Sustaining this hyperlocal content in 2015

Ironwork, William Dove's foundry, York

I’ve had a break from this site for a couple of weeks. I had other work to do, paid work.

And there were no supporting subscribers. Previous arrangements had been set to finish at the end of 2014.

I asked for similar support for this site at the start of this year in a mailing to everyone on the mailing list, but no one responded. I thought this was perhaps a sign that this particular online record had reached a natural end. I removed the couple of pages for 2015 and to be honest I thought ‘bugger this’.

But then we’ve built a nice momentum, and the number of visitors is increasing, with a lot of people visiting ‘Recent’ to look for new pages. There’s so much to add, no shortage of material. Seems a shame to abandon it. Supporters for 2015 would mean this online record can continue in a similar way.

Behind the scenes at the website

But I wonder if we ever think about the circumstances of the people writing our favourite personal sites and blogs. Usually just one person, as in this case. I have several sources of freelance income and they now have to combine to bring in enough money to cover the usual costs shouldered by any adult of working age trying to keep a roof over their head. If this site brings in no reasonable income then it will neglected in favour of work that does pay.

Yet there’s so much still to cover on these pages. And people keep telling me how much they love York Stories. If I had a pound for every time someone told me how much they loved it …

This site was all made in a generous spirit, as a labour of love. But I’ve given enough away. The internet’s culture of free is not fair and not sustainable in the longer term. This doesn’t just apply to this online record of York and its changes, but to many other similar online resources.

It was a wonderful and enabling thing to have financial contributions in 2014 to keep the site going. It was a solid representation of how many people really do value it. Thank you to all of you.

Into 2015

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I’ve given a lot of thought to the question of how best to continue this online record alongside other work I’m doing, and I’ve talked to friends about it. I’ve also looked at possible sources of funding. As I’m an individual (rather than a not-for-profit group) with a site that doesn’t fit neatly into any category, getting external funding from the sources suggested doesn’t seem to be an option.

The site will continue to get visitors whether I regularly update it or not, coming from Google and other search engines. However, I know that people prefer a regularly updated site, and I do want returning visitors to have something new to look at, at least a few times a week.

I’ve thought about adding a photo a day, and may take this approach. Or I can spend about 20 minutes a few times a week writing a short piece, probably directing readers to other interesting things on the web.

The survey results last year suggested that the two most popular reasons for visiting the site were a) for information on York and its changes and b) for opinion on local matters of concern. Those two things are the most demanding in terms of the time they take and the thought that goes into them. So they’ll only happen with support.

Creators, editors, and the personal touch

One of my favourite sites is brainpickings.org. Nothing to do with York, and with a massive readership compared to this little site of mine. But there are a few similarities, and also aspects I admire. It is also made by one individual who clearly puts a great deal of time and effort into her online work. She also asks for financial support from her readers. The main thing I’m struck by is that this site is so obviously and coherently held together by one person’s brain. She links it all together as only she can, because she creates it, so she has the equivalent of a massive database of information in her own head. So she links to other postings in a thoughtful way, making connections far better than a computer can.

And it’s the same here. I’ve got a wealth of York-related information in this brain of mine. I’d rather use it, and keep linking it up, on here, online. If you recognise that has value, please support it.

That’s all very long-winded and thoughtful, isn’t it. Typical me. If you’ve been scanning the above and have got to the bottom of the page, here’s a rather more outspoken and direct summary of the situation, from the Leeds Bloggers site:

Simon, who co-runs Isle Of Wight news site On the Wight with his wife Sally said, it’s ‘rude and wrong’ to expect people who run sites and put so many hours of their spare time into them not to have some financial recompense.

You, dear York Stories readers, I could never think of you as rude and wrong.

But if Simon’s words strike a chord and have made you feel terribly guilty, there’s a page where you can help to sustain this much-loved online record of York and its changes.

 

Foss Islands cycle track graffiti, Nov 2004

Foss Islands cycle track graffiti, Nov 2004

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  By Lisa @YorkStories 18 January 2015 To link to this page's proper location please use the > permalink

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on www.yorkstories.co.uk. She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories

2 comments

  1. Just thinking out loud…

    …but, might one way to generate some income be to run regular features on well established York businesses? The business pay’s you a small fee for the article and we get to learn about the history of the business and see old pics of it.

    In terms of costs, what are you looking to cover, purely the web hosting? How much are we talking?

    It is a shame that more folks haven’t donated.

    Graham

    • The kind of feature you mention is something the Press do already in their history features, I think? I don’t want the content to be commercially driven, that would make it a different site, I just need to find ways to keep it more sustainable.

      In terms of costs, the actual costs in terms of money I pay out are quite small, the hosting fees have increased but it’s still at present only a few pounds a month. The main issue is the time it takes (and any accompanying skills/knowledge/experience going into content creation) and how that is valued, what it’s ‘worth’. If nothing else I thought it was worth raising the issue as it’s a general one, not just about these pages.

      Many people did contribute towards the latter half of last year.

      Anyway, it’s http://yorkstories.co.uk/support-this-site/ if anyone would like to.

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