Where we’re at

Tom, planning regional offices for Newspaper Club

The sun is streaming through the windows, Mr Scruff is on the stereo, the England game is this afternoon, it seems like a good time to tell you all how we’re doing.

Good. We’re doing good.

More specifically, we’re doing the following things;

Tom is sitting next to me, he’s currently talking to a printer but he’s also writing code so we can offer international shipping. We’ve got a delivery company lined up, we’ve done a few test shipments, we’ve sorted out the pricing, we’ve just got to get the website working so y’all can order and pay. Which isn’t that easy. Each different order is a different weight which costs a different amount to ship to each country so making that intelligible on the website is a bit of a challenge. Seems to be coming together though. Tom reckons it’ll be finished this week. We’ll have an announcement on here when it’s up and running. Please note, it won’t be the whole world just yet. Just North America and Western and Central Europe for now. Details to follow.

Anne is up in Glasgow answering emails, taking orders and dealing with printers and customers. Getting her involved was one of the smartest things we could have done. Every time Ben or I are inclined to issue sarcastic advice to troubled customers she’s there just in time to stop us. Behind the scenes we’re also working on adding a bunch of community features to Newspaper Club – that’s where Anne will really come into her own.

Gareth’s doing all sorts of CEO stuff at the moment. (He’s not the CEO yet, but we’re hoping he will be soon.) He and I have been preparing investor documents so we can talk to people about raising more money for TOP SECRET PLANS. They must, of course, remain top secret but do not, as heavily rumoured, involve buying the Daily Mail. Gareth’s also been talking to printers up and down the world and we’re getting closer to our holy grail of being able to offer runs of just one paper, in colour. It’s not far now. Maybe a couple of months away.

Ben has mostly been doing designing – he made our lovely new front page. And we’re talking about getting some new templates done and we have a TOP SECRET PLAN to get a font made that’ll be specifically tailored to Newspaper Club purposes. That, of course, is TOP SECRET.

And I’ve been doing all sorts of TOP SECRET THINGS involving getting people to do new and interesting things with newsprint. And if you were to imagine that I was using TOP SECRET THINGS as a cloak for NOT DOING ANYTHING you’d be very wrong.

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Filed under: engineering, investors, running a business

The Deptford Project

We’re grateful to The Deptford Project.

For their custom.

For making a lovely newspaper.

For letting us blog about it.

And for photographing it in a new way.

The Deptford Project — Newspaper

Here’s some more info from Eivind Z. Molvær,

“The newspaper describes The Deptford Project’s past, present and future. TDP is, amongst other things, a train carriage in the middle of Deptford high street, London, made into a cafe — which is worthy of a newspaper on its own (and it had been featured in many) but also a range of events and markets held on the site.”

The Deptford Project — Newspaper

The Deptford Project — Newspaper

More pics on Flickr.

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Filed under: 4ip, case studies

12 IN 12 for D&AD’s New Blood

12 IN 12

A little while ago designer Craig Oldham made a booklet called 12 IN 12 as an accompaniment to a talk he gave to the students of University College Falmouth. Rather than blather on about his own work he decidedto list 12 things he learned in his first 12 months as a designer. (Speaking as a designer, it’s very good.)

He’s about to give an updated version of the lecture during D&AD’s New Blood event which showcases and offers advice for recent design and advertising graduates. So he decided to reprint 12 IN 12 via Newspaper Club. Here it is, splendid looking thing.

12 IN 12

You’ll notice it’s printed on yellow stock. In case you didn’t spot that, here are a few more pictures.

12 IN 12

12 IN 12

Here at Newspaper Club we’re constantly shipping new features and experimenting with ways to make the service better. Coloured newsprint is something we’re experimenting with and a feature we may ship in the future. Please note we can’t offer this at the moment. Sorry about that. Maybe soon. But not now.

I’ll repeat that. Please note we can’t offer this at the moment.

Craig’s talk should be good though and New Blood is a super event and a great way to see all the graduate talent. You should pop along. New Blood is at the Old Truman Brewery, open to the public from Friday 25 June to Monday 28 June 2010. 12 IN 12 will be available for a small charge and all the money will go to the D&AD’s education fund.

12 IN 12

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Filed under: art, case studies

My Life As An Object

Last week, our friends at Rattle made a newspaper as part of the research output from one of their projects, My Life As An Object.

We think it works really well as a way to get people reading stuff, partly due to the form factor (people are used to newspapers, rather than A4 bound reports or Powerpoint print outs) and partly to the sense of timeliness that’s imbued in the paper itself. This is now, or nowish, rather than something destined to go on a shelf and gather dust. Newspapers decay quite fast and that is good, because the value of information does too.

