Posted on January 31st, 2005 No comments
My wife asked me an interesting question tonight: “Do you know anyone who reads blogs regularly?” After over a decade of pickling myself in the brine of new media and online consumer products at AOL, The Washington Post and other places, I have come to see her as my link with normalcy — in the sense that she understands the average consumer’s mindset far better than I do.
My first thought was that blogs are the domain of young, middle-income, counterculture types. After all, newspaper readership by the 18-35 crowd (and usage of any single traditional media source for that matter) has been steadily declining for over 30 years and is now at levels that make traditional media types wonder if their medium will even exist in another generation. Could blogs be one of the media that’s diverting their attention? A little quick research shows the answer to be a resounding “no.” According to a survey by Blog Ads in 2004, 61% of blog readers ae over 30, and 75% of them make more than $45,000 a year. This demographic is too close for comfort to the core readership of an average newspaper, and I would suggest, more accurately describes the demographics of the average newspaper staff.
As I pondered these statistics, I started to feel that the more interesting question is not “who reads Blogs,” but “what impact are they having on traditional media?” We all know how the “Rathergate” scandal has chipped away at the trust people have in what is commonly referred to as The Media. I am now wondering if that’s the most direct influence blogs have ever had on the general population, and if the real story is how blogs have woken up traditional journalists to the idea of listening to people again. When journalists realized that an average Joe with a computer was able to use a blog to publicly expose Dan Rather’s shoddy research, newsrooms around the world realized that — finally — the Internet had become the great equalizer that its proponents had been predicting. Now everyone who wants a voice can have one, and with a little skill and self-promotion, they can reach a vocal minority (and possibly a majority if they work hard enough) to directly influence the way a story is reported.
Now, after talking about Dan Rather, I need to be perfectly clear that I have no research to back this up. But I suspect that a big part of the blog-reading population is traditional journalists and “gatekeepers”, the sources they frequently report on, and the PR people who are always trying to penetrate those gates. These are the very people who are affected by blogs the most, and if this is true I think it’s a good thing. It would mean that after years of complaining about how difficult or expensive it is to get out there and take the pulse of the community, the “blogosphere” is the reporter’s killer app. If they want to know what opinion makers think, they just need to do a quick search on technorati. They can then spend the time that they save doing the hard stuff — digging for the real story behind the story.
There are obviously some exceptions, and citizen journalism projects like The Northwest Voice are a good example. These sites and publications use a collective form of blogging software, but they are targeted at and marketed to specific demographic and psychographic communities of “average Joes.” Thus, the people who blog are automatically writing to their own community. The interesting thing here is that this is not all that different from an opinion-leader blogging to get the attention of journalists (his or her own community.)
All of this makes me wonder if the next trend in blogging will be for traditional media outlets to bring bloggers from their community “into the fold” and feature their content right alongside that of reporters. I think the public would welcome this as long as this new type of content is clearly marked as “perspective” or with some other title that makes its more opinionated nature clear. Of course on that note, I also increasingly wonder if anything is truly impartial. In some ways, isn’t every traditional media story is just like a one-way blog posting with a little more balance and polish?
Posted on January 26th, 2005 No comments
After a whole two months of frantic work, Bakotopia.com finally launched! What is Bakotopia? To my knowledge, it’s the first free online community listings (i.e. Classifieds) web site launched by a U.S. newspaper. You can read about our site’s mission on the About Us page. Bakotopia is part of Mercado Nuevo LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Bakersfield Californian, for whom I work as a New Products manager.
I say that Bakotopia is the first of its type in the U.S. because there is at least one other newspaper company that’s doing something like this — Cracker.com.au in Australia. Cracker launched in 2004, and it already appears to have more activity than Sydney.craigslist.org.
The success of Cracker (and soon, I hope, Bakotopia) is extremely important, for several reasons.
First, both Cracker and Bakotopia are local to the communities that they serve. By comparison, Craigslist, Yahoo Groups and others like them are based in the San Francisco bay area but focus on local markets. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Craigslist and Yahoo per se, but one way to think of it is this. If you drink Starbucks coffee, does it bother you that your local Starbucks’ success is likely coming at the expense of a locally-based, locally-owned coffee shop — or if you’re in the suburbs, the complete and total lack of anything local at all? The loss of local culture and the virtual takeover by big multinational brands bothers me quite a bit, even though I will take a Starbucks latte over nothing any time. I would prefer something from a local coffee shop, however. I think most people feel this way.
Second, I think a locally-based community site is inherently stronger because it is local. People who live in a community automatically know things about that community that people in a faraway big city will never get. A good example here is that Bakotopia has “Christian Corner” and “Off-Highway Vehicle” categories — both of which are a reflection of the values and flavor of Bakersfield.
Finally, the people who run a locally-based site will always care more about the people who live there, and they will hold themselves more accountable to that community. I don’t care how enlightened a national brand is, it is never going to put as much priority on things of interest to a community that a locally-based organization will.
Posted on January 26th, 2005 No comments
If you’re one of the approximately 5 people who think to go to my Blog, you may have noticed that it sort of disappeared for a while. I don’t want to get into all the reasons this happened, but the short version is: I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am NOT a technical wizkid and have no business messing around with raw PHP and MySQL code! The longer version is that I managed to screw up a Drupal and Geeklog installation in the space of a couple months. So back to Blogger.com I come, a penitent sinner!
The even shorter version is: Dan’s Diner is back.
Posted on January 2nd, 2005 No comments
Dan Pacheco is a pioneer in online media and community with a 13-year record of achievement in consumer-focused digital experiences. His background has proven invaluable in understanding the impact of social media on traditional media models.
As of June of 2008, Dan is managing The Bakersfield Californian’s Printcasting product. Printcasting is a two-year, $837,000 project proposed by Dan and colleague Justinian Hatfield in the Knight News Challenge, and is one of only 16 winners chosen from 3,000 applications worldwide.
The Printcasting product will let anyone create a self-updating, printable PDF newspaper, magazine or newsletter using content from RSS feeds and local self-serve advertising.
The team will later market the tools in Bakersfield, then reprint and locally distribute the best publications. The theory is that this will be a more scalable way to grow local audience and revenue around niche interests in print, a medium that local advertisers prefer but can’t always afford. In the last phase, they will sign up organizations in 5 other cities to do the same. For more information, see http://printcasting.com.
Dan has been involved in online community and community publishing since the days of dial-up BBS’s in the mid 1980s. But he got his feet wet at Washingtonpost.com, where he was one of their first online producers. He helped launch The Post’s first web message boards and launched its first business and technology sections.
He later joined America Online and spent 6+ years working on mostly web-based community products. Dan held key content & product leadership roles for AOL Groups, AOL Hometown (personal home pages) and AOL Pictures, among others.
From 2004-2008, Dan has served as Senior Manager of Digital Products at the independently-owned Bakersfield Californian newspaper, where he and longtime colleague Mary Lou Fulton applied the concepts of citizen publishing and social networking at a local level. The Northwest Voice, the first U.S. newspaper citizen journalism initiative in 2004, and Bakotopia.com, one of the first newspaper-run social networks, are the Californian’s two most well-known initiatives. In December 2005, the Newspaper Association of America selected Dan for one of their prestigious “20 Under 40” awards for Bakotopia. The “Bakomatic” platform that emerged from Bakotopia earned a Knight Batten Award in 2006, and Bakotopia won an NAA Digital Edge Award in the same year.
Since then, Dan’s team has extended these concepts to the core newspaper site Bakersfield.com and a total of 11 locally-focused community brands, all of which are awash in social media activity. Many of these features can also be found on the sites of companies that have licensed the Bakomatic platform, including The Sacramento Bee (see Sacmomsclub.com and Sacpaws.com), The Arizona Republic, The Victoria Advocate and others. Learn more about them on Participata.com, the Californian’s licensing venture that sells the Bakomatic platform.
Dan holds a degree from the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and currently sits on its advisory board. He telecommutes from his house in Broomfield, Colorado (right outside Boulder).