the edmontonian: statistics

When I received the email from Jeff & Sally informing me that the edmontonian would soon be ending, I was shocked. I didn’t see it coming. Yesterday was the final day, and I’m still sad about it! I know they’ll be back at some point, but the edmontonian itself is no more. I’m glad I got to interview the duo about the decision, but I also wanted to do a tribute post of sorts. Fortunately, I knew right away what it should be – statistics!

The following statistics cover the edmontonian from the very first post on June 15, 2009 up to but not including the announcement on August 29, 2011.

  • Number of posts: 1572
  • Number of words written: 532,595
  • Number of comments: 3865

That works out to an average of 2.8 posts per day. Here’s what the breakdown looks like per month:

As you can see they posted slightly more at the beginning and then settled into a steady rhythm. The most posts came in July 2009 (perhaps due to the airport debate) while the fewest came in December 2009. The monthly average was 58.2 posts.

Here’s the breakdown by time of day:

Most entries were posted between 10am and 12pm, with another spike between 3pm and 4pm. A significant number of the edmontonian’s posts were headlines, which Jeff often posted mid-morning, so the graph doesn’t really surprise me. This word cloud shows you just how much of a fixture the headlines were at the edmontonian:

That was generated by including all 1572 post titles. If you remove those two words, you get this word cloud:

I didn’t realize how prominently the time of year was featured until I went through this exercise. It shows up in the tags as well. Very interesting! The average length of a post title was 29 characters or 5 words, with the longest being 30 words (fittingly that post was among the shortest for content, containing only images). This one was also quite long at 28 words.

One of my favorite things about the edmontonian was their willingness to link to other stuff. They linked a lot. In total, they posted 17,416 unique links! Of those, 2217 were links to their own stuff. A significant chunk of the rest went to local media. Here are the domains they linked to more than 100 times:

  • (3170)
  • (2217)
  • (1551)
  • (983)
  • (768)
  • (587)
  • (457)
  • (349)
  • (345)
  • (342)
  • (297)
  • (272)
  • (266)
  • (241)
  • (238)
  • (224)
  • (204)
  • (196)
  • (191)
  • (181)
  • (168)
  • (121)
  • (110)

The average length of a post at the edmontonian was 2109 characters or 399 words. The longest was 2135 words. Here’s what a word cloud of all the post content looks like:

All Edmonton, all the time.

Without a doubt, the edmontonian was good at generating a discussion about the things happening in our city. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of that discussion probably took place off the blog (they’ve posted more than 8500 tweets) but I’m still impressed by the number of comments they amassed (an average of 2.5 per post). I would have loved their numbers during my first three years of blogging! This post had the most comments at 96.

These statistics are interesting, but of course they don’t reflect all the passion and hard work that Jeff & Sally have put into the edmontonian over the past three years. They’ve set the bar high for local blogs!

Media Monday Edmonton: the edmontonian goes out on top

As I mentioned last week, this Friday will be the final day for popular local blog the edmontonian. Editors Jeff Samsonow and Sally Poulsen have decided to move on to new things, and they assure us that “this is not a sad decision” for them. I think it’s safe to say that it has been a sad decision for the rest of us though, as the recent outpouring of support for the duo has shown! I had lots of questions about the decision so I’m glad Jeff & Sally agreed to an interview, which we conducted via email.

In the inaugural post back on June 15, 2009, Sally wrote: “Jeff and I have some pretty grand ambitions for this bad boy, and we couldn’t be more excited to get the ball rolling.” Looking back now, Jeff thinks they met those ambitions. “I know we wanted to have a conversation with people about Edmonton, we wanted to highlight interesting and fun people, businesses, and stories, to raise the level of discourse in a "news" site’s comments section, and create our own content.” Sally agreed, and expanded on his thoughts. “I do think we were both surprised that it grew legs as quickly as it did, and that because we’d never really had any goals beyond "make ourselves laugh," "initiate a conversation," and "make news easier to understand," I think we may have lost sight of where we were going once or twice.” They feel that the edmontonian achieved its goals however, and that’s part of the reason it is shutting down.

I wondered what surprised them most about the experience of creating and maintaining the edmontonian. “How seriously people took us as a news outlet was a bit of a shock,” Sally said, noting that people would call with stories and invite them to events. “That has always struck me as funny.” For Jeff, it was “the amount of stuff we’ve done.” With more than 1500 items posted to the site, they’ve certainly had a busy three years. “It reinforced for me that Edmonton is full of good stories,” Jeff said. “And it said that passion, from anyone, is what’s going to create content. A paycheck won’t crank out post after post about the city, it’s going to come from individuals who want to tell stories and explore their community.”

One of the things I have always loved about the edmontonian is the humorous side of the blog. Sure I love reading Jeff’s more serious commentaries, but the funny stuff really made it unique, in my opinion. I asked them if there was anything that they tried that bombed, and Sally wrote: “There was that time we tried to keep the municipal airport open. That didn’t really work out like we’d hoped.” Thinking about posts that made me laugh, I asked who will write about abandoned couches now? Jeff says to tweet him if you have couch photos to share! “Seriously, make sure you @ me on your couch photos.”

