Giving ‘Voice’ to Bakersfield, Calif.

By: Mark Fitzgerald

In Northwest Bakersfield, Calif., residents don’t just read the news, they write the news. Readers also take the pictures, and file the events listings. Launched in May through a subsidiary of The Bakersfield Californian, the Northwest Voice already has five regular columnists who write about pets, off-road vehicles, and restaurants. For free.

To Publisher Mary Lou Fulton, the new paper is a logical evolution of indsutry attempts to reach readers through the Web ? and comes at a technological tipping point with the spread of digital cameras, muscular computers, and use of broadband. “There’s this incredible momentum around content that is created by individuals, and our challenge in the industry is, how do we tap into that?” she says.

Bakersfield’s way is to urge readers in the Northwest neighborhood to send material to the Voice’s Web site at http://northwestvoice.com. Every other Thursday, the Voice prints it up in a 28-page tabloid delivered free to 22,000 homes, with another 6,000 copies distributed through 100 rack locations. In its first three issues, revenue grew 31%, Fulton says, and 60% of the advertisers had never or rarely placed ads in the Californian.

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