4 minutes reading time (772 words)

Paper on show

Paper on show

Newspaper Club has gone from strength to strength since its creation in 2009 by Russell Davies, Ben Terrett and Tom Taylor. It has become the most well-known service for people who want to print their own publications - and over 4 million have gone through their presses.

A retrospective of work printed by Newspaper Club is now on show at South Block in Glasgow, home to the company's main operations. We chatted with MD Anne Ward about the exhibition, and what's next for Newspaper Club.


How did the idea for a Newspaper Club exhibition come about?

AW: Our Glasgow office is in a fantastic building called South Block, which is full of artists and creative businesses. The ground floor is a cafe and exhibition space, so Wasps (the company that runs it) were kind enough to ask us if we'd like to put on an exhibition. We already have lots of great papers on the wall in the office, so a bigger space was a great opportunity.

What do you think is the key to the continued popularity of Newspaper Club?

AW: Print is still a really popular medium, and newsprint in particular is a very cost-effective way of printing something quickly and easily. Newspaper Club lets people print small runs of newspapers in a way that just wasn't possible before. We find that lots of customers start with a small run and then come back for more. And as the newspapers they're printing are usually designed to be given out or shown off, they're a great advert, and more and more people get to know about us.

In your experience, what are some of the most interesting reasons people have used the service?

AW: We have had all sorts! You name it, we've printed it. Job applications, marriage proposals, wedding invitations, posters, from customers ranging from first time designers to those with decades of experience.

How has Newspaper Club's technology changed over the years and what does it use at the moment?

AW: We’ve had to develop a lot of tooling to do a few things specific to print layout and production. Developing ARTHR, our browser based newspaper layout tool, involved writing a rich web application in Javascript, as well as ERNIE, a lightning fast rendering engine written in Cocoa on OS X. Both of those are major undertakings, but there wasn’t anything else out there that suited our needs.

Given the shift from print to digital for newspapers at large, do you see a time when national newspapers will go to print-on-demand – only printed for a small number of people who, for whatever reason, demand it in that medium?

AW: Yes, that seems entirely possible. The Long Good Read – an experimental project that we're working on with the Guardian, is a step in this direction. We're also working on some new services that let people customise their own newspapers for printing.

From your perspective, running Newspaper Club, how does it feel – physically and emotionally – to be working with small-run print publications with specific, often niche, purposes?

AW: It's absolutely brilliant. It's very busy, and we're usually dealing with people on tight deadlines, so we have to be on our toes. We work hard to make the process as easy as possible, and there's a lot of satisfaction in helping people to get their papers to print. Every paper is checked so we see a huge variety of papers next week – there's always something interesting to look at, and often new things to learn about printing.

We've printed community newspapers, artists' projects, students' portfolios, family gifts, wedding programmes, book reviews, and more or less anything else you can imagine being printed on a sheet of newsprint. Here are some examples...

What do you think the next few years of Newspaper Club will look like?

AW: It's difficult to say! We've never planned too much in advance, and that approach seems to have worked so far. That said, I think we’re seeing an interesting shift happen: people and organisations who had written off print and gone “digital first” are starting to realise there’s still legs in it yet. And they can do both side by side. I think the next few years will see us build more tools to make that easy for them.

"Print's Not Dead" runs until 28/02/14 at South Block, Glasgow. Further information on Newspaper Club is available at the organisation's website.

The breathing network
Technology is the answer... but what was the quest...