Just because they’re using a blog format, says WestSeattleBlog co-founder Tracy Record, it doesn’t mean they’re “bloggers.” (Unfortunately, that’s still a perjorative term in the journalism community. That’s too bad, since the blogging format is the Web “story” format.)
Tracy and hubby Patrick Sand started blogging about their West Seattle neighborhood in
January 2006 while she was still working at local TV station KCPQ.
Mark Poepsel, my research assistant at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, and I have done a fairly thorough case study on them.
Besides being a model for jurnos who want to start their own geographic-based news organization, theirs is an interesting story.
They call themselves a commercial news site operating in a blog format. They do original reporting, posting 11 times a day, on average. They support themselves with display advertising, which most people in the Web ad world think is passé. But there’s a layer of businesses that have been priced out of metro dailies for a long time. At this point, display ads work very well for them — at least in West Seattle. And if you’re doing a community site — in this case a community of 68,000 people — wouldn’t you want to include the people who sell products and services?
After all, ye olde newspapers were catalysts for economic enterprise; why shouldn’t Web-based news organization be, also?
WestSeattleBlog is hitting home runs on so many levels…advertising, community-building, collaborative reporting, continuous and contextual coverage. They’re so successful that they’ve outgrown WordPress, their free content management system. They could use some help in Web shell and database development.
At next week’s RJI Collaboratory Talkfest, “Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism”, we’ll be talking with them, and exploring how a news organization incubator might help people starting out, as well as people like Tracy and Patrick, who are ready to move up to the next level of content management systems, and even, perhaps, advertising.
If you have more questions after reading the case study, let me know. I’ll pass them on.