Quieting the Community

Recently, The Bakersfield Californian announced it might shut down its community-contributed Web sites, Bakotopia and Bakersfield Voice.

Having used the Bakersfield Voice as a model in designing and testing community-contributed content on news sites for my Master’s thesis, I can honestly say that this news is unfortunate though not unexpected.

The Bakersfield Voice allows users to directly upload their own pictures, stories, and calendar events right to the Web site. The site also offered social networking opportunities through blogs and chat rooms. With the exception of a general editor, the news staff of The Californian had little to do with the site.

It was a great model, and many managers pointed to these community sites as future endeavors for their own papers. The community appeared to enjoy the interaction, and the site did well to drive traffic to The Californian’s parent site as well.

The reason for yanking the plug on these sites isn’t due to lack of popularity or contributions; it was a lack of vision on the part of The Californian.

Why is it that no one at The Californian thought to ask about the goals of these community sites? Apparently, there was no plan for these sites beyond launching them and crossing fingers for profitability.

I hope that the managers of this site will take the time to assess the goals of the sites and to figure out a business model for them. They are a great community resource, and it would be a shame to see the sites disappear just because no one had the foresight to plan.


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