Northern Voice 2009: Passionately Local

Of all the sessions at Northern Voice 2009, I was perhaps most looking forward to the one presented by Briana Tomkinson of Tenth to the Fraser titled Passionately local: blogging about your own backyard. As someone who is definitely passionate about my hometown, I was really curious to learn about the experiences of others.

Tenth to the Fraser is a hyperlocal blog focused on New Westminster, a city in the Vancouver area. Briana talked about some of the motivations behind the site, some of the challenges, and some of the rewards.

Here are some notes I took from Briana’s slides:

  • The Greek Chorus of New West
    • Help the ‘audience’ follow the performance
    • Comment on themes
    • React to the drama
    • Provide insight
  • Passion for community
    • A desire to dig in to a place
    • An itch to uncover more
    • A calling to share the results
  • Everyone blogs from a place. The placeblogger blogs about a place.
  • Hyperlocal made interesting
    • Reveal the character of a place
    • Represent diverse perspectives
    • Keep focus narrow
    • Balanced mix of: aggregating local information, publishing original content, relationship-building
  • Finding your nice within the media ecosystem
    • Befriend the local media
    • Extend traditional news coverage
    • Reveal opinions and perspectives that are missed in mainstream coverage
    • Geek out: food, schools, politics, shopping
  • The Rewards
    • Pride of place
    • Local fame
    • Community
    • Knowledge
    • Giving back
  • Be the change you seek in your community

I really liked Briana’s talk, even though the end was a bit rushed as everyone started asking questions and she ran out of time! There were definitely moments when I thought “I know exactly what she means” and others when I thought “that wouldn’t work in Edmonton”.

With a population of nearly 60,000, New Westminster is about 13 times smaller than the City of Edmonton, and almost 20 times smaller than the Edmonton metro area. So while a single, focused blog in New Westminster probably would work very well, I don’t think it would fly in Edmonton. There’s just too much to write about for a single blog. I think, more than ever, that aggregation is the way to go for a city of Edmonton’s size.

There are some similarities, however. Tenth to the Fraser has started the #NewWest hashtag on Twitter, similar to our beloved #yeg. They seem to write a lot about politics, which is perhaps the most popular topic here too. And they have a relatively small, but rapidly growing online community.

I think there are lots of things that hyperlocal bloggers can learn from Tenth to the Fraser. Check it out, and let me know what you think. The first thing you’ll notice is that the site is free of any advertising. Briana and her team do it because they love their city, not because they’re in it for the money. We could use more blogs like Tenth to the Fraser!

5 thoughts on “Northern Voice 2009: Passionately Local

  1. This post made me miss blogging. Briana’s points are excellent, and really get to the heart of why so many bloggers blog. Thanks!

  2. Hey thanks for coming and writing about your thoughts! It was funny, I intentionally limited my slides knowing that I wanted lots of back-and-forth. I was worried I’d have to kill time, but as you mentioned, instead I actually ran a little behind! There were some really great questions, and I’m very glad to hear that there were a few folks who were inspired to take the ideas back to their home communities.

    I agree with you about Edmonton needing more than one hyperlocal blog. We feel the same about Vancouver generally. At that level, you can’t get right in deep to the small yet meaningful things that residents and workers in the city like to see on a site like this. After the talk, Ian Capstick (from Ottawa) said that in his neighbourhood there are hyperlocal blogs focused literally on a single block, and even a single apartment building!

    We have been thinking a lot here about how it would be cool to rally the hyperlocal folks together and feed those posts through a regional aggregator (i.e. Metro Vancouver or Edmonton). This would provide the benefit of niche neighbourhood coverage while also providing a snapshot of regional thought.

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