March 25, 2015

New photo gallery puts focus on Erin

As published in The Erin Advocate

Perhaps it is a short attention span that has led me to try a lot of different things, without becoming an expert at any of them. The pursuit of variety makes life interesting, of course, but still I envy people who can concentrate their efforts and be very successful.

I got a film camera as a present for my fifth birthday, a simple plastic box with a lens, and my friends thought I was a bit strange, going around the neighbourhood in Welland taking snapshots of trees and flowers.

Well, I’m still doing that with the Town of Erin as my neighbourhood, and while the quality has improved slightly, I’m just figuring it out as I go along. I’ve realized that if you wait for perfection, you’ll be waiting forever, and if you don’t share what you’ve got, you miss an opportunity to have some useful fun.

Putting stuff out there for the public has been central to my careers as a writer and graphic designer. The 345 columns I’ve written for the Advocate in the last 7 years are republished on a blog: They are fully searchable, organized by date and topic.

Some articles have photos with them, but until recently the content was 99% words. In January I started a new section within the blog called Somewhereinerin. It is a gallery of photos I’ve taken in the Erin area (plus a few vacation sunsets). Just click on the tab at the top of the home page to take a look.

At first, I was trying to post a new photo every day, until I discovered just how difficult that is while trying to make a living doing other things. A few new ones every week is more realistic.

Of course, I’m not the first photographer to take an interest in Erin. I admire the professional work of Martin Lamprecht (featured on the new Town of Erin website), Tristan Clark who does local news and portrait/wedding photography, and former Advocate photographers Sandra Traversy and Jill Janson, all of whom have web sites.

Whenever I post an article or a photo, I’ll normally send out a tweet – a very small sound in a noisy world – in an attempt to spark some interest and link readers to the blog. You can follow me on Twitter using @ErinWriter, and sign up as a follower on the blog.

Part of the blogging game is to drive traffic to your site, in order to sell products or make money from advertising. My blog, however, is more of a community service than a business, especially since I can’t be competing with The Advocate while working for them.

Still, I thought I’d try putting non-local ads on the blog, to see if they would generate some income. It’s easy to sign up with Google. They put a constant rotation of ads onto the blog that are somehow linked to the content, but you really only make money if people actually click on them.

I’m not much of an ad clicker and it turns out that my readers are not either. After ten weeks, I’ve made a total of $4.85, and they don’t send you anything until you hit the $10 mark.

With an average of more than 80 visits to the blog every day, I thought I might do better than that, but I had no illusions about hitting a jackpot. Still, you never know. Maybe a photo or story will go viral some day. Maybe I should learn how to shoot video.

The curious thing about traffic to the blog is that while the content is all about Erin, most of the visitors are not from Erin. Of the 86,200 all-time visits, less than half are from somewhere in Canada.

The topics obviously have a broad appeal, since I’ve had 20,000 visits from the US, 7,000 from Germany, 3,300 from Russia, 3,000 from France, 2,300 from Ukraine, 1,400 from the United Kingdom, 601 from China and 460 from Saudi Arabia. Go figure.