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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

That Fresno Blog returns - Also, why does the Fresno blog scene suck?

The Fresno blogosphere is surprisingly desolate. With a metropolitan population of just under 1 million, you'd expect a lot of voices online, typing away about Fresno food, events, crime, planning - whatever. However, for reasons I don't fully understand, that's quite not the case.

I've been operating this blog for almost five years now, which typing it out, is kind of shocking. In that time, I've seen a dozen Fresno-oriented blogs come and go. Unfortunately, there have been more going than coming. Right now, my list of Fresno blogs to read is not much of a list.

Some, like the Cured Ham, IBikeFresno, Fresno Bites, Taste Fresno, and the Fresnan, remain online, frozen with posts from two, three or four years ago. Others, like Urban Fresno have been taken offline entirely. A couple of professional blogs keep trucking, namely the Fresno Beehive and the Downtown Fresno Blog, but those are paid efforts, not products of passion (not that they're bad).

What inspired this post was the return of That Fresno Blog (TFB), which relaunched this past weekend. Probably the best looking of all the amateur blogs, TFB launched with a bang in 2011 but didn't last long before the fresh content dried up. The blogger, Veronica Stumpf remained active online - on Twitter and Instagram - but a tweet, in my opinion, is no replacement for an article. This time around, she's narrowed her focus to real-estate, and has been blessed with a Fresno Bee article to serve as initial push in readership. I hope that the narrowed focus helps her keep the blog going this time around. I also encourage my Fresno readers to add that site to your bookmarks, as the content looks very promising. 

The truth is, blogging is incredibly time consuming, and abandoning a blog is quite frankly the most logical decision for most people. Even a picture-heavy post, with half-sentences as captions can take hours to put together. Post such as the one of the Fulton Mall Deconstruction can rival a full time job in the commitment it takes to build - even if the end result isn't particularly beautiful.

Hell, I have 102 (!) posts in various stages of draft form, from one or two topic sentences to a 1,500 word post on bicycling in NYC I just haven't gotten around to finishing.

As such, I completely understand why bloggers must throw in the towel. There's something especially crushing about spending 10+ hours on a high-quality post to see the visitor needle barely budge, while something quickly put together, such as my post on Sim City 5, receives over 10,000 views. Even hitting the click jackpot isn't going to bring any money in - the view count is mostly for ego really, and an encouragement to keep going.

Jarrett Walker of the Human Transit Blog hit on this point a few years ago, when looking into what brought in visitors to his blog:

No, it was post about new transit-themed toys by Lego, a post that took me less than 10 minutes to prepare as it was mostly a friend's email.

Am I focusing on the wrong things in life?

However, individual bloggers making the decision to move on doesn't quite explain the current state of the aggregate scene. After all, shouldn't we expect a dead blog to be replaced by a new effort ever few months?

I don't know of any database that tracks blog activity, but here's a couple of quick example of how Fresno stacks up.

Looking at the Streetsblog Network, which only tracks urban planning blogs, one can quickly see that the Central Valley is not a blog hotspot. For the entire valley, you're looking at me, and a dead biking blog.



Even the Santa Cruz metro area - pop 271,804 - outdoes the valley, with 3 blogs to 2.



I also decided to look at Reddit as a proxy for online activity related to local blogs. If you're not familiar with Reddit, the site has thousands of subreddits, which are dedicated to one specific topic. That is, the Fresno subreddit is about all things Fresno, and is populated with links to local articles or text posts with questions or comments.

Here are our peers by metropolitan population (MSA):
Tucson, AZ  - 1,004,516
Urban Honolulu, HI - 991,788
Tulsa, OK - 969,224
Fresno, CA - 965,974
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT - 945,438
Worcester, MA-CT - 930,473
Albuquerque, NM -  904,587
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA - 904,421

And here is how their Reddit community stacks up, in terms of subscribers, and also how far back the front page covers (less days means more recent activity)

Tucson - 6,551 .... 5 days
Honolulu - 1,565 (960 + 615) .... 25 days
Tulsa - 4,773 .... 4 days
Fresno - 2,334 .... 15 days
Bridgeport-Stamford N/A
Worcester - 338 .... 6 months
Albuquerque - 4,953 ... 5 days
Omaha - 6,579 ... 2 days 

Of those, I'd argue the most comparable in terms of land use and community cohesion are the ones I bolded. That is, while the Worcester metro is of a comparable size, the city itself is more like Clovis in terms of size; people in the metro area probably do not feel like Worcesterites. Bridgeport/Stamford is impossible to compare, since it's half the state, and Honolulu is a case where most people probably post under the Hawaii tab since most Hawaiians live on Oahu.

