On-Demand Publishing and the News Venture


This week the Hub explores the potential of on-demand publishing for the news venture. We explore some examples of on-demand publishing and provide some information on how to get started.

On-demand publishing has become another content distribution vehicle in the media industry today where you can compile content into a book and print only as many copies as you need. In addition, on-demand publishing offers up the opportunity to also make your book available digitally as an ebook. With the growth of the tablet industry, many believe ebooks will have a successful future. As a news venture or start-up, on-demand publishing may be an opportunity to distribute existing content or new content and package it into something unique for the audience. It allows the news venture to provide additional value to the public as well as an opportunity to gain new audiences.

News Organizations Jump on the eBook Bandwagon

Several news organizations have jumped into the ebook industry such as the The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and ABC News.

Several Investigative News Network members have ventured into this area recently with doing ebooks on specific topics.

Voice of San Diego published a photo book in 2011 of news photos of San Diego taken by former staff photojournalist Sam Hodgson.

ProPublica announced earlier this year it will be offering some ebooks based on previous stories they have published. The St. Louis Beacon recently published an ebook on their coverage of the Mississippi floods last year using the iBooks Author app by Apple.

Each of these examples shows how the news venture can look inward at the news operation – do you have a specific series or investigation that you published recently that could be made into a book? Do you have special multimedia, photo or video content that could be featured in an ebook? The most important aspect to remember is that it should be content that your audience values, is an important subject matter that has an impact on the community and is content that your audience will repeatedly seek out.

Longshot Magazine: 48-Hour Experiment

Another unique use of on-demand publishing has been the 48-hour experiment by Longshot magazine. Since 2010, they have published three magazines (both available in print and digital form) that focus on a specific theme or themes. They seek out contributions and collaboration from the public in order to produce the magazine. The first 24 hours they announce the magazine’s theme and ask people to submit their work – whether it is text, photos, design or other creative work. They spend another 24 hours editing the work they received and openly invite people from around the world to help with producing the magazine – designers, editors, fact checkers, programmers, artists and many others. Their following continues to grow as well as their accolades including winning a Knight-Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism. Many people are wondering what the theme for this year will be. Last year’s was focused on debt.

The Longshot magazine can serve as a point of inspiration for news ventures and news start-ups. Do you have a special theme or niche area you want to focus on? Is there an opportunity to bring together your reporters and seek out collaboration from the community to help with building the book? By engaging in this collaborative process, you provide value with specific content that will interest the public and you may naturally get the community engaged in your news organization that can lead to a loyal news audience in the future.

Before embarking on an on-demand publishing project, here are a few questions to think about:

  1. Do you have content that you can offer as a booklet or book?
  2. Do you want to focus on a specific theme or multiple themes in the book?
  3. Do you have an audience who will be interested in buying it?
  4. Are there opportunities where you can create future issues of the book with other niche content?
  5. Do you want to seek out contributions and collaborations from the public as you produce the book?
  6. What kind of resources (design, layout, copyediting, etc.) do you have available to help with producing the book (ebook or print)?
  7. If you will be offering an ebook, what kind of interactive resources can you offer? (For example, you can include hyperlinks to relevant sources, videos, maps, reports, documents, etc.)
  8. What kind of price do you want to charge? (Remember you have to take into consideration the costs with the on-demand publisher, the manufacturer, the catalog where your book/booklet resides, shipping if it’s being printed, etc.)
  9. How will you market the book/booklet? Can you tie it to an upcoming event your news organization is hosting? Do you want to have a special book signing session with the public? Can you offer up as a special promotion about the book on your website?
  10. Will you need an ISBN? (ISBN is the International Standard Book Number and allows libraries, book dealers and publishers to locate your book. Depending on your distribution plan, you may or may not need one.)
  11. Are there people you can ask to review the book once its published? Reviews can help with the selling of future books.

Here are some other great articles that give additional tips to think about when it comes to the world of on-demand publishing:

Has your news organization published an ebook or book? What kind of challenges did you face when embarking on this kind of project? What digital tools did you find most helpful for the publishing process? Leave a comment below and let us know!