200,000: What’s in a number?

Last October, I wrote a piece commemorating a PlaceShakers milestone — 100,000 reads — which took us 32 months to amass. Today, I write to mark our next one: 200,000. This time, it took less than 8 months.

Clearly something is up.

If reads are increasing, that means interest is increasing. If interest is increasing, then I want to know why. Specifically, exactly what are people interested in?

The answer’s in the traffic stats. And what you find there is not all that surprising.


More than anything, our traffic reflects a desire to know what’s next, and how it might spell rebirth and opportunity for those in the placemaking game. Such as:

Demographic Trends. When Nathan Norris wrote “Why Generation Y is Causing the Great Migration of the 21st Century,” it racked up over 15,000 readers in a single day and has since gone on to log more than twice that. Its focus on where Gen-Y is likely to find itself in coming years, and on why and how that might impact demand for different housing arrangements, connected with readers in a way that no PlaceShakers post ever has.

Solutions for Changing Markets. Another key discovery: People are very interested in approaches outside the status quo. When I featured three individuals pushing stripped-down solutions for more austere times in “Punk Rock and the New Urbanism: Getting back to basics,” it quickly went on to be one of our top posts ever, while Ben Brown’s ongoing coverage of Katrina cottages, which he’s profiled here and here, continues to amass readers consistently, week after week.

Obstacles to Progress. Perhaps no seemingly obscure issue has been more popular with readers than the currently en vogue disruption of local planning efforts by Tea Party activists convinced of Agenda 21 U.N. conspiracies. When Nathan Norris submitted his “Playing Tea Party: Planning and Agenda 21” piece, I figured only a handful of folks would connect with the subject matter. Instead, it’s logged thousands of readers and led citizens and officials from around the country to contact Nathan directly for further guidance.

Commerce in a New Era. Money hasn’t totally disappeared, so how do we make the most of what we’ve got? That’s clearly occupied our readers’ minds, as reflected in their amped up appreciation for Hazel Borys’ “Retail: When it bends the rules and breaks the law” and Geoff Dyer’s “Designing Urban Retail Centers: Lessons from the Mall and Beyond.”

Resilience and Sustainability. When we posted “Building a Custom, Multi-Century House for Under $80 a Square Foot,” it garnered immediate and overwhelming interest, sparking conversations in forums all over the internet and accumulating over 5,000 reads in a matter of days. And raising that focus from the individual house to the level of community, there was “Resiliency: It’s who ya know,” which examined the intricate web of local interdependencies that, historically, have carried us through the tough times.

Parenting. Finally, there’s this timeless subject which takes on new challenges when settlement patterns begin to shift. My two part series — “Smart Growth = Smart Parenting” and “Smart Growth = Smart Parenting, Part 2” — examined parenting at both the level of the neighborhood and the level of the house and garnered interest from web-wide child-rearing circles more often concerned with topics well outside the growth and development niche.

So there you go. Like I said, not all that great a surprise. People want to see how