Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vanity blogging as a public service

Ever since I started writing this blog, my wife has been discovering articles on blogging and suggesting that I read them. Sometimes I do.

A few weeks ago she gave me one titled “Six Critical Factors for Successful Bloggers” or something like that. Just offhand, I can’t remember what all of the critical factors were; but I do remember that they included find a niche, be interesting, and post regularly. However, the Number One factor, and the one I violate almost daily, was keep it short.

This week happens to mark the three-month anniversary of Madison Park Blogger, and I think this is a good point for me to reiterate my purpose, including my rationale for NOT keeping it short.

It’s a joke among those who follow the blogosphere that most bloggers have a readership of one. Blogging is, for many, today’s version of what was once called the vanity press. Nowadays, with desktop publishing and Kindle, anyone can be a published author. And with blogging becoming virtually effortless, anyone can broadcast his or her opinions to the world. Whether a blogger’s musings are consequential, however, depends on there being an audience willing to listen.

A recent article in the New York Times (“Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest”) states that blogs have a higher failure rate even than restaurants. “According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.”

Just across the water in Laurelhurst, on approximately the two-month anniversary of his blog, my onetime blogger colleague, Mike Mathieu, made the decision to shut down LaurelPost. This is him, I believe, as he got ready to throw in the towel:

His stated rationale for ending it all was that with an average of only 80 readers per day, it just wasn’t worthwhile to keep going. Laurelhurst thus lost an opportunity to have an alternative source (perhaps an only source) of timely news about the community.

Right now Madison Park Blogger has an average daily readership of 50, and there have been about 200 unique visitors to the site since inception (this figure is based on the number of people who have viewed my profile, not something anyone would probably need to do twice). Laurelhurst and Madison Park have similar demographics, I suspect, and a roughly equal base of potential blog viewers. Yet unlike Mike, I am not disheartened at my site’s level of readership. We have experienced slow but steady growth in our first three months, and I expect that to continue as more potential readers become aware of this site. For me, blogging is fun—and it gives me a sense of purpose to know that I am performing a useful service for those who choose to read my posts.

What I mostly write about is what I myself would want to read about if only someone else would write it. I’m interested in what’s happening in my neighborhood and down the road. I want to know about local issues that may affect me, and I want to know what’s happening with the businesses in our area. I want to hear about criminal activities that may impact me, and I’m interested in knowing what’s going on in the real estate market here in the Park. I care about preserving the things that make Madison Park the special place that we all enjoy, and I am curious about our history as a community.

My friends at Next Door Media, owners of the blog and several other for-profit blogs in the Northwest quadrant of the City, state their mission this way: “We produce original journalism that struggling newspapers are increasingly unable to provide." Though I am an amateur, I have the same mission. My objective is to cover stories I think Madison Park residents will find interesting or important, or both. And if it requires a lot of words to cover the story in depth, the length of the posting will do justice to the story. This journalistic approach is atypical of bloggers, but I am hardly the typical blogger. Just call me the Madison Park Essayist.

Thanks for being along for the ride. I appreciate the support and kind words of the many people who have taken the time to give me their feedback. Please keep your comments and suggestions coming.

Bryan Tagas

(By the way, my wife tells me that she doesn’t always read my posts. They’re just too long.)


  1. Hm - That almost sounds apologetic for writing about something of actual interest to a whole neighborhood (plus regular visitors like me ;), without the boredom and constraints imposed by doing simply a job-for-hire but instead the quality resulting from a genuine interest. Time for me to say "Thank you, Madison Park Blogger, I really appreciate your kind of journalism!"

  2. But wait, there's a NEW Laurelhurst blog:

    The owner consulted me a couple of times as he was getting going.

    Andrew Taylor


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