Dan Pacheco – Bakersfield.com

Posted on 28. Sep, 2007 by in Citizen Network, Hyperlocal, Social Networking

Introduction and Narrative: In 2004 Dan Pacheco was hired as part of the new Digital Products team at The Californian. Their job was to “look out in the future 5-10 years and see trends,” says Pacheco.

He came to the position with experience at the Washingtonpost.com and America Online where he worked on community products from the early Web. “At the time we had at least 12 million member profiles and we started to observe that people were changing their persona 3-4 times a day,” says Pacheco. Well before social networking, Pacheco had a “wealth of ideas” that The Californian, an independently owned newspaper company which includes seven print publications and nine websites, was ready to put into action. The Californian has produced:

The Northwest Voice – a newspaper with content created by readers, which began in 2004 by Mary Lou Fulton.

Bakotopia – a social networking site.

Bakomatic – a software platform that handles user-generated content, classifieds and social networking, which transformed Bakersfield.com and other of the Californian’s website properties.

This and other products have pushed the paper into the edge of citizen journalism.

Main Goal: To engage an audience around a brand identity. The Northwest Voice, about 30,000 readers, is penetrating a community that is predominately suburban, neighborhood, and family oriented. People go to the website to submit their story and hope it will get printed in the Northwest Voice for neigbors to read. It becomes their paper. “And that’s what that brand is about,” says Pacheco.

For Bakotopia, a social networking site, it’s all about “me.” says Pacheco. Creating a space where individuals can express themselves, meet people and find interesting local bands.

The Californian has nine different websites and several papers, each with their own brand identity that caters to different audiences, says Pacheco.

Notable Achievements: The Californian had a lot of firsts. They created the first U.S. newspaper-managed Craigslist competitor, Bakotopia, according to Pacheco. The first citizen journalism newspaper product, The Northwest Voice and on Bakersfield.com one of the first newspapers to offer social networking and blogging in the community “so we could compete with Myspace and Facebook as part of our brand. Today Bakersfield.com is about 20-30 percent user-generated content.

A very large achievement was creating “Bakomatic” an in-house content management system that has since been adopted by other newspapers like the Arizona Republic.

Bakomatic was a fortunate byproduct of trying to create social networking features, blogging and classifieds for Californian newspapers. But since completion several newspapers have called wondering if it was for sale — and Pacheco has since

A Surprising Realization: I was surprised that people in the Northwest Voice community wanted their content to be edited. Pacheco always assumed people wanted to express themselves freely. But he found that once you are putting citizen work in print, to distribute it through the community, citizen journalist get mad if there is a typo that the editors didn’t catch. “It ties back to people’s persona and reputation – if you are printing or broadcasting, you have an obligation to make them look good,” says Pacheco.

But it differs from brand to brand. If you go to Bakotopia, a youth oriented brand, people don’t want anything to go through editors. “Its all about them taking control back,” says Pacheco.

Biggest Practical Lesson/Mistake: “Everything is live market research — like opening a theme park and seeing what ride people want to go on,” says Pacheco. With new brands like the Northwest Voice, which people didn’t realize was tied to the 140 year-old newspaper company, people were accepting of new tools and forgiving for small mistakes.

But when the traditional papers moved from Typepad blogs to the new Bakomatic software the focus shifted from discussion to social networking, which irked the traditional readers. “The old readers were complaining, ‘where can I find out where the comments are'” says Pacheco. Before putting in a new feature you have to ask “who is the community you are trying to reach and what are their expectations? Each brand we have is unique — on Bakersfield.com its about news as a conversation,” says Pacheco.

Technology lessons: Anybody who wants to create their own technology — make sure you have a developer who is involved in your technology. Pacheco’s team built everything through outsourcing, and admits that it is easy to get in a situation where, as it grows organically the more you have to support — but outsourcing firms have no interest in support. Pacheco worries that without a developer on staff, it’s difficult to scale and support everything that has already been done and still look 5-10 years out.

Money: The Californian has made a surprising revenue by licensing Bakomatic.

Most of the advertising sales are still in print, admits Pacheco. “Where we need to do a lot more work is getting beyond a few hundred big advertisers in town and getting to the 26,000 other businesses.” Pacheco is currently working on the “Inside Guide,” which he describes as “Myspace meets the Yellow Pages.” Taking free data from AT&T, which is un-categorized, Pacheco is creating a taxonoy for local businesses, giving the hair salon or pizza store a webpage. Then the team will contact the local business to let them know about their wepage to see if they want to purchase advanced options.

Future Goals: The “Inside Guide” described above is Pacheco’s next big project – in an attempt to diversify the newspaper’s advertisers.

Pacheco is also interested in the increasing power of niches. “Print isn’t going away, but one size fits all is becoming less appealing,” says Pacheco. Is it possible to build an instant brand network, so people can create their own networks around topics in their community. Perhaps they are networks the paper wouldn’t put resources into, but the paper would be interested in empowering local citizens in creating a hub about fishing or biking.

What do you hope to get from people attending this conference?

People who run their own technology. I’m interested to learn more about their editorial process. I’m interested to know what success people have had and how people are actively growing revenue, particularly online. We are just moving into that area — we intentionally spent a couple years just growing the audience — and now we need to monetize —

I know a lot of sites have content rating capabilities — I’d be curious to know if that really works, how people use it — what kind of goals does it drive?

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5 Responses to “Dan Pacheco – Bakersfield.com”

  1. Dan Pacheco

    09. Oct, 2007

    We’re a privately held company and thus don’t usually share numbers, but here are some interesting stats I’ve gotten permission to disclose. For context, Bakersfield has 330,000 residents — so take that and the hyper-local focus of our efforts into account. (It ain’t no New York City!)

    – Our network of 9 Bakersfield-focused sites now generates 4.2 million monthly pageviews, and community and social networking make up at least 20% of that. (If you exclude Bakersfield.com and count only niche sites, the community traffic is 90-100% as the bulk of the content comes from users themselves).

    – On Bakersfield.com in particular, community generates 20-25% of total trackable pageviews. As some of our features use Flash and Ajax which doesn’t translate into pageviews, we believe the total number is probably a lot higher.

    – Anyone in the community can have a user profile and blog through our sites. Since we started offering this 3 years ago, 26,000 users have created public profiles (8% of the Bakersfield population), and they have created 39,000 profile friend connections between each other. We haven’t even begun to tap into the power of these connections and have a lot of ideas (for example, targeted promotion of self-serve advertising to friends of friends with shared interests).

    – There have been 124,884 comments on blog postings along since we began offering blogging approximately 18 months ago.

    – Much of the growth in community is coming from our niche community sites, such as Northwest Voice and Bakotopia. For example, 46% of profiles and 57% of blogs on the network are on the niche sites.

    – These brands transcend the Internet, as most of our them have advertising-supported print components too. Here’s a breakdown of our print circulation by brand:

    1) The Bakersfield Californian
    60,000 daily, 70,000 Sunday

    2) Northwest Voice
    28,000 every two weeks

    3) Southwest Voice
    28,000 every two weeks

    4) Bakersfield Life
    65,000 monthly

    5) Tehachapi News
    8,400 weekly
    (Tehachapi population is 10,000, or 40,000 in surrounding area)

    6) Mas
    17,000 every week; 13,000 home delivered, 5,000 in racks

    7) Bakotopia
    10,000 every other week

    You can view samples of some of our print publications here:
    http://participata.com/printeditions.html

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