Greenbelt: print power online

Greenbelt 2009 Friday

Last weekend I went to Greenbelt, Britain’s least-known and friendliest festival, where I have had a wonderful time being very, very relaxed, and engaging with social media as a consumer.

Rather than blogging my personal festival highlights, let’s talk about the innovations that allowed me to pick up on Monday a 16-page newspaper that went to press on Sunday night, two days after the festival opened, aimed at getting me to engage with Greenbelt’s online content.

Sponsored by Hewlitt Packard, the paper itself is a lovely object. It’s called “While We Were Here” and it’s entirely composed of blog posts, images and links that already exist on the web. In theory, the 4,000 free copies are designed to direct traffic to the web, not the other way round.

I don’t know if it’s working universally. I do know that when I got home on Tuesday I logged on and looked at a fair few blogs – I visited many of the ones printed in the paper and bookmarked or followed the profiles and groups signposted from its pages.

And I can say it worked for me. I don’t know if this business model is sustainable anywhere outside a four-day charity festival using volunteers willing to spend every waking hour (and several that should be sleeping ones) making it work. But I do believe it has legs and it could be immensely succesful to clone online content for web as a way of driving the link economy of an event.

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Mary Hamilton

I'm a journalist-type tech-ish geek person, working in that interesting ambiguous place where reporting the news meets all sorts of peripheral skills. In my spare time I herd zombies, design games and write stuff.

4 thoughts on “Greenbelt: print power online”

  1. Glad you enjoyed the paper, it was very much a labour of love but we’re very pleased with the outcome and the response has been fantastic. Glad it inspired you to do some exploring.

    Business models around it are an interesting question and are being most clearly explored by the Newspaper Club folks – http://www.newspaperclub.co.uk/ – who are developing a system for developing newspaper content online (probably including automatically aggregating from feeds) and then using spare time on presses to get things printed at low cost. There are ideas in there about enabling community groups and about sustaining struggling printing facilities and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

  2. Thanks for the link – and all the work at the weekend. I was actually particularly interested in your article/post about including Twitter posts along with longer blog posts and other content – have you checked out Publish2? It offers some interesting ways of curating social media including the ability to link virtually every URL you fancy to a tagged RSS feed, which could be very handy for what you’re trying to do – and the ability to integrate that with automatic feed aggregation for print could be revolutionary.

  3. I’d not seen Publish2 and will take a look – thanks.

    Including tweets was definitely part of our plan and I’d marked a load of favourites in preparation. But in the end with just one mac operator to pull the thing together and a tight deadline we ran out of time.

    Now that we know it works we can do a bit more forward planning, write some scripts to do a lot of the basic work, and recruit a larger team for next year.

What do you think?