South London Post: July 2010 update

So, back from a week’s holiday and now’s the time to do the monthly update on the South London Post, my “meta-local” publishing project which I blogged about at length last month.

First of all, the realities of micro-publishing. Taking a week’s holiday means your site shuts down, and I can’t tell you how profoundly dissatisfied I’ve been about that. Doesn’t sit right at all. Perhaps I can do something about that some day.

Which leads to the second point. As I said in my original post, this has been deliberately and aggressively a part-time project. I only do about an hour a day of posting, and I am beginning to realise how inadequate this is. I still haven’t covered a council meeting, nor do I have time to read all the council docs I should be reading from the three boroughs I’m covering. Of which more in a bit.

So how did the site do in July? Well, here’s the numbers:

southlondonpostanalytics_july2010.jpg

Which means (drum roll please) I’ve doubled page views on the June number, and broken through the thousand visits in a month barrier. I now only need to increase my page views by a factor of 500 to reach my target of a million pages in a month. And AdSense revenue has exploded by a factor of over 150 to reach…. $1.88. I’m going to go and buy myself a Diet Coke.

So why the page view increase? Well, mainly, it’s just profile, but two things are definitely occurring. As I said last month, I was going to tweet every new blog post this month, and I’ve done so. twitter.com was responsible for 13% of all referrals, while a third of all referrals were “direct”, which is always a frustratingly opaque measure but I assume includes a fair number of non-browser clients such as Twitter apps.

Secondly, Google really kicked in as a referrer this month, as more people started to link to the site and more indexing took place. There are now 64 incoming links to the site, although a lot of these are on Twitter. There still aren’t many links with Google currency coming in. Are you listening, BBC News? Guardian? Anyone?

August is likely to be pretty quiet, not least because I’ve been off for a week, but I’ll round this stuff up again at the end of the month. As I said last month, I’m trying to do one operational thing a month to drive traffic to try and gauge its impact. July was about Twitter. In August I’ll systematise that a bit, probably using a plugin such as Twitter Tools. I’m also going to begin a two-month experiment with SEM, to see if I can drive traffic and at what cost.

And finally, as promised, a word about the time spent on the site. I’m only using up about an hour a day at present. And it really isn’t enough. That allows me to read through all my feeds (which, including Twitter updates, probably about to about 600 new items a day), check interesting stories, write maybe four or five posts and read the occasional council document.

I still haven’t attended a single council meeting, phoned a single councillor or press officer, or chased down a single story. It’s very much using the “web as a wire feed”, rewriting for style and maintenance of narrative threads, finding a picture, and go. I believe that adds some value, but it isn’t enough.

Now, quite a few bloggers and newshounds already attend council meetings in Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, so what value can I add there? Well, maybe a more systematic, Hansard-like approach to covering proceedings, although I have to say that judging by the coverage so far public council meetings (including cabinet meetings) seem more like platforms for grandstanding than arena for debate. But in any case a Hansard-like approach is going to be time-consuming. I’m talking to some people about a way of approaching that.

I think thereal value can be added by examining documents: minutes for meetings, supporting documents, discussion files, stuff like that. This has already yielded some good stuff on the site: a post about crime in Lambeth with some juicy stats, and the very revealing discussion document about Lewisham cuts. I’m using Google Docs to store public versions of these documents, and over time that could be a useful resource. I think that’s where I’m going to focus my journalistic efforts – such as they are – in the coming couple of months.

So, enough prognosticating. Time to go and find some stuff out. See you back here in a month.

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