There’s a new community in Preston. It isn’t in a new village, it isn’t a in a religious building, it isn’t in a school. It’s online.Advertisement
184 million people had started a blog by 2008 according to media agency Universal McCann and that number is growing all the time with a new blog supposedly being created every second.
Preston is no exception. There’s a whole parallel universe Preston happening on the internet. Everyone has something to say and it’s never been easier to dispense that information to the world.
Ed Walker, a former University of Central Lancashire journalism student, set up Blog Preston an online community of local bloggers. It describes itself as “a hub of information and views about the city of Preston.”
Ed set up the site in January 2009 in response to the closure of the Preston Citizen newspaper and was inspired by a similar idea set up in St Albans.
Today the site receives between 2,000 and 3,000 hits a month and has links to 74 local bloggers proving just how popular blogging has become.
Ed, who is now the online communities editor for Cardiff at Media Wales, said: “Preston has more bloggers per head than most cities.” He thinks there are many reasons why it’s such a welcome addition to Preston life: “It provides a service and gives an alternative view to traditional forms of media.”
Dave Carr is one such man putting his thoughts on the internet. His blog, Preston Walkies, documents the dog walks he does in Lancashire.
“It’s just like a diary for us to look back on and remember the walks we’ve done. It’s also an incentive to find new walking routes,” he said.
Dave is a 47 year old local government manager and lives in Penwortham. He started his blog in October 2006 and gets around 1000 hits a month. It is promoted on the Lancashire Evening Post website, Britain’s Best Dog Walks and by a dog training school.
He has some good advice for anyone wanting to start a blog:
“Have a purpose to your blog, something that keeps you interested. Keep it fun. Don’t just publish something for the sake of it, wait until you have something you want to say.”
Blogging Preston’s News
Blogging isn’t just a hobby though. Preston’s leader of the council, Ken Hudson, also runs his own blog on the city council’s website.
In an attempt to communicate with the public better and provide a more efficient way for people to leave feedback he created a blog two years ago.
He has discussed issues including the plans for the Preston Guild, the snow fall back in January and the new public toilets.
The benefits of having a council blog? Free publishing, instant publishing and not as “totally uncontrollable” as Facebook.
Councillor Hudson thinks that blogging is good for Preston: “It puts Preston on the map.”
The City Council website also hosts the Mayor’s blog and the Park Keeper’s blog. “The more people that blog about Preston the better!” Councillor Hudson continues. “We are putting in lots more wi-fi around the city and have our own i-phone app for places around the city so it’s all part of moving with the times.”
Now that anyone can upload their Preston news on to the web what does the Lancashire Evening Post think. Ed Walker and Cllr. Hudson both feel that blogging is also about reaching an audience outside of newspapers, could it be the future of news and the demise of traditional media?
Josie Hill is the Lancashire Evening Post’s community reporter: “No they aren’t competition for us. The more the merrier. There is no sizeable news blog out there that could be competition.”
In fact, the LEP’s website links to several external blogs as well as reporters at the LEP having their own blogs.
“It’s part of the community and there are some strong voices in Preston.”
Josie thinks it is unlikely that people will turn to blogs for good quality news reporting before a newspaper. She believes that there is a place and space for everything and it is simply a case of adapting to technological changes.
Blogging for Preston Causes
One of Preston’s greatest blog success stories is Save The Ribble: “A blog dedicated to preserving the beauty of the River Ribble, and opposing the Riverworks ‘vision’ to build a barrage on our River and develop on our riverbanks, floodplains and green spaces.”
At the height of its campaign the blog was reaching 1,500 hits a week and was nominated for the New Statesman New Media Award in 2006 and 2007.
Most importantly, they won their campaign.
The blog saved the campaigners time, money and spread their message wider.
Preston bloggers are not just reaching a Preston audience. Save The Ribble has had an international influence. They are proud to have been contacted by people in Iceland, America and New Zealand looking to start their own campaigns.
They have had feedback from people praising them and people disputing them but their favourite kind of feedback has been people’s experiences of the Ribble.
“After we won the campaign we had so many emails from people expressing their overwhelming relief that they could go back to enjoying being by the river instead of feeling anxiety that they might lose everything they love about it,” says Dr. Jane Brunning, 46, a university lecturer, writing projects co-ordiantor for a community arts group and one of the founders of Save The Ribble.
Now that the campaign is over the blog discusses the joys and pastimes spent by the Ribble.
The blog is a real piece of local history and will be preserved on the internet, in perfect condition, for generations to learn from and appreciate.
It is also a significant piece of history for local blogging too. Dr. Brunning said: “I’m pleased that we were part of the rise in blogging in Preston, I know a couple of people who started their own local community blogs because of the high profile we got.”
So it seems that everyone is doing it. Whatever you use it for, there seems to be no better way of doing it than blogging it.
Wellington St, Ashton – Tony Worrall
Preston Walkies at Ingleton Falls – Dave Carr
River Ribble at Preston – Tony Worrall