Where are the 'bloggiest' locations, and why?

The Baltimore Sun

Outside.in, a compiler of local blogs on the Internet, recently ranked the "bloggiest cities" in America, counting the blog posts published during March and April in the top 60 cities and dividing by their populations.

Baltimore ranked 19th, just behind its U.S. Census ranking as the 18th largest city.

Not shabby, Charm City, but nothing to blog home about.

Boston led all cities with 89 posts per 100,000 residents. Philadelphia (88 posts per 100,000) and Pittsburgh (53) ranked second and third -- intriguing since Pennsylvania is the second-oldest state in the country and blogging is often pegged as a youthful diversion. Washington (51) and Portland, Ore., (49) rounded out the top five.

John Geraci, co-founder of Outside.in, acknowledged in a phone interview that the survey wasn't scientific and tracked only blogs about local affairs. But the findingscaused a stir, as "top cities" lists frequently do.

Geraci said he didn't equate the "bloggiest" cities as the most technological, which might explain the absence of Seattle and San Francisco, but more a sign of the concentration of writers in a place.

"Philadelphia, Boston, those cities have high numbers of writers, or people who think of themselves as writers," he said. "San Francisco is a very techie city but maybe not a city taken to writing as much." Many local-topic blogs might also reflect the civic-mindedness of a place -- one reason Geraci surmised that a place with a close-knit reputation like Pittsburgh would rank high.

In Baltimore, Hampden and the downtown appeared to be the bloggiest neighborhoods, according to Outside.in. That would make sense, given the artsy transformation of Hampden and the concentration of tech workers around the harbor.

Benn Ray, 38, is part of the city's blog movement. He co-owns Atomic Books, a Hampden shop whose Web site offers an active blog of city affairs. But Ray also publishes his own stream-of-consciousness blog called The Mobtown Shank. If the title conjures up a pre-Civil War Baltimore of street gangs and Plug Uglies, it's an apt allusion since Ray sees his blog as the modern version of the pamphleteers of earlier times.

"Like anyone who chooses what to put on a front page, there's a bias in this. It's what I think is important," he said, describing the mind of a blogger. "Right now, I'm griping about parking in the neighorbood. I saw someone beating a parking meter with a crowbar the other day."

"The Shank," as he calls it, mushroomed three or four years ago out of a weekly e-mail he'd been circulating among friends since 1999 about happenings in the area -- before many of the local Web sites that now exist emerged.

The e-mail, which still circulates, now has 2,000 subscribers, he said. Meanwhile, his blog gets about 500 "unique visits" a day -- a fraction of the tens of thousands of daily readers who go to top blogs, but still an impressive following and a wide audience for his personal potpourri of views and interests.

One interesting feature of Outside.in is its tracking of "geo-tags" -- words or phrases that repeat most often in a city's blogs.

"I was looking at New York City recently and their top tags were 'real estate' and 'restaurants,' which made sense since typically what's on every New Yorker's mind is, 'How do I afford an apartment?' and 'Where's a good place to eat?' said Geraci, a Brooklyn resident. "Then, I was looking at Baltimore and the top words were 'crime' and 'drugs.' What a stark revelation, I thought."

Things must be looking up in Baltimore, though, he said. When he checked the city's most used blog phrases last week, they'd changed -- to "sports" and "education."


Andrew Ratner, a former technology reporter, is Today editor of The Sun.

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