The Humbling, or: Whine of the Solo Blogger

I’ll admit to blog pretensions. There have been plenty of moments in the seven-plus years I’ve sat down to write this whatever-it-is that I’ve thought I’ve hit on some unique perspective that might–no, should–attract attention. And of course we all want attention, don’t we?

But for the most part, what I do here is part of what I once called “staying poor doing something you love.” It’s pleasing when there’s a story or picture to share with my small group of regular visitors and the words or images fall into place. On occasion, curiosity has turned me into a specialist of the arcane and then drawn visitors to the site: Illinois’s remarkable record of electing governors and sending them to court; the failings of a local TV news show; the history of a bicycle-related art piece. And lots of other things, including weather and climate, water and fish in California, my dog, my travels, and my family. This week, I’m one of the leading sources on the Web, maybe, for those looking for sheet music for “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.” Glad to be of service.

I watch the number of visitors who visit the blog. Without going into sad details, I can tell you the number isn’t billions and billions served. This is definitely more of a street-vendor operation than a worldwide mega-franchise. That’s OK. Patrons here tend to be forgiving and they definitely seem to tolerate and maybe even appreciate the fact the portions here are a little inconsistent, ingredients are freely substituted, and the proprietor may or may not remember to give you the drink you ordered or supply utensils.

Still, numbers are numbers. Before Google did something to its algorithm a few years ago, there were days when I happened upon the right subject–papal embalming, say–and a couple thousand visitors showed up. Roughly speaking, traffic’s at about one-tenth where it was at its height in 2007. If I did this full time, had an actual focus, really reported things, spent some time and perhaps money networking and marketing, approached this blogs (or some blog) as a business–maybe then I could eventually generate some big numbers and perhaps even a little money from the effort. That’s the dream in the back of nearly every blogger’s brain.

Or maybe I’m just thinking too much. It recently came to my attention that a guy I know in the newsroom at the major Bay Area public radio station where I work has a lucrative sideline in YouTube videos. When I say lucrative, I’m talking about grocery and gas money, not a summer place in the mountains. And when I say YouTube videos, I don’t mean anything you couldn’t play at work and tell all your friends to come and watch. The guy posts videos of his funny-looking dog doing basically nothing–just looking funny. That’s it. The one below, representative of my coworker’s oeuvre, has drawn about 10 times more traffic by itself than this blog has in its entire existence. Watch the video, though. It’s cute as all get out. (How does it make money? Check out the ads.)

Today’s Time Waster

Via YouTube, a 3-minute video of a trolley ride in North Berkeley, circa 1906. The route is northbound on Oxford Street, eastbound on Hearst, then north on Euclid). The split-level portion of Hearst looks much the same today in terms of the road configuration. Virtually all of the buildings shown in the picture — some big, gorgeous Victorian homes, mostly — burned down during a wildfire in 1923 (and JB, midway through the clip, look for what looks like a Norfolk pine on a hillside to the left; its presence interests me just because that area of Berkeley was settled probably no more than 40 years before the date of the image — 50 tops — and the size of the tree suggests it might have been one of the first Norfolk pines transplanted to the Bay Area).

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