Monday, January 29, 2007

Chicago Blogs

"Chicago" magazine recently had an article called "Look Who's Talking." This article covered some blogs that focused on Chicago.

I thought that their blog choices were kind of interesting. They included:

  • Chicagoist.com is part of a "chain" of blogs that focus on different cities including New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, etc... According to the article they have 25 freelancers working on the site. It looks pretty much like a newspaper, and most posts have a photo by them to grab the eye. The blog didn't seem to have too much soul... I'd probably just read the Tribune or the Chicago Reader instead. They deserve some props for attempting to flat out create an entire paper, however. I also like their little icon that comes up on the Internet tab. According to the article they have 150,000 unique visitors monthly and use movable type
  • Gapersblock.com looks more like the Chicago Reader than the Chicagoist (which resembles the Tribune). Gapersblock has 20 people working on it. The posts seem a bit more edgy and less comprehensive than Chicagoist, which is probably more "blog-like". According to the article they get 93,000 unique visitors a month. They are using movable type for their blog
  • Chicago Metblogs.com is like Chicagoist in that it started somewhere else and they kind of franchised it for Chicago. I keep having trouble loading the site... don't know if it is me or Mozilla or what. When it comes in it is a pretty interesting site, with seemingly random posts that are mostly about Chicago or the arts in Chicago. Seems like they have 10 or so bloggers and they use movable type. The article didn't mention how many hits / month that they receive
  • Beachwoodreporter.com is the blog I find the most interesting of the ones on this list. I will start reading it regularly. They have a much more offensive vibe and are actually pretty funny. There are about 12 regulars and one dedicated blogger, who treats this as his day job. Kind of what you'd expect to hear while bs'ing at a local bar. I used to live near the Beachwood Inn in Wicker Park Chicago, and as I suspected they reference it a few times in the blog. I couldn't seem to figure out what technology they were using to power their blog. According to the article they get about 7000 unique visitors monthly, which works out to about 250 / day, or twice what we get, which is surprising because they seem to be a very "full bodied" blog. Highly recommended for snarkiness and humor, although their politics is the usual "Republicans are fascist" crap livened up by some pro-Bears humor
  • CTAtattler.com is more focused than the rest of the blog choices on this list, but the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) provides a rich vein of anecdotes about their chronic failures and soon-to-be-disastrous plans. They also have a bunch of great photos, and I like the little CTA train icon that comes up in Mozilla for their site. The blog seems to be run by one guy and he is doing a pretty good job. According to the article he gets around 10,000 visitors / month. It looks like he is using movable type, too.
The article was kind of strange because it didn't focus on their blogging from a "blog" perspective, it focused on it from a newspaper perspective. By this perspective I mean that they kept asking each of the bloggers whether they "broke" a story and whether or not they considered themselves "journalists". I don't think that people get into blogging to "break" real news, but they use blogging as a format to add analysis to various events and their own slant on reality. The news is out there on the standard sites, and you'd have to be kind of nuts to think that you were going to somehow "scoop" the major services with their remote correspondents and massive resources. However, you can focus on what they ignore, and add commentary where they fear to tread. If bloggers really thought they were journalists they'd probably go work for a paper; unpaid intern positions (probably the closest thing to being a blogger) can't be too hard to find, after all.

I also learned that a lot of the blogs are using pretty sophisticated features, features that Blogger doesn't support. I can't complain since we pay ZERO to host on Blogger and if we ever decided to use advertising (which isn't remotely in the future) it would be a snap to hook up to Google's immense ad markets (and then we could earn $4 / month or so that our hits would be worth).

The feature I find the coolest is the little icon that comes up when you go to their site - check out the CTA site or the Beachwood site to see what I mean. It isn't much but not in the cards for blogger since it needs to be in the root and we would have to host the site ourselves and use blogger, which sounds like a lot of trouble for not much extra return.

In thinking about a "Chicago" focused blog I can see that it would be quite limiting. There are only so many posts you can do about Chicago without your blog looking like a local restaurant guide plus Bears / Cubs / Sox coverage. That isn't too exciting - if you look at the posts on our index you can see that we are all over the place. We can talk about whatever the heck we want, and that is pretty cool.

I also am kind of proud of the hits we get when compared to a lot of these sites that are very good, such as the Beechwood Reporter site.

2 comments:

Dan from Madison said...

And we are trending up. We are quickly approaching 200 uniques per day, this will only increase as our posts keep filtering through the google.

Yes, Blogger is probably one of the worst platforms to blog from, but it is free, like you said. And Blogger Beta seems to be working pretty good so far.

Jonathan said...

A lot of the locally focused blogs seem to fall into one of two categories: either they are "411 guides" that usually aren't very interesting, or they are written by activist types and are full of whining and complaining about someone's pet causes.