Blogging Locally

by Simon St. Laurent

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I suspect the world has enough blogs where people comment on national and international politics, and know there are an ever-growing number of blogs on people's own personal lives. Something in between those poles seems to me to be missing, though - blogs about particular places. Two months ago, partly to see if it could work, I started one focusing squarely on Dryden, New York.

Dryden contains 96 square miles and had 13,352 people at the last census. It's in upstate New York, next to Ithaca, home of Cornell University and Ithaca College, but far from any large cities. Syracuse is an hour away, Rochester two hours, New York, four and a half. It doesn't have a daily paper (Ithaca's paper covers it), and it's not a place that generates a tremendous amount of news. Three or four stories a week is typical so far.

A blog about Dryden has a naturally limited audience, but at the same time, the people who are in that audience likely have a thorough knowledge of the place. They drive its roads, pay its taxes, and hear its stories. Because of Cornell, there's a large population just passing through, but even some of those people are likely interested in figuring out where they are at the moment.

The blog I started has a definite political angle ("One Democrat's perspective"), and I started it after an election that didn't go the way I'd hoped, but I don't think there's any reason that focusing a blog locally should condemn it to being less opinionated than blogs which look out on a larger world. Local politics is tricky, though - simple platitudes about "those who deserve work will find it" or "everyone deserves to get a good start in life" are hard to sustain when you're writing at this level. People don't necessarily know everyone, but alliances shift, ideology is frequently less important than communications, and the flow of news is irregular at best, making it hard to pick and choose stories.

It's been difficult staying inside the town borders, and I've occasionally strayed elsewhere in the county when it seemed relevant, though I've tried hard not to discuss issues outside of Dryden unless they had a direct impact here. "Think global, but stick to local" might well be the motto for this kind of blogging.

I don't think I'm likely to run out of material, though I've certainly had to rely on photos and out-of-copyright history for a lot of stories. I'm making sure I post at least once a day, and often end up posting two or more. 120 entries in 60 days feels like a promising start.

I'm not sure this kind of blogging will catch on too widely, but it seems like an opportunity, especially in places where news is quiet, government not widely reported, and people think there isn't much going on. There's always something percolating.

Know of any other blogs focused on a particular place?


2004-01-06 07:26:21
Very interesting...
Just curious to know if you've reviewed any site traffic statistics based on geographical location. Have you noticed any significant number of visitors emanating from your area? In other words, are local folks taking an interest?


2004-01-06 07:55:45
Very interesting...
I do get occasional email from local folks about the site, as well as a few comments, but it's only been about a month that I've been promoting it. Most comments and email have been from people I've met in person at some point. So far, my main avenue of promotion has been business cards, which seem appropriate but don't build a huge audience quickly.

I'll take a closer look at IP addresses to see how much comes from Cornell and from local dialup and cable; my generic stats program doesn't provide that detail.

The front page of the blog had 1726 hits last month, the first month in which I've been talking about it. That's not nearly as much as I'd like, but it's really too soon to tell. I figure building up content is the best way to go about making this work, since there isn't much point in publicizing something that's just a shell and hoping people will encourage me to write!

I will post a follow-up at some point to report on the results; right now this is just early comments on the experiment!

2004-01-09 06:04:09
Very interesting...
fascinating, thanks for the info.