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IDEA #48 – Personalized Printed Magazines and Catalogs

There is one main idea here, which I take in two different directions: magazines and catalogs. People still like having a printed material to read or browse through — and I don’t see this going away for quite some time.

The catalog idea relies around peer-to-peer (P2P) product recommendations. I’ve thought for years during the holidays, about how great it would be to look through a catalog of products that my friends recommend (with quotes by them as to why they recommend the products!), as well as recommendations from the people I admire. And/or a specific catalog of my friends’ wishlists, so that I knew what to buy for them.

I could either download the catalog as a PDF and print it myself, or I could click a button, spend a couple dollars, and have it physically mailed to me. In fact, I could setup having one physically mailed to me every couple weeks, or every month — with all new recommendations from my friends. Who doesn’t love getting something in the mail?

The next idea is the same thing, but as a magazine of articles/posts that your friends/network like — along with their comments on the articles/posts. Once again, I could either download/print this PDF myself — or have it physically mailed to me.

Either idea could get as specific as your peers specifically recommending an article/post or product specifically for you — and providing a personalized recommendation to you.

All of these articles/posts or products could be on your own digital webpage on the proposed business website — so that you could easily bookmark the items online or directly purchase the products. The website could also allow people to share/recommend online too — or you could keep this all a surprise to people and make it that they must download/print or have the physical catalog/magazine mailed to them.

Monetization would come from affiliate accounts with product merchants (the business gets a % commission on each sale of a product), as well as featuring specific products in the catalogs (sponsorships/advertisements), and advertisements or sponsored posts/articles in the catalogs (like how techmeme has done it online).

  • James D Kirk

    This idea is just the extension of a conversation I got involved with earlier today. The idea of having a SuperDistribution network system in place which would allow for affiliate marketing in the offline world is much closer than one would expect.

    Feel free to click my name/link to go directly to the post at our site, and there you’ll find direct linking to the original article and comments at “A VC Blog”. I think you’ll enjoy the thread. Thanks.

  • K. Goudeaux

    Personalization of catalogs and magazines sounds like it has potential but I would like to see customized *books* with notes, annotations and discussions from other authors and writers embedded in my hard copy.

    Contrarian, supporting and complementary views in response to paragraphs, pages, chapters, anything. Meta-authorship, if you will.

    Or take it a step further and when friends or colleagues recommend a book, scan in their marked-up copy and give me a fresh printed copy and a PDF with their thoughts reactions, underlines and highlights right there for me to peruse and search.

  • Kevin

    This would definitely be cool, I’ve gotten a few eBay catalogs that have a page or two that are customized for me based on other purchases I’ve made. It’s fairly simple technology but I’m always amazed by it for some reason. Technology that amazes and delights creates an emotional bond, which can be a very powerful way to pull in users (see Google, Pandora, AJAX, etc..)

  • Eric Nagel

    The magazine / catalog could come in the mail, or better yet, partner with FedEx / Kinko’s. Kinko’s can print the material, and it can be shipped via FedEx. You could probably “build” your catalog or magazine today, and have it in the mail tomorrow.

  • Colin Dowling

    I’ve seen discussions on this idea before and while it is indeed an interesting thought, there would obviously be a number of difficult issues to tackle.

    The first, in my opinion, is getting the magazine customized enough to hold the reader’s interest. News sites like Newgie try and learn about the viewer based on click thrus to stories, and it takes a long time (in my view) for the page to look the least bit custom to my interests. Imagine how long it would take through print.

    Secondly, how would the company know if the reader liked the magazine and the “customized” articles/features were good? Would the reader have to get online and rate the mag? If so, you’re counting on the attraction of having something in print being the sole reason someone reads the magazine as opposed to just finding their news online.

    Also, if the reader didn’t like the magazine because they had read all the articles from other sources already or the presented articles weren’t interesting to them, how many issues (chances) would they give the product before completely losing interest?

    I think that a larger conglom like Conde Nast might be able to pull this off by simply aggregating topics from their various properties. Instead of subscribing to 3 of their zines, a person could have one subscription that pulled the tech stories from wired, the travel stories from another mag, and the culture stories from another. Something like that might work just fine. Then again, that might be exactly what you have been talking about all along. :)

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  • Graydon

    I think it or a derivative of it is viable using some of the digital download micro payment options out there.

    My original thought was for a blog to aggregate a series of posts for a single download and “home” print…
    see here –

    But I kinda like the idea of a 3rd party service / widget where I book mark postings that I like and can select at which point in time I want a hard copy printed and shipped.

    There are some sites that I’d just flat out prefer having all of the posts in a printed format… hell, might even make it worthwhile to make it a monthly subscription service where every month I get a copy.

    A site like LuLu has the infrastructure and I could have swore that when they first launched they had a blurb in there about loading blog postings… mmmh wander if they got an API?

  • Chris

    How about little Billy goes through your online catalog and prints out his Christmas List and gives it to grandma…

  • Chris Saad

    We already do the news personalization – and we have a plugin architecture whereby someone could write a little bit of code to convert the personalized news to PDF!

    Happy to help someone try.

  • Steve Poland

    New idea launched called SharedBook: