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Two popular websites embrace print offshoots

I wrote awhile back about Grantland, the superb sports and pop culture website operated by Bill Simmons and funded by his bosses at ESPN. The site has grown into a lively alternative to more traditional sports brands (S.I., even ESPN) but is now finding success by going traditional -- to print.  

I also want to highlight a cool project from Voice of San Diego, a community-funded news site that is now publishing a monthly magazine in hopes of increasing its revenue. 

Both are more examples of web-first ventures wading into the world of print, both for new revenue but also to extend their brands. 

The sleeve on Grantland Quarterly 2 doubles as a cool two-sized poster. Sweet!"Grantland Quarterly" is a collection of Grantland's best and most interesting content from the previous three months. 

Simmons is ESPN's biggest star online, although I can only take him in small doses. His greatest gift to Grantland, however, is ceding the spotlight to a diverse group of lively writers. Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell and Charles Pierce are just a few of the cast that make Grantland perhaps the most invigorating sports publication around. 

I'm not a daily visitor to so a quarterly book is a perfect way for me to 

enjoy his vision for sports and pop culture coverage. There's a nice mix of long and short, quirky and provocative. There's even a wonderful short story that taps into something that drives me crazy: old friends who suddenly surface after years to renew friendship … and to sell some kind of multi-level marketing product (in my case, Mona Vie). 

I just finished reading the second installment of Grantland Quarterly and thoroughly enjoyed it. Volume 3 is coming out any day, and I can't wait. Simmons has partnered with McSweeney's to do the book side of things, and they pull it off with aplomb (although I did catch a few typos and original references to hyperlinked content that weren't change to reflect the book format). I can't say whether Simmons was hoping a high-quality book gave Grantland some literary cred but it worked for me. 

The cover of Issue 1Unlike Grantland Quarterly, Voice of San Diego Monthly launched its magazine to fill a critical need: reward its financial supporters with something special. 

The magazine has a strong enterprise and hard-news focus, which fits the audience. There are also prominent full-page ads promoting the site's focus on involvement and making a difference in San Diego. 

The monthly repackages high-impact content in stylish design, which is then sold in two forms:

  • a $2.95 PDF.
  • The first issue featured a variety of heavy topics.a $7.95 print-on-demand magazine version of the PDF (in addition to the PDF). 

The printing of the PDF is outsourced to MagCloud, an offshoot of HP. I paid $7.95 for the printed version to see what it looked like and was impressed. The paper stock was good and reproduction excellent. It came about a week after order, shrink-wrapped in clear plastic. 

The Monthly prices are relatively steep, but most buyers are not just buying a magazine, they're supporting an important community resource.

I've been saying for years that print has a solid future, so it's nice to see successful websites like Grantland and Voice of San Diego embracing a traditional platform for potent niche businesses.  

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