Why are some neighborhood blogs failing and others not?

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    This week’s Stranger looks at the decline of Seattle’s “hyper-local” blog scene:


    Bucking the trend, however, are WSB and one or two others:

    A few neighborhood blogs are thriving, making their editors money and keeping up their posting schedule. The husband-and-wife team who run West Seattle Blog make six figures a year from their site. They’re also well-known for their work ethic and crazy hours; WSB’s Tracy Record told The Stranger last year, “We don’t take the weekends off, we don’t take the nights off.”

    –It’s nice to know that some people are making this a going concern, but I wouldn’t recommend crazy hours and no vacations as part of anyone’s long-range business plan. I would, however, recommend this:

    Tom Fucoloro [of the Central District News] thinks the answer may lie in sites that are less a one-person labor of love and more a collaborative effort, with many neighborhood residents writing for the site and an editor moderating. That’s actually how Central District News is supposed to work, but he doesn’t get a lot of posts from the community. “I don’t want to write the whole thing,” he says.

    I’m hoping to see more of you forumites getting into the amateur journalism act here on WSB.

    . . . unless you really like reading about dog poop.


    My opinion is that the WSB is a success because TR and Patrick fill a void, they are awesome, ethical people as well.

    A lot of good discussion between residents – the blog is very informative and educational. A great resource.

    Some (a lot?) of “drama” gets stirred up in the comments section and forum which equals more views, which advertisers like. Maybe this is not a part of the equation though.



    About the advertisers, I honestly have never looked at them or click them. Same on TV, I just do something else when commercials come on. I figure if you can afford to advertise, you’re doing ok but I’d rather form my own opinion of which store to go to for X or Y. Sorry to all those advertisers…



    Just a note here.

    (A) The Stranger story was sadly short on actual information and context, aside from the writer counting how many times some other sites post. Not a dig at them, just a datapoint.

    (B) One reason WSB is going EXTREMELY strong is the fact that WE ARE NOT A “NEIGHBORHOOD BLOG”. NOR ARE WE ANY KIND OF “BLOG.” Sorry to shout, but our name and reverse-chronological publishing format are the ONLY things “blog” about the site (and if it wouldn’t wreak havoc with Google et al, we would change it in a heartbeat – someday we might anyway).

    WSB is a professional, commercial, journalist-run news service that publishes in multiple channels – here on the Web, and on the major social-media services. We are credentialed as such and nationally/regionally recognized as such. It is a community collaborative news service in that we have an incredible network of tips from the community, which means that information is shared across the peninsula. In addition to what comes from the community, we work our butts off to dig up news that nobody else is bothering to look for/at – development, education, etc. – and we break those stories. Plus, we do news 24/7. I recommend to anyone who wants to go into the neighborhood-news business that they be sure they can do that – it’s of huge value to potential readers.

    Just wanted to note that. The community of Seattle neighborhood-news sites cringed at the story – the only person interviewed for it, Rebecca from Ravenna Blog, told them a lot more about her passion and dedication and success, and it didn’t wind up in the story. Certainly the prerogative of the Stranger’s writer and editors – but it would have been a truer story if they’d used a little more of what she had had to say and if they had bothered talking to a few people. NOT necessarily us, we’ve had our 15 minutes of fame and then some. Some people decide to write about their neighborhood as a sideline and never take it further. One site mentioned there, My Green Lake, closed NOT because it was failing, but because its incredible editor Amy Duncan decided she wanted to work in other media instead – she first worked with @BreakingNews and now is the social-media manager at KIRO TV. Unlike us, she had not worked in other media before launching her site – but she sought journalism training and learned a lot, and decided she wanted to flex her skills elsewhere.

    Total apples and oranges, for everyone’s circumstances. But WSB is a professional news publication that is here.to.stay, and we run it that way. Thanks to everyone for their ongoing support.

    P.S. Capitol Hill Seattle is also a professionally run, community collaborative publication and has been around almost exactly as long as we have. Editor Justin Carder is a cool guy and I hope that anyone reading this with ties to or interest in CH follows his work too.

    PPS to Rats – No, “drama” is NOT of interest to advertisers. Believe me. They want to be associated with credible, reliable, 24/7 news that tens of thousands of people regularly read – and that’s what they get here – as well as useful information such as lost/found pet notices, the restaurant guide, and more.



    No offense intended Tracy. As I said in my original comment, the WSB is run by ethical people, a great resource, informative, educational, etc. I also qualified my advertiser comment by saying I am not sure if this is part of the equation. It is my opinion and a reasonable one that advertisers care about how much traffic a website gets .. if no one is looking at the site, advertisers wouldn’t invest.

