If you've ever put together a company newsletter, but gave it up because of the many details and costs involved, and because the news became old all too quickly, you might want to take advantage of MagCloud, a web based self-publishing print-on-demand (POD) service.
MagCloud is a nifty online service developed by HP Labs, currently in beta stage, that enables users to easily self-publish a professional quality, full-color magazine ready for printing at any of HP's network of Indigo digital presses around the country for 20 cents a page (plus $1.40 shipping per issue), a cost that for small runs is very affordable compared to traditional printing press pricing. Each magazine, which can have four to 60 pages (in four-page increments), prints in full color on 80 pound paper with saddle stitched covers.
A POD magazine could be a cool addition to your marketing mix for new and ongoing customers, whether you use it as a photo spread of past projects or to show progress on a large project. Because you print the magazines as needed, there are no outdated copies.
The site provides clear, sequential steps of the whole publishing process, but here's a quick gist of the self-publishing service. To get started, go to www.magcloud.com, and look at what's already been published to give you an idea of what you can create. When you're ready, click on the Publish tab, then on the Create a New Magazine button, and follow the prompts to set up your account. Here is where you'll upload the content that you created offline for your magazine. You can create your magazine using any of several designated software programs.
After completing the layout and content for your magazine, convert it to a multi-page PDF, and upload it to MagCloud. Though the PDFs are 8.5" × 11", MagCloud trims the size and publishes pages at 8.25" × 10.75".
For people who prefer not to create their own template, MagCloud offers preformatted templates that work within several programs: Microsoft Word 2007, Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop and Apple Pages.
After uploading the completed PDF, the content creator previews thumbnails of all the pages in the magazine on the preview page and then makes any desired changes.
MagCloud also recommends that content creators order a proof of the magazine, which takes about a week or so to arrive, and review an actual hard copy. At least during the beta stage, publishers pay only for the shipping for the preview copy.
Once the content creator reviews, corrects and approves the proof, clicking on the Publish link releases the issue onto the MagCloud site, available for purchase by you or anyone else, with payment via PayPal or a credit card. If you want to keep the magazine in-house, you can set up a private publication, available for viewing and purchase only by those to whom you give an access code.
After an issue is published, MagCloud exposes it in several ways. Recent issues are displayed under the Home and Browse pages, categorized into 24 topics, including business and finance.
You can also e-mail a note from MagCloud to any customer and invite them to view the publication for free online. MagCloud sends them a guest pass.
Plus, the magazine is available as an issue feed on your publisher home page, http://username.magcloud.com. This is a handy feature because you can include the home page address on all your marketing materials, and anyone can view the magazine at any time.
Once you've published the first issue, it is easy to use your template to update the magazine with newer photos and revised text in place of the old, or with entirely new photos and text for a new client.
Microsoft Office Live Workspace, also in beta stage, is a free online password-protected place where you can store, access and share documents for a project, meeting or other activity. The site offers several pre-built workspaces for you to choose from, including project, meeting notes, events and travel. With up to 5 GB of storage for your overall workspace, you can make a workspace for each project or each phase of a project.
You can add documents from your computer at any time from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Documents will be available online to anyone you invite to share — Workspace automatically sends an e-mail invite.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].