and gave them out to a room full of civil servants, who seemed very excited its possibilities. Hopefully it’ll find its way around Whitehall over the next couple of weeks, acting as a demonstration of the kind of stuff people want to make with all this data that government has. And maybe that’ll encourage some more data to get opened up to the public.

Obviously it was thrown together quickly as a design exercise, it’s very prototypey, and there will be many mistakes. But it’s a great demo of what kind of services are possible with data-driven paper. And we’re quite excited by that.

Thanks to Gavin Bell and Dan Catt for helping out.

Data.gov.uk Newspaper

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Investor Demo 3

Investor Demo 3

Investors: Mel looking stern and Dan looking pleased at our pre-launch revenue.

We had our 3rd Investor Demo this morning. We can’t tell you that much about it because as we get closer to launch we’re going to have to stop being as transparent as we have been previously. This is a shame, but it’s just one of the issues we face as we grow.

As a last transparency hurrah we’ll share with you the agenda from the meeting.

investor meeting

It went very well. Everyone is pleased. There is more work to be done, but we’re on track and we’re generating some decent revenue pre-launch, which is important.

The next two bits of news you can expect from us are a beta launch date and a pricing announcement. You should expect those in a week or so.

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The Newspaper Club logo

You may have noticed we’ve slightly changed the Newspaper Club logo. The previous one used a temporary paperboy graphic whilst we worked behind the scenes to create a bespoke one.

Newspaper Club logo

I’d like to tell you about the thinking behind the logo and show you some of the versions that didn’t make the cut. Other start ups don’t give you that level of transparency, do they?

When you think of newspapers you probably think of that ‘funny marmalade’ font. And you’d be right. That font you’re thinking of visually equals newspaper, so I elected to use that. Simple. I’m a huge fan of not over complicating design, as my old boss used to say, “you might say cliché, I might say crystal clear communication”.

Engineering made me upload this

Most of the typography that would pass as crystal clear communication for a newspaper masthead is based on the font Blackletter. Blackletter has it’s uses, but on screen is not one of them. In fact, it’s more Duchy Originals than Daily Oregonian as over an incredible 1,000 years Blackletter has undergone many cuts and derivatives and most broadsheet newspapers today use stylised versions. Or typefaces based on a gothic Blackletteresque font, more accurately.

Engineering made me upload this

I needed a version that said ‘newspaper’ as instantly as Blackletter but worked well on screen.

one day

Back in June (on day one in fact) I looked at several versions and settled on Brauhaus . It has been simplified and is therefore better for online use yet it still retains the newspaper feel I was after. To make the letters more distinctive I opted to change the N and the C for slightly tweaked versions of the Blackletter N and C.

Engineering made me upload this

That’s the word marque sorted but for a modern start up you need an icon for all those pesky 32×32 square icons you have to create. And that’s where the paperboy came in.

The original inspiration was the Paperboy Atari game from the 1984. That’s a sort of digital newspaper joke for people of a certain age.

Engineering made me upload this

A little character would be handy for all those icons and also for guiding you through the newspaper making process. It feels right for Newspaper Club as we’re a friendly tool for people and communities not a secretive, hard edged, spiky tech dot com.

Engineering made me upload this

We used this chap for a while, but it was just a place holder. We wanted our own, so we tasked the amazing Rexbox with creating one for us. Rex has worked on all sorts of cool stuff including co-creating LittleBigPlanet and stuff for Disney and MTV.

Here he is. The paperboy, not Rex.

Paper Boy

The result is a modern, friendly logo whilst hinting at the visual history of the newspaper masthead.  We hope you like it.

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Owning distribution

Important Chart

Lots of people email us here at Newspaper Club Towers and they always remark what fun we must be having. Let’s shatter that myth now. For example this week we have been staring at spreadsheets and meeting people to thrash out a pricing, delivery and fulfillment strategy.

This is the stuff successful businesses are made of. Trust us, we’ve been told this lots of times this week.

You may think supply chain management is boring (we do) but it’s essential. It’s non trivial, in fact. It involves calculations and spreadsheets, it involves actual numbers and actual weights and actual prices rather than just guesswork and theory.

Fulfillment, logistics and supply chain management meeting

But we’ve made some serious progress this week. The pricing for our launch products has been agreed and we should be able to announce that in 10 days time. We’ve created a logistics system we’re comfortable with and we have a distribution solution that will work smoothly. That means we can sell you a product and deliver it to your door effortlessly and cost effectively. That’s the stuff CRM legends are made of.

We’ve also spoken to some corporate clients and we’ve met with some new and exciting newspaper printers.

But this quote was probably the most thought provoking bit of the week, “There are lots of things that have never been done with print before, just because nobody has ever bothered too ask.”

Slowly it’s all coming together.

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Best of both

"I'm in love with the craftmanship of print. But I have to say I'm intoxicated by the speed of the web"

Sometimes it’s hard for people to understand why we’re taking content in a format that’s perceived as new and printing it out in a format that’s perceived as old. And then I was reading this article in The Guardian and the editorial legend Sir Harold Evans uses this rather nice expression, “I’m in love with the craftsmanship of print. But I have to say I’m intoxicated by the speed of the web”.

That seems to sum it up rather nicely.

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The WIRED Intelligence Briefing

This morning Wired held an event at the Royal Institution in London. You know, where they do the Christmas Lectures.

"Cheaper than Davos"

As people were leaving they were given a copy of The Wired Intelligence Briefing which was printed via Newspaper Club.

The WIRED Intelligence Briefing

The paper contained the greatest hits of Wired UK’s first 6 months and well as some forthcoming and exclusive content.

The WIRED Intelligence Briefing

It’s constantly intriguing to us to see what people do with the format. Here’s a magazine reformed as a newspaper. The designers were particularly pleased to send something to print on Tuesday night and receive delivery on Wednesday, that doesn’t happen with magazines.

The WIRED Intelligence Briefing

It’s also becoming clear that there are 3 distinct avenues for Newspaper Club. We have discussed this before, but it’s worth repeating.

a) You create and print your own newspaper. This will launch in Januaryish.

b) You can send us artwork files and we can print you a newspaper. Liked Wired just did, or like Book Club Boutique did.

c) You can commission us to design and print a bespoke newspaper for you. Like the BBC and Penguin did.

Lovely.

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