    And Homer, I don’t click on any of the ads either, barely notice them.

    I wasn’t going to “go there” but one thing I dislike about the blog is that the following happens ALL too often.. someone posts something meaning full or asks for help and commentors take the person down. It’s not right but there’s not much that can be done about it, I guess.



    @5 I think you’ll find that happens anywhere comments are allowed on the interwebs. The alternative is a heavily-policed comment section or nothing at all. I’d rather the news team be working on the news than slapping hands in the comments.

    I don’t really click on the ads. I’m sure that’s no surprise to Tracy & team, they know the amount of traffic vs ad clicks. I think the average click rate for online ads is .2-.3% anyway. I absolutely, however, am way more likely to support a local business who advertises here because WSB is a (FREE to me!) service I find highly valuable. I make sure to mention that when I shop at Click, for example.



    Among the many things we deal with that never surface – are the people who have even physically threatened us for having rules in our comment section and enforcing them. Comment discussions are going to be back-and-forth, but as we have said a million times, if someone directly calls you a name, etc., please flag us.

    P.S. For anyone truly interested in this topic, I did want to mention that we recently discovered a very WSB-like site that unlike us has NOT previously received national notice, but is going strong after five years, also in a metro area, also the work of a journalist who used to work in old media (though unlike us, he decided to stay anonymous). It’s called Claycord.com, and you can read about it here:

    Under a Bushel in Bay Area, a Model for Hyperlocal

    or just go see it at http://claycord.com. Traffic, breaking news, crime, pets, discussion. Instead of having a forum, the editor just posts open threads on the main page, which has its pluses and minuses, but overall, as I told Street Fight’s reporter while having a discussion on something else, I was so happy to see it, I cried.

    Other sites of note, in the region and outside:






    And hundreds of others across the country – independent sites, NOT the corporate pretenders who have started to realize neighborhood news can’t be faked. A national trade association for independent online neighborhood-news publishers is even in the formative stages.

    One more P.S. and then I’m going back to work … Re: clicking on ads. We don’t sell clicks. If you click one, it will go to a website, but businesses pay to be seen, not to be clicked.

    We only ask that if you are interested in supporting WSB – we have NO paywall plans – and you do decide to deal with any of our sponsors, consider thanking them for being part of WSB.



    Yes Lindsey I am painfully aware of this.

    And yes Tracy, I was aware of that too after reading/commenting since 2005.



    The comments on the Slog’s are particularly amusing if – at least in my case – you know the names and home addresses of some of the pseudonymous commenters.

    It’s not easy being the Ben Linus of West Seattle.



    I was in Burien about a week ago and police were flying by with sirens and lights so I went on to the Burien blog,the B-town, and it was WAY to busy with advertisments. Not to mention the writing is all with a black background so it hurts to try reading. Needless to say, I never found out what was happening with all the police.



    Alywest63: THAT was the first thing that impressed me with WS Blog, that any major news story happening and they were on top of it. But not just the news, there were locals also posting on that subject. First time I found the site was after someone posted a problem getting home on 99 and described the accident. The next post from someone saying, “I was in that red car on side” and the next post, “I was in the white car stuck in the far lane”. Incredible involvement of the community had me hooked.

    The 2nd thing to impress was the amount of work WS Blog puts into reporting real news such as public hearings. This stuff is important and attending these meetings is REALLY BORING (to me, anyway) but they do the work and report the highlights. It amazes me. So, thank you, Tracy, I do appreciate it.



    As a small WS business who advertises on this blog, let me just comment on how much we appreciate the value of advertising here. It’s true that not all readers click on our ad, but we’ve gotten plenty of customers who have done so. And… the Blog is amazingly loyal to their sponsors. It’s not uncommon for them to mention their advertisers in Tweets, Facebook or WS Blog postings. It’s a great place for West Seattle businesses to advertise!


    Green Guy

    WSB is great to me because of it’s true sense of community. The forums especially.

    LOL @ Patrick referencing Ben Linus from Lost.



    Tracy: I appreciate how frustrating it must be to see WSB be compared to neighborhood or hyper-local blogs, considering the reality that your publication is essentially journalistic. I am an avid reader of the WSB and I really value what you do. But if you want other people and publications to stop seeing and describing this as a “blog,” you’ll have to bite the bullet and change the name.

