‘Californian’ Climate Brews Brainstorms

By: Lucia Moses

While many publishers are preoccupied with making cuts to prop up quarterly earnings, The Bakersfield Californian has some of its people looking far into the future.

The 71,689-circulation paper gave a group of its top executives $100,000 last year and asked them to come up with ways to save money and make money — without the pressure of turning a quick profit.

Virginia F. Moorhouse, chairman and publisher of the family-owned daily, created the committee to have a unit (dubbed Area 51) “constantly looking out for the future.”

A move to electronic tear-sheeting is starting to cut costs. A soft-proofing system should improve color ad quality while saving an estimated $13,000 a year. And an in-house process to convert print ads into Adobe portable document format files for the Web will generate new revenue at a low cost: $80 a week versus $650 a week for vendors.

Californian CEO and President Richard Beene hopes that giving the group creative freedom will eventually pay for itself. “To survive, we’re convinced that, in the longer term, we’re going to have to come up with new products.”

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