Our vocabulary for how we disseminate media and information has grown and evolved over the years. It started simply with the phrase “write it.” When is the last time you wrote a hand written letter and dropped it in the mail? Later came “print it” and eventually with the introduction of the Xerox 914 we started to hear “copy it.” Then came the introduction of online transport methods and the everyday person became accustomed to hearing “E-Mail It.” Now, with the on-the-go society we live in, we often here “text it.” Today, how often have you heard these sayings, “Tweet It” or “YouTube it” or “Facebook it?” I’m guessing more often then you’d like. 

The growth of social media is unparalleled. In 2010 alone, Twitter users sent more than 25 billion Tweets and Twitter added more than 100 million newly registered users. Astonishing considering Twitter has only existed since 2007. Facebook currently has more than 500 million active users and people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Sites such as Flickr and YouTube have seen their usage and content grow at exponential rates.

Some may argue that traditional offline print based media and online media, such as social media, are in direct conflict with each other. Or are they really? Are the statements “Print It” and phrases like “Tweet it” mutually exclusive? I would argue no. Social networks are now being perceived as massive user maintained databases of content that have become another source of material for print based media. The link between print media and social media has started to manifest itself in numerous Variable Data tools and solutions. Photobooks, Calendars and other 1:1 Personalized Material are being created with their content coming from social networks and other social media sources. Here are a few examples.

Personera.com

We covered the blending of social media and print media in a previous blog post featuring Personera.com. Personera.com identified the link between VDP and using social networks as a source of user information. Starting out in Cape Town, South Africa, co-founders Sheraan Amod, Jaco de Wet and Michael Champanis had to overcome several barriers as sending PDFs to printers around the world was a poor option due to the high bandwidth costs (file sizes exceeded several gigabytes). After extensive research into the available VDP technologies they developed an internationally scalable solution compatible with the Xerox iGen production press, crunching down file sizes for orders to just a few megabytes.

A Facebook wall calendar was the first product to be launched by Personera.com in November 2009. Users click on a Facebook Connect button from the Personera landing page, select a theme, and drag and drop their photos. The system can also insert all the friends’ birthdays automatically and users can even add their own events and dated notes. Print runs occur on-demand at the site closest to the user.

To read the complete Blog Post on Personera, please click here.

Shutterfly
Another example of a company recognizing the opportunity for social media and print media to work in conjunction is Shutterfly. Shutterfly lets consumers use personal photos to easily create a range of products from personalized holiday cards to customized photo books and calendars. With the Holidays season just finishing, perhaps you used on of these service. To meet the high demands of its customers, Shutterfly partnered with Xerox and uses the iGen Digital Production Press to produce reliable, color consistent photo applications for its many customers.

Recently, Shutterfly released Wink, a new service that lets you create printed photostrips using pictures from multiple sources include a phone, camera, Shutterfly and social networks like Facebook and Flickr. Users can access Wink via an iPhone App or the web. This service again links the worlds of offline and online media. Social media and print media again blended by the creative use of technology.

Blog Books
Blogs are another social media tool that have exponentially grown in the past decade. According to BlogPulse, there are 145,008,926 total identified blogs in the world as of August 2010. What a huge source of information to publish. As a result, the print industry has seen tools such as Blurb’s Booksmart software. This software can convert and print your Blogger, WordPress.com, TypePad or LiveJournal blog and output a book. This is another example of solution that taps into a social media source and outputs to paper.

Social Media and Print Media, are they mutually exclusive? How are you using social media in your print media business?