And they’re not wrong. The permanent, perpetually perfect nature of the screen lacks the visual clues that indicates the age of the information within. I stumbled upon my copy of Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet whilst clearing out my drawers over the weekend – it’s gone slightly yellow, slightly crisp, but it looks like something that’s nearly two years old should.

A couple of months ago, I found myself sitting next to lady in the pub who works as an archivist for a large library. I asked her what the best way to preserve newspapers is. It turns out they need to be kept flat (the fold will fall apart first), and out of the sunshine. If you can seal them from air with a laminate sleeve, that’s good too.

Maybe we should sell laminate sleeves, for people who want to preserve their papers for years to come. But, for the rest of us the patina will slowly develop on our papers, and eventually, one day, they’ll fall apart. And I quite like that.

There’s more about Rattle’s paper on their blog.

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Filed under: case studies

Year One

We started Newspaper Club a year ago. What have we learned?

Do something interesting and people will give you awards and write about you. That’s the marketing strategy.

The slog is longer and sloggier than we could ever have known. It’s truly true that the ideas are the easy bit. The hard bit is fixing all the details, tidying up the edges, building, then rebuilding, then rebuilding again. Hitting a deadline, then the next one, then the next one. (Fortunately it’s made worthwhile by the papers that people make. That’s been the most satisfying thing – the lovely papers people have made.)

Printed by Newspaper Club

It helps a lot to have some pictures. We got pictures of papers properly shot by a proper photographer. It makes a difference.

ARTHR isn’t just a means to an end, it’s a marvellous invention that’s genuinely made new things possible – and we could do more with it than just newspapers.

The internet makes lots of things easier, but as soon as you have customers you’re dealing with people. And people have strange questions, interesting ideas and unpredictable problems. So you need someone nice to talk to them. Similarly, you end up talking to people at other businesses and they need someone who speaks their language. So getting Gary and Anne on board was a very good idea.

We’ve been incredibly lucky. If we succeed in any way it won’t be because of hard work and talent it’ll be because we were lucky. We’re lucky to have generous friends who’ve helped us a lot, we’re lucky to have met just the right backers early on. We’re lucky to have enthusiastic and understanding customers. Many other people could have done this, there’s nothing special about us. We’ve met quite a few start-up people in this process, the best ones seem to recognise the importance of luck and have read The Black Swan, the worst ones seem to think it was all down to them. We’d beg to differ. Making something that people want to buy and selling it to them for a more than it costs to make. That seems to be a good basis for a business. More internet businesses should try that. It means that we’ve been making cash since Week One. Actual cash money. Multiples of thousands of pounds. That’s helpful.

We don’t explain ourselves well enough. Lots of the bits of the business are obvious to us, because we’re involved every day. So we get surprised when people ask how many pages there are in a 12-page newspaper, but it’s not necessarily obvious. We’re going to be rolling more explanations out on the site. Give people more help. Explain the process differences between black and white and colour more clearly. All that.

And, overall, we’re glad we started. We’re not at a point, yet, where we can retire and live off Newspaper Club, but we’ve put it in the world and it works. If we all fell under a bus it would still work, still keep going and people would get to make their own newspapers. That’s a nice feeling.

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Black and White

We use two different processes for printing newspapers. One is basically a big laser printer – it lets us print small quantities of papers, we use it for runs of 5 to 500 papers. It can only print in black and white. The other is a regular, big, standard newspaper printer – like regular newspapers use. This can print in colour or black and white but only in quantities of 500 or more.

The first process is fantastic for lots of reasons – small runs, quickness, cheapness – but we’ve been starting to hear from customers who aren’t happy with the quality of the reproduction, particularly for large areas of dense black ink. This is obviously hugely disappointing for everyone. And it’s a tricky area to deal with. We’ve refunded everyone who’s unhappy and reprinted papers in those instances where we think we can get a better result. But, to some extent, less than perfect reproduction is inherent in the process. We think, for the papers we’ve done ourselves, that if you design with this in mind and understand what you’re going to get that it’s still a really good product. But we know that’s not a really acceptable answer and we hate letting people down like this.

It’s also worth acknowledging that unhappiness with this process has gone up recently. It’s possible that the printer we’re using is delivering below expectations for even this process. We’re looking into that. If that is the case then that’s clearly completely unacceptable and we’ll have to stop printing those shorter runs until the backup plan’s in place. (We are working very hard on a backup plan.)

So, things we’ve been thinking about and doing:

It’s obvious that we need to be clearer about the sort of result you can expect to get, so we’ve put a handy guide on the site.

We’re working on finding better solutions so this won’t even be an issue.

We’re making a sample paper that will illustrate best and worst case scenarios. That’ll be available for everyone who wants one.

If we think of anything else we’ll let you know.

Also, please note, lots of people are very happy with the papers they get from this process, so that’s good, and the second, more conventional process has never had any complaints, so hurrah.

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