SEATTLE, WASHINGTON — In a city that is known for its steady rain, it’s not surprising that it was the weather that put West Seattle Blog on the map as well. The blog, which now averages more than 80,000 visitors per month according to Quantcast and is routinely cited in breaking news stories by the Seattle Times, started in 2005 merely as a hobby for Tracy Record and Patrick Sand, the two co-founders. But during a powerful windstorm that knocked out power up and down the West Seattle peninsula in December 2006, Record says that she got “drafted” into providing coverage, going street by street to find out where utility crews were and posting the information to the site. Two years later, when a rare snowstorm crippled traffic flow in the region, the blog became a place not only for news but also for readers to post updates and crowdsource the information.
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Both events led to huge spikes in traffic, and the upward traffic trends have continued into this year, thanks to committed breaking news coverage, from crime to traffic accidents. Record isn’t shy about claiming victory. “We intend to continue to be West Seattle’s most-read, most-accurate, most-thorough, most-timely, most-community-collaborative 24-7 news source for a long time,” she says. “That’s how we wound up doing news in the first place, by listening to needs and responding to them.”
A former producer for ABCNews.com and assistant news news director for Seattle’s KCPQ-TV, Record is no stranger to the news business. Nor is Sand, who sold advertising for many years but originally graduated college with a journalism degree. In 2007, both transitioned to work full-time on the site. Sand had already been working from home on various freelance projects; Record quit her day job at KCPQ. Today the site brings in “six-figures” in revenues, Record says.
Utilizing past experience, Sand sells the ads, which are composed almost solely of banner ads, running on a rail down the right side of the site’s homepage. “We have exactly one type of advertising, the same type with which we began,” Record says. “Good old-fashioned display advertising, flat rate.” The site also has a team of photographers, reporters, tech people, and other part-timers that are paid for freelance work, though she and Sand are its only two full-time employees. “It is our sole source of revenue,” Record says by e-mail. “No investors, no grants, no rich relatives/friends, no side jobs.”
Sand, who says he does not speak publicly about the site, also does a lot of on-the-scene reporting. Record, meanwhile, does most of the writing, which, like most hyperlocal sites, can vary in tone from the voice of a straight-laced reporter to one of a chatty neighbor. Many are simple traffic updates, while others are more serious, like coverage of a February murder.
West Seattle mostly encompasses a peninsula to the southwest of downtown Seattle, in an area known for its natural beauty as well as its relative affluence. The area has also proven to be fertile ground for Record, who often will get to breaking news scenes long before any news organization, online or otherwise. She says that an August 27 fire was a good example. “I wasn’t far away, had all my equipment with me, rushed to the scene, and started publishing updates/photos/video via my laptop from a few yards behind the back of the fully engulfed house, where firefighters were NOT clearing away the crowd because they had water problems on the other side and had enough else to do,” she says. “I had to set up the ‘bureau’ atop a recycling bin behind the burning house.”
In the future, Record says that she and Sand hope to expand their social media presence even further, while also continuing to attract more readers for the website proper. The West Seattle Blog Twitter account currently has more than 11,000 followers, and Record says that they’ve also been on Facebook since 2007. That neither Record nor Sand were Seattle natives never proved to be a downside when it came to reporting Seattle’s news. “In late 2005, after we had lived here for fifteen years, I had this urge to write about the neighborhood, just observations and musings, and I thought I would certainly find someplace online where people already were doing that, where I could participate,” she says. “To my surprise, no such place existed. So I found the domain westseattleblog.com was available, put up a basic WordPress theme, and just started blathering.”
West Seattle Blog Data
Name: West Seattle Blog
Principal Staff: Tracy Record, co-publisher and editor; Patrick Sand, co-publisher.
Affiliations: Content: Seattle Times
CMS: WordPress - OpenSource (.org)