What we can learn from the Peoria Pundit

September 30, 2003

Here’s a guy who is the only blogger covering the media in my hometown, a metro area of some 300,000 (Bill will know precisely, he’s good about that stuff).

His current blog archives date to January 2002, so plenty of Peorians have had a chance to check out his site; the local media have had the opportunity to report on it.

As bloggers go Bill is one of the better ones. Now take a look at his traffic report, which reveals that on average average 362 visitors stop by his site every day. By blogging standards his numbers are pretty solid — I had 137 visits yesterday, for instance. But you have to admit that 362 of 300,000 isn’t exactly what the experts call penetration of the market.

The Pundit could reach a lot more Peorians if he had the following:

* A marketing department to get the word out.

* A publicity department to plant news items in the press.

* A design department to give his site a distinct visual signature and sophisticated use of typography.

* An editorial department to help mold his coverage, stay on topic, and attract and serve an audience.

Every blogger is in the same bind: one person with something to say, limited by all the things that prevent the word on his existence being spread to a wide audience. When the pundits cry that blogs must not have editors or any of the other controls imposed on professional media people, they’re doing the people they adore the greatest disservice. What Bill and the rest of us need is a lot more expertise than we have now if we ever want to get our traffic out of the triple digits.

I suspect that the off-the-cuff, harum-scarum nature of blogging that we admire so much is actually what’s keeping most people away. They see our raw inability to stay on topic, our grating self-regard, our insiderish blogrolls, and they click once and go away.

The thing is, nobody’s going to step forward and become our editor, publisher or advertising/publicity department. We’ve gotta do it ourselves, and we’ve got to help each other get better at blogging to give it the professional look and feel that modern media consumers have been conditioned to expect.

Or we can stay in our little corners and amuse ourselves into irrelevance.

5 Responses to What we can learn from the Peoria Pundit

  1. tom on September 30, 2003 at 12:48 pm

    I swear I didn’t mean to prove my “everybody needs and editor” point by posting a broken link to link to Bill’s blog. It just worked out that way. It’s fixed now.

  2. Bill Dennis on September 30, 2003 at 8:07 pm

    Jeebus, Tom! If I had all that stuff, then I’d be working for a newspaper again. Sometimes I dream I’m back working for a newspaper, and I break out in a cold sweat.
    Would I like to get thousands of hits a day? Sure — except I’d have to pay for more bandwidth.
    But do I know that I am being read by people who can get the most out of it.
    I’m perfectly willing to trade hits and a super snazzy design to keep it a kitchen table operation and be able to say what I want, when I want — whether it scares some people off or not.
    But anyway, thanks much for the kind comments.
    Also, when are we going to see the return of Seven Questions?

  3. Bill Dennis on September 30, 2003 at 8:12 pm

    The Peoria-Pekin metro area population:
    2002: 346,569 (est.)
    2000: 347,387
    Census Bureau figures.

  4. tom on September 30, 2003 at 10:40 pm

    Hey Bill, thanks for being a good sport. I used your site because it seemed to be the perfect example … damned if I’m not doing what I ragged on the media for doing: citing something Peorian as somehow typical. I understand that almost every blogger makes the same trade-off, self-expression vs. traffic. I think, though, that if we want to elevate the form we need to elevate our standards. I also want to deflate some of people’s mind bubbles about blogging … I thought blogging was old hat in 1999, which is why it took me four years to come back to the form in a major way with Prints the Chaff. My homepage was a form of blog for most of that time but the updates were so sporadic that it wasn’t exactly blogworthy.
    Speaking of sevenquestions: I recently renewed the domain for the next five years, so it’s out there waiting for somebody to get inspired. Could be me but there’s no reason it has to be.

  5. Bill Dennis on October 1, 2003 at 12:13 pm

    Don’t even look at me re: Seven Questions. I have a newspaper column and two blogs I’m supporting right now.