I asked Jeff & Sally to offer some advice to other Edmontonians who might want to start a blog. “Life is incredibly short,” Sally said. “Just go for it.” She also suggested that you “be for something instead of against.” Jeff noted that it’s really simple to get started. “The great thing about the Internet, and all of its many blogging, video, audio, and photo tools is that no story has to go untold.” He too says to just get started. “Buy your domain, install WordPress, and start documenting your version of Edmonton.” Jeff would welcome new voices to the local blogosphere and beyond. “There are so many great stories in a city Edmonton’s size, and so many different takes on everything, that there’s plenty of room for more media presence.”

Not that what Jeff & Sally have accomplished is easy. It takes a lot of time and effort. I wondered what the hardest part of creating and maintaining the site was. “I would say finding the time to get to events and talk to people for full stories, so it wasn’t always daily Headlines posts,” Jeff replied. With full-time jobs, doing interviews during the traditional 9-5 schedule wasn’t always possible. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get frustrated about the fact that we’d be writing this stuff on off hours, putting in all this time and energy, and then see people who made their living as reporters "borrow" our ideas,” Sally added.

Given my interest in digital archiving, I wanted to know if the site would just disappear on Friday or if it would remain online. “It will live where it is,” Sally assured me. “We can’t promise forever and ever, because it costs money to keep it there, but for the foreseeable future.” Jeff says they’ve just renewed the hosting for another year, so you’ve got time to take screenshots if you want!

There have been lots of sad tweets, comments, and messages about the decision to shut the site down, and I wondered what Jeff & Sally thought about that. “I had expected some reaction,” Jeff said, “but I wasn’t ready for the amount of conversation, the number of people that seemed to genuinely be sad to see us go. It was way more than I was ready for, and I choked up a couple of times.” Sally agreed. “I think we knew how passionate we were about the edmontonian, but it was the first time that I ever thought, wow, maybe people do know how much we care.”

Sally and Jeff - the edmontonian arrives!
Photo by Brittney Le Blanc

So what’s next for the duo? They’ve always struck me as the kind of people who are happiest when they are creating something. Like the TV show. “It was a stupid amount of work, and very much our love letter to the city,” Sally said. While confirming that they have “a couple of half-baked ideas” in the works, Sally wouldn’t share any clues. “I plan on taking many naps, and also we’re buying a couch. So that’s pretty exciting.” Perhaps thinking ahead, Jeff said that “choosing the next project out of our hat of ideas will actually be the next big step.” He was also careful to set the right expectations, however. “I’d hate to say "we’re building Edmonton’s largest pancake" and disappoint folks if that wasn’t the next project we actually undertook.” Sally chimed in with her trademark wit: “So, to review, we’re building Edmonton’s largest pancake. And buying a couch.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to take a bite while sitting on that couch. Best wishes to Jeff & Sally in whatever they decide to pursue, and thank you for three wonderful years of Edmonton stories!

Edmontonians magazine calls it quits, the edmontonian celebrates 1 year

After 21 years of publishing, Edmontonians magazine is calling it quits. Citing declining advertising revenues, publisher Sharon MacLean announced today via email that the June edition of the magazine will be its last.

“The news business is caught in the cyclone of change, fueled by the tremendous growth in popularity of access to news and information on the Internet. Both readership and revenues have declined significantly; major dailies have closed their doors, as have a number of magazines.”

Edmontonians had started to cultivate an online presence, amassing over 4400 followers on Twitter, but the publication remained firmly rooted in print. Perhaps anticipating a question about where the industry is going, Sharon wrote “there is much hope for the future of publishing – we simply ran out of time to bridge the transition.”

I can’t say that I was a fan of Edmontonians, but I know many people in the city really liked the publication. So far no announcement has been made on the website, so I’m not sure what will happen to the content available there. There’s also no word on what Sharon will be up to next.

The decision to cease publishing Edmontonians magazine comes at the same time that local website the edmontonian is celebrating its first year. And what a year it was! Jeff reports:

75,000+ people have checked us out. We’ve averaged 3 posts per day. We’ve got more than 2 comments per post. In the last year we’ve posted more than 780 times. We’ve also shown off more than 1,500 photos of Edmonton. We had 40+ contributors who wrote, took photos, shot video, gave us prizes, and did lots of other great stuff, all helping to tell Edmonton stories.

Of course, if you read Jeff’s actual post, you’ll see that the above stats are mixed in with his trademark writing style. Free from the constraints of print, Jeff and his partner-in-crime Sally have been able to produce content the way they want to, when they want to. That has resulted in a publication that I and many others enjoy going back to (or subscribing to) each and every day.

The similarity of their names notwithstanding, I think these publications are a great representation of two completely different worlds. The advertising-supported physical print model is increasingly under fire from the more flexible online digital media model. Will the edmontonian be around for 21 years like Edmontonians was? Almost certainly not, at least not in its current form (who knows what kind of technology we’ll have when 2031 rolls around). But for right now, its pretty clear that the edmontonian is the more sustainable model.

Congrats to Edmontonians on 21 years of telling Edmonton stories! Congrats to the edmontonian on a fantastic first year!