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From Web to print

A national newspaper starts online

Here’s an idea that hasn’t surfaced for a while (and runs counter to some recent predictions): build a publication then move it to print. Slate tried this, but never found success, Nerve has been more lucky. This time round, though, it’s a national newspaper. A Canadian national newspaper. With the National Post hemorrhaging money and talent, and The Globe and Mail (my current employer) being the only “national” paper left, the timing couldn’t be much better for the Dominion.

Print as meme

According to the coordinating editor Dru Oja Jay’s posting to online-news, the paper works this way:

…[W]e use a weblog to keep track of news, and provide something for people to look at between issues. Every two weeks, we pull together news summaries that have lasting relevance (and which have been either obscured or not covered by the mainstream Canadian press), articles and photos, and put it online as an 8 page pdf file, printable on letter size paper.

Those printed papers can be given away or sold (the Dominion asks, but doesn’t expect, a 15 percent commission) to promote the name. Eventually, local ads may be carried, allowing distributors to customize the publication. The source PDF, which is coincidentally (?) sized to fit on a floppy disk, are cleanly designed, and fits on regular 8-½” × 11” pages.

All for one (homepage)

As for the Web site, its clean design is better than most online papers, yet still feels generic. This feeling is amplified by the notice directing readers to get the latest news in the Weblog (which looks to be a sane, thus rare, place for news about progressive politics in Canada).

As Salon and other webzines discovered, it’s the daily content that brings readers back and splitting the traffic between the newspaper and the blog could cause problems in the long run. An easy solution would be to fold a bit of the latest blog entry into the homepage.

One for all

In keeping with the progressive bent, the Dominion encourages readers to suggest stories via comments, its Weblog, and its email list. While this isn’t unusual in grassroots, progressive publications or in the open source and Web design communities it is a challenging endeavour. The former often requires a dedicated group of volunteers to keep it alive, and the latter will only thrive if a critical mass is reached (at which point it may tear itself apart). I’ve seen many attempts at this fail as other commitments grow, but I have also seen some spectacular successes.

That being said, the Dominion is “hiring“ more than a dozen positions now, ranging from copy editors to an International News Editor, to work around 3–6 hours a week each. If you are at all interested getting involved in journalism, or are already involved, and have the time to spare, this could be an interesting opportunity.

For now, I’ll be watching the Dominion closely as a news junkie, as a fan of online journalism, and as one who thought of doing something quite similar after CANOE began to implode.