Online content + printing press = customised newspapers FTW

picture-382Following the success of AudioBoo, 4iP has unveiled another investment with the potential to completely change the face of mainstream media – though this time, it’s all about print. Newspaper Club is a tool to help people make their own newspapers using online content. The site’s in private beta, with a public launch planned for late summer.

Newspaper Club will let users tag online content, collect and curate the content they want and turn it into a really good-looking printed product. The team behind it, Russell Davies, Ben Terret and Tom Taylor, started development earlier this month, and are charting their progress in their hilariously frank Newspaper Club blog.

The idea is that any group of people with a shared interest can use rights-cleared content from the web and print it in a basic full colour newspaper format. 4iP’s Daniel Heaf says the ideal audience could be a group of birdwatchers, the residents of an estate campaigning for improvements, or a printed product rounding up the best of the internet. Ben Terret was instrumental in this last project, which could be considered as a prototype for the Newspaper Club concept.

The business model is based on taking a cut off the printing price as well as selling bespoke solutions to corporate clients such as the internal newsletter it produced for its first customer, the BBC. 4iP is also keen to combine Newspaper Club with its other initiatives such as Talk About Local to give communities a more effective voice both online and offline.

It looks like 4iP’s onto another winner with this model, which combines the collaborative lifting power of digital with the accessibility of a non-threatening tangible product. It also means that online content could find newer audiences among the 30% of people in the UK who don’t yet have access to the web, or the multitudes more who live by their RSS feeds but still take pleasure in handling printed paper.

Content junkies who live to bookmark, tag, annotate and share might see this as a retrogressive step — but until we have networked electronic paper as standard, Newspaper Club seems like the next best thing.