    I know there are lots of reasons not to do so, including the potential loss of name recognition and brand association, the cost, the potential loss of advertisers and readers — all kinds of problems associated with confusion. On the other hand, there are ways to make the transition to a new name or identity in phases and ensure that your supporters, advertisers, and readers stick with you through the process. Lots of big businesses have done it and survived, including companies that switch from a long name to a short abbreviation or acronym (Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, America Online to AOL) and companies that ditch a familiar name in favor of something totally different precisely because they want to escape an association that’s no longer helpful or to create a whole new brand using a word that is functionally a blank slate (Bell Laboratories to Lucent, BackRub to Google, Relational Software to Oracle, Phillip Morris to Altria). The potential benefit may, in the long run, be significant, as the divide increases between what is recognized as the “real” press or news media, as compared to “neighborhood blogs.”

    I recognize this is none of my business and I apologize if even bringing it up is inappropriate. I’m not saying this to criticize, either. I like the name just fine. I feel bad, though, when I read posts from you explaining that this is not a “blog” despite the name.

    Anyway, we are so fortunate to have the WSB in our community. Thank you.



    Not dismissing the professionalism and dedication and different format, but doesn’t a lot of it have to do with sheer audience size?

    I think WS is much more populous than Fremont or Magnolia, no?

    Which, I would imagine leads to more eyeballs and ad revenue.



    Long live WSB, in whatever name!



    The Stranger isn’t exactly a bastion of journalistic integrity, so no surprise its coverage of hyper-local blogs is flawed. However, if you’re looking for some clever writing (Last Days), pretentious philosophical musings (Mudede), generous sprinklings of the f- and s- words, tons of “medical” marijuana ads, decent restaurant round-ups, too-hip-for-thou attitude, and the usual sex questions ably answered by Dan Savage, the Stranger can’t be beat. Definitely more entertaining than the ever-shrinking Weakly.



    Today it is my pleasure to inform you that Mr. Smitty has earned his merit badge in media punditry.

    West Seattle has 85,000 people and the Junction Association has almost 300 members. It is one of four shopping areas. It does not include businesses such as contractors or personal services. If you picked up West Seattle and moved it we would be the second largest city in Montana and the seventh largest in Oregon. If we split off from the city we’d be one of the top ten largest in Washington.

    When it comes to doing neighborhood news it’s not just the work – it’s what you have to work with. To date none of the national media insider publications have figured out what Smitty wrote a few posts back. Those publications still blame failure on the publishers’ business plans which is like blaming a flat tire on a burned out light bulb in the kitchen.

    I owe you a cup of coffee Smitty.



    There is a lot happening here. i picked up one of the city magazines while at a doc appt yesterday and found two articles featuring notable people from West Seattle..

    Patrick.. i am glad we give you a lot to work with

    I am equally glad you give us a lot to work with

    it’s the mutual admiration society which makes this site rock!



    I also want to be clear that you can have to biggest audience in the World, but if your product sucks, it doesn’t matter. Lots of examples.

    The reason this REALLY works is because you guys are on everything – immediately! Choppers? Sirens? Sounds in the night? WSB is ALWAYS first! Not the Times, not KOMO, not anyone. We all – habitually now – go to WSB to find out what’s up.

    Thanks for all your hard work.


    Yes, WSB definitely fills (filled) a void. West Seattle has a significant percentage of the Seattle population but is/has been ignored by the tv stations and still with things like traffic.. There are all these people living here and if there is an accident on the West Seattle Bridge or Spokane Street Viaduct, the only way you’ll know about it is to visit WSB.



    I’d concur that WSB is the news source of record at my house. I never read the Seattle Times anymore (USA Today lite)but I check the WSB daily.


    HMC Rich

    This is a dynamite site. We are fortunate to have Tracy and Patrick. I am curious if you get any sleep?! I tell others that this is how “news and events” should be covered. Thank You.



    how do I love thee, wsb? let me count the ways…

    if you rename the site, please keep the acronym! west seattle beacon…west seattle bulletin, or something like that?



    Thanks for the ongoing kind words.

    We have many potential names – I am something of a hoarder of domains.

    But it really is something we’d have to approach carefully. The only time I did something un-careful in my life was quitting a stable, good-paying job to take a chance, safety-net-less, on seeing if we could make a go of this as a business. It’s a rollercoaster, but continues to be a joy.

    P.S. I get more sleep than I used to. There’s usually a point of decision at night “Am I of more value if I go get some sleep to clear my head, or if I sit here groggily typing?” and lately #1 tends to win out. We have a pretty good alert system to make sure we don’t miss anything big. (Including but by no means limited to “text us if you hear a lot of sirens or see something! 206-293-6302” )


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