A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: SmallTownPapers.
What: SmallTownPapers, based in West Seattle
Who: Paul Jeffko, founder
What it does: Publishes online dozens of weekly small-town newspapers (www.smalltownpapers.com). The company also digitizes the archives of those papers and makes them searchable.
A slice of America: Small-town papers capture a piece of America not easily accessible if you don’t live in those places, Jeffko said. He makes them available free on the Web, and the site has become popular with genealogists. “We are amassing a record of American history as it actually happened, as told through these small community newspapers,” he said.
Printing to digitizing: Jeffko, 44, owned a printing and imaging business in the 1990s when a client requested digitized e-books. That’s where he started learning about the software required to scan a book’s pages and turn them into computer text.
A firsthand look: Jeffko had helped the Quad City Herald in Brewster, Okanogan County, make the transition from typesetting to desktop publishing. Its method of archiving: bundling copies with twine and storing them in the attic. “It got me thinking, ‘I wonder how many small-town papers there are?’ ” Jeffko said.
Building a business: Jeffko began asking publishers five years ago for permission to put their newspapers online. He paid to have archives shipped to his office to be scanned. He put the scans online so that users can see the paper the way it was printed. In return, he promised the newspapers a portion of any revenue his company receives for the content.
One paper at a time: SmallTownPapers now offers 43 papers. Jeffko said he’s recruiting 300 more.
Now for the business part: So far, the company runs on a $2 million commitment from an angel investor. Jeffko is talking with search engines and other content distribution companies about ways to partner. “We are very interesting to a lot of people,” Jeffko said.
Quote: “The content that we’re bringing, both the historic and the current, is filled with unique information that you can’t easily find anywhere else.”
— Kim Peterson