MyBallard.com, is a highly successful source of local news patterned after the West Seattle Blog; however, while Seattle residents in every neighborhood are aware of these two blogs, each neighborhood has blogs of its own that receive considerably less attention.

A comparison between MyBallard and the Capitol Hill Settle blog (CHS) yields interesting results. MyBallard is a community site started in late 2007 and is run by a single couple; its Alexa ranking is 122,028. The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog is another a community site, started in early 2006 and run under the umbrella of Neighborlogs, a free blog-hosting service with blogs in different cities and neighborhoods across the country. Anyone in the Capitol Hill community can contribute to CHS. Its Alexa ranking is 361,200.

Ballard had 43,307 residents in 2000 according to the Seattle Census, while Capitol Hill had 19,075 residents (DPD, 2000). Since Capitol Hill has around half the population of Ballard, the expected audience of CHS would expectedly be lower than MyBallard. However, despite CHS having an almost 2-year head start, its traffic is disproportionately lower. Qualitatively speaking, MyBallard has better appearance and content.

This goes against the quasi-socialist model advocated by thinkers like Benkler, Shirky and Zittrain, as best exemplified by Wikipedia. By engaging users from all over the globe, Wikipedia has created the largest, most comprehensive resource available on the web, something no one person (or couple) could hope to do; in theory, the more people participate, the stronger content will be. By this logic, CHS should have more extensive, higher quality content than MyBallard since anyone can post an article; it does not. Perhaps this is a “tragedy of the commons” scenario: because no one person has a specific investment in CHS, no one invests any time in it. Corey and his wife interact with the community and rely on Ballard locals for information, yet develop the content themselves. Therefore, everything that is on the site meets their standards of quality.

It could also be that there is less investment in Capitol Hill itself among its residents; Ballard has twice as many owner-occupied households as renter-occupied residences, whereas Capitol Hill residents are five times more likely rent as opposed to own. Therefore, while Capitol Hill residents strongly identify with their neighborhood, many have little actual investment in it. They don’t genuinely care about issues and matters pertaining to Capitol Hill because in 5 years, they most likely will no longer be living there.

This discrepancy shows that sometimes the appropriate metrics for understanding traffic aren’t the obvious ones; it’s important to understand one’s audience as well. Even if CHS had the same efficient, timely delivery of news as MyBallard, would readers care? A company wondering why their site is not as popular as a similar site may need to look beyond marketing and SEO: it could be that the target audience is just not as engaged. Or, it may need to explore new avenues to gain interest. Hyperlocal is just that- aimed at a small segment of the community, and what works for one neighborhood may not work for another.

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