Even I, stalwart defender of the printed periodical, was given pause by a recent article in The New York Times about Printcasting, a web site that lets people create print magazines from their blogs.
Supported by the Knight Foundation, the site is a free service for using a blog as a content feed for the online magazine creation system. You can also include blog items from other Printcaster users, and advertising is shared across the network. You can alert subscribers when a new issue is available and they can download it and print it out themselves. (A better description of the services is available here.)
It's an interesting concept. Yes, most people with blogs don't want a print edition. But let's face it: Lots of people create blogs because they can't afford to do a print publication; this service lets them have both options, so I think there will definitely be a customer base for Printcasting, even if the customers are just printing out copies and leaving them at coffee shops.
Though the designs of the publications are limited, it's still another interesting idea for merging the worlds of online and print. As I've noted here before about the print-on-demand magazine publisher MagCloud, by taking the distribution challenge out of the equation (and costs) of the prospective small publisher, the digital revolution could actually spawn a renaissance in magazines, and not be its death. MagCloud is different in that it is a printer service, where the publishers upload (at no cost) their magazine files to MagCloud, which uses its network of high-quality HP printers to produce the magazines on demand and mail them to the buyers.
Printcasting goes one step backward in terms of design quality but one step forward toward my prediction of direct-to-buyer printing, by which I mean the publisher creates the magazine, sends it in digital form to the customer, who prints it out on his/her increasingly professional home or office printer.
This revolution is starting to become fun!