Under that metric, Fresno has an underrepresented online presence. Not as bad as Bakersfield though (1,740 on Reddit), but the underlying causes are probably identical. I wonder if the statistics hold true for online activities that aren't text heavy, such as Instagram?

I wonder if there's a solution to this lack of online engagement in Fresno?

Or maybe I'm asking a question that is no longer relevant. Maybe it's true that blogs everywhere are being replaced with Twitter thoughts and Instagram pictures. If that's the case, then I think it's a shame, although I'm sure long-form journalists felt the same way when blogs threatened to eat their lunch.

That being said, I'm going to keep on blogging, and I'm excited to see Veronica jump back on board because it's gotten quite lonely around here.


(Look for various posts on downtown Fresno construction updates in the upcoming days/week). 

9 comments:

  1. You know what James..your blog is AWESOME. I stumbled across it last yr and I think the topic was...of course.....STREETLIGHTS converting to LED's. And I COULDN'T BELIEVE how in depth you got on your blog; with all the pics and explicit info in your articles was just awesome. I have your blog bookmarked as well as the Fresno foodies blogs but like you said, they don't keep up with it and I just got tired of clicking on their blog just to find no additional info on it for months so I deleted them :(. Actually your blog and Beehive blogs are the only ones that really keep up and honestly...I wish that y'all would post MORE FREQUENTLY lol. I know Veronica and she told me that yes it was very time consuming which I can understand but if you don't keep it up then people will just forget about it. And I loved her passion for downtown and that's why I read her blog but if shes going to focus on real estate as her blog topic, then I'm not going to be interest sad to say. IDK James, you travel all over the world and country so you see with "outside eyes", but Fresno is a different beast. Yes our metro area is just under a million people..BUT in my opinion is that the demographics of people...IE high Hispanic pop, large pockets of poverty people, large lack of educated progressive people here that; even though the Fresno pop is 500,000...in reality the stats show we are a pop of 200,000. And this shows in different studies like airline travel out of FYI, Tesla charging stations and the like. You may disagree but I'm a born and bred Fresnan and I see things with an outside eye also because I'm college educated in healthcare with no kids and I travel a lot so I see how other cities do things. Anyways, I'm glad that you are going to keep blogging, just know that you have a loyal fan here ....

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    1. Thank you for the comment! I'd love to post more. When I started, I was doing 3-4 posts a week. Now it's 3-4 a month. It's not because I have nothing to say, it's because of the time commitment. Hell, just in regards to downtown Fresno construction updates I have 5 posts worth of pictures, I just need the time to upload them and post them.

      I agree that when it comes to the connected community, you pretty much have to half the population due to income and language barriers. The big problem is that those people live in Fresno, work and Fresno and pay taxes in Fresno, and they need to be included in discussing the future of the area. It bothers me, for example, when you look at the people who went to the public meetings to argue against the Fulton Mall, 95% of them were educated, middle or high income residents - the complete opposite of the people who shop on the mall every day. The people who actually have invested on the mall probably didnt know the meeting was happening.

      Also, if you were to start up a streetlighting blog, Id subscribe!

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  2. @Jeffrey Whitaker,

    Can you elaborate more on the source where you found that although the Fresno population is high, that in reality it is only 200,000? The census can't be that off. The government would have seen red flags a long time ago with that huge of a discrepancy.

    But you do make a great point is the demographics.

    Somewhere like a city in the Bay Area--San Jose. Huge tech sector, so people are already inclined to always be online. It's just part of life. So higher chance that even the older population there is active online. Where as in Fresno, not a huge tech sector, so older population has lived all these years without it so why start? I believe it is only up to the younger millennial generation to really help boost Fresno's online presence (positive hopefully).

    I also didn't want to bring Race, but unfortunately that holds true. San Jose has a huge hispanic population too! BUT, it also has a huge asian population, and fresno doesn't have that. I think we have more white pop than SJ. Asians love to blog and yelp. You can see that by reviews of businesses in the bay area. Chances are the user is asian.

    as for the poverty, some might see it in a different light. A married couple in the Bay area, both making $15/hr would be poor. Barely making enough to probably rent a 1bd in a bad location, or rent a 2bedroom while renting out one of the rooms so they aren't quite paycheck to paycheck. A couple making $15/hr here has more hope in owning a brand new house in Fresno. I've seen brand new built from the ground up homes starting at 200K, or homes for sale that are still way better than what you get in the bay area . There is also a lot of poverty in the bay, but it is not exposed as much i believe. the wages might be higher, but the cost of living is wayyyy more expensive. of course if stats only go based off wages, then yea fresno will seem worse, but if they go deeper, making $13/hr with the cost of living in fresno is prob better than making $15/hr in san jose/bay area. It is common for people over there to only rent rooms. Multiple generations living in one house because it is too expensive for ADULT CHILDREN to move out, yet they make $15-20/hr.

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    1. Dude, anonymous where did you go? Did you read my comment???

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  3. Yes anonymous your points are well taken. It seems like you can explain yourself a lot better than I. I just say what I feel and see around me. I do have a lot of preconceived ideas which I believe a lot of people agree with but don't want to say it verbally for fear of sounding "unPC". I guess poverty can be looked at as relative, but I just don't see the kind of poverty in the Bay or SJ like I see in Fresno. Yes you may have 5 different people making 15 bucks/hr living in a condo or apt..BUT the kind of poverty you see in Fresno is the type that make min wage and lives in a shanty house 40 yrs old with a couple non functioning cars on the front lawn and a pile of garbage out on the street. I couldn't believe the dilapidated houses, trash etc. And yes the Bay has a huge industry which is a multitude of things from tourism, tech jobs all of which requires smart intelligent people that tend to make a good wage in which they put back into their economy. This is why Fresno will never get a Neiman Marcus because the even though Fresno has a pop of 500,000, the demographics can't support it because in reality there is only about 100,000 or maybe less that can afford to shop there on a consistent basis. I know I'm getting off track but this is the way I'm explaining my thoughts. Another controversial statement that I always make, and you can take it how you want; but I tell my friends that the Valley would be in a much better place if you could replace all the Hispanics with Japanese and Chinese for the simple fact that the Asian culture is soo much more structured and disciplined. Most Asians got to college and earn degrees and get good professions, and they take care of there living quarters. Now I'm sure someones going to come back with the typical rebuttal of "Not ALL so n so do so and so.." Got it, but none the less my point is made. And as for the population topic...its just a theory of mine, no scientific value to it but it makes sense to me in that I wasn't talking about the ACTUALLY population being 200,000 people, I was talking about Fresno being an Ag based community which doesn't require advanced degrees and are pretty much large part is medial low wage jobs. Compounded with that the large amount of people in this city that don't get a college degree and aren't making a good living makes it SEEM like its a city of 200,000 not a city of 500,000 people. Does that makes sense?? I'm trying to explain myself the best I can.

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    1. I'm here sir, I never got a chance to reply. I definitely understand what you are saying. You are definitely right, the poverty in the Bay is different. $15/hr pay in the bay still have people flossing on social media that they are doing ok. I guess a lot of people in the Bay Area have accepted that lifestyle, and could care less about owning their own nice home as long as they live in the place to be. To be honest with you I primarily am in the North of Fresno so I don't see much of the poverty type that you describe, but I certainly believe it. Crazy thing is, I'm sure there were typical types of people in the outskirts of the bay, or even gilroy, morgan hill area, where they live in small shacks but large lands they acquired long ago, and now probably have gotten huge equity on simply because of how hot the housing market has become in those said areas. who would have ever imagined morgan hill, let alone gilroy homes going up to 500-800K. Way off topic I know. I guess it goes into what you said, more educated folks who work in the bay Area in non AG jobs, still can't afford actaully buying homes closer to their jobs, they are willing to buy as far as Gilroy or other towns an hour or so (without traffic) and have been driving up the home values because suddenly these towns have educated tech works living there now.

      I'm going way off here, but with the confirmation of the High Speed Rail now starting from San Jose to Fresno, this is huge. Honestly, I hope this allows Fresno/Clovis to thrive. Hopefully bring more tech workers who don't want to settle for small condos or townhomes, but to be able to give their families a nice suburban house, with large square feet and yards. They can be making silicon valley money, and paying central valley prices for nice homes. At that rate some might even afford to not have their spouse work any longer.

      I hope Fresno realizes the potential of this. Maybe even attract some tech companies to start up here. That would be a dream. Of course I'm all for it because I plan to have property invested by then hahaha

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  4. And to James about the topic...yes I did notice that discrepancy the last time I was at City Hall for the BRT ruling. I hear ya. And honestly, I would be one of those 95% up at the podium at City Hall saying "lets put the street in, but lets do it right and not cut corners". Well...looks like thy're gona cut corners lol..

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  5. I didn't know if had heard about Fresno State starting up the Bulldog Express shuttle bus this week.
    http://www.fresnostate.edu/adminserv/police/transportation/bus/shuttle.html
    http://www.fresnostate.edu/adminserv/police/documents/BulldogExpressPrintableMapSchedule.pdf
    https://www.facebook.com/FresnoState/posts/10154465718165744
    https://twitter.com/Fresno_State/status/691485672931065856

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