Posted on May 17th, 2007 No comments
As the creator of many online communities, I’ve always found this odd. It’s not print in particular that is going away, but rather the way in which we use print — and other portable mediums — to engage audiences and advertisers. We may think of our products in terms of their delivery buckets, but the consumers and advertisers who use them think of them as brands. They respond well when those brands cater themselves to the audience — regardless of the medium.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the two-year-old Bakotopia.com community site, which recently debuted a CD and print magazine.
Bakotopia started in 2005 as an online community for the young, hip, and young-and-hip-at-heart of Bakersfield, California. Its initial purpose was to help “young” people of Bakersfield meet, hook up, sell stuff, buy stuff, vent and much more. I started and ran that community for the first year, then passed it on to Matt Munoz, who has succeeded in making Bakotopia a household name among its target audience.
As a result, Bakotopia as a brand has evolved into the defacto hub of the hopping Bakersfield music scene. On the web site there are more than 500 songs by local artists — enough to justify creation of the Bakotopia Compilation CD in March, which features 16 local bands. (You can buy the CD for $5 through Paypal. See the ad on the Bakotopia.com home page for details).
This is no small operation. Every other Thursday, 10,000 copies are delivered to 150 locations throughout Bakersfield, including music stores, coffee shops, alternative clothing stores, skate shops, nights spots and college campuses. And its pages are full of affordable ads from many of those same establishments.
The best way to describe the magazine is what MySpace may do if it produced a magazine, but with a more local flavor. Within its pages, users find many of the same people they may have met on the Web site, along with expanded art, entertainment and downtown living features. Several pages are dedicated to showcasing excerpts from things people post on their user profiles, blogs and comments. But others offer exclusive interviews with people in the community — whether or not they’re members of Bakotopia. And in every case, the magazine refers to a keyword on the Web site to read the whole story.
The magazine also has advertising (as does the Web site — contrary to what people remember from our first year of operation). That’s not the only reason the print edition was created, but it’s a big one. It’s good to remember that while online audiences are growing, the people and businesses who use them all live in a very terrestrial world.
We have observed that the participatory Bakotopia.com drives virtual encounters that ultimately leads back to real-world interactions. And sometimes we fuel that by producing concerts and having a visible presence at local events. Layering a terrestrial print product onto a thriving virtual community will only increase overall audience interaction, and by focusing on the users, we believe we can create circular behaviors between the print and online products. That in turn will lead to even more audience growth, which will create opportunities for more advertising and maybe even new delivery mechanisms that fuel even more growth.
So is print dead? I don’t think so. If anything, terrestrial content delivery is thriving in Bakersfield — and the fastest growing segment is in niche communities. The Bakersfield Californian is very lucky to have realized this early on with The Northwest and Southwest Voices, Mas magazine, and now Bakotopia. Congratulations to Matt Munoz and the team at Mercado Nuevo for launching the Bakotopia Magazine!
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