Irish finance expert explains (robustly!) where the Celtic Tiger went wrong

It’s time for The Melbourne Urbanist to start winding down for the holiday season. After this week, posts will flow to a trickle or even peter out while I take a holiday.

The Melbourne Urbanist has now been going for over nine months so it’s timely to pause for a moment and take stock.

The blog now gets around 2,500 ‘views’ each week. WordPress, who provide the blogging platform, say this count excludes automated searches. The busiest month was November, with 10,721 views and the trend continues upwards. That’s not quite up there with the likes of NineMSN, but I think it’s pretty respectable for a blog with a defined topic and relatively narrow geographic ambit.

It compares well with some other blogs – for example, former ANU economics professor (and now Federal MP) Andrew Leigh, who’s been blogging daily since 2004, says he gets similar numbers. It seems many of the topics addressed by The Melbourne Urbanist “travel well” – they have a reasonably broad appeal.

About a third of views are of the home page where visitors presumably scroll down and scan the first part of each post. However I measure the popularity of each individual post by the number of  ‘reads’ i.e. the number of readers who click through to “read the rest of this entry”. I interpret this to mean the reader was interested enough to keep going. 

I was lucky in only my sixth week of blogging to be one of the first sites on the web to stumble across the story about the Google Maps car photographing a pair of pliers in the UK. That has been the most read post on The Melbourne Urbanist and to this day it continues to ‘earn’ around 10 reads each week.

The ten ‘most read’ posts since the blog began are:

  1. Google Maps captures flying pliers 1,678 reads
  2. Is the Lord Mayor’s new parking charge a ‘money grab’? 709 reads
  3. How big is Melbourne? 637 reads
  4. Victorian election – why have the Greens dug a black hole? 556 reads
  5. Ken Yeang, EDITT Tower 547 reads
  6. Why are outer suburban houses so damn big? 543 reads
  7. Is the Very Fast Train all huff and no puff? 473 reads
  8. More on rail link to airport 453 reads
  9. Is Melbourne really bigger than Los Angeles? 444 reads
  10. Banging the high rise drum 400 reads

Since I started the blog on 2 April 2010, I’ve written 250 posts and made almost 300 comments in response to issues or queries raised by readers. The Melbourne Urbanist seems to be well known and well read within political circles, government administration and within the planning and property industries generally. There is a sizeable coterie of international readers and I’m delighted that the likes of Professor Edward Glaeser and Tim Harford have contributed to discussions. Posts are regularly republished in Crikey, On Line Opinion and other electronic media including various tweeters.

My philosophy from the outset was threefold. First, there would be a new post every (week) day. Second, with only a few exceptions, posts would be analytical and interpretative rather than simply links to other sites. Third, my ‘mission’ was to try to look objectively at issues where too frequently discussion had been reduced to mere slogans. That’s put tremendous pressure on me as a part-time blogger. Where there’s been conflict, work has tended to give way because blogging is simply more ‘fun’. I’m fortunate to be of an age where I can afford to be a bit flexible.

There have been over 1,000 comments posted by readers over the life of the blog, or an average of four per post. That seems to me fewer than the number of readers would suggest, but I don’t understand why that’s the case. I’ve noticed on other blogs and web sites that posts which reinforce the dominant view seem to get a lot of comments, usually agreeing or expanding on the original post. So maybe fewer comments just goes with the territory of a blog that has a questioning bent. Then again I wonder if it’s got something to do with the way I write. Perhaps the posts don’t leave enough “room” for others to contribute to the idea. Whatever, this is something I’ll continue thinking about in the New Year.

Commenters on The Melbourne Urbanist are remarkably positive and polite. There’s the odd one who judges each post as if it were an academic treatise but all in all I’m bowled over by the appreciation and positive feedback I get. Thank you readers! I get a fair few requests off line to write about this or that but the fact is with limited time I can usually only write about things that for one reason or another I know a bit about. My greatest disappointment is no one (yet) has slipped me any “insider” info on planning issues!

I don’t know if next year I’ll be able to maintain the same frequency of posts. I can hear the bailiffs banging at the door! But I’m certainly looking forward to it. With a new Government in Victoria there should be lots of change and new ideas – so there should be a fair bit to talk about.

Merry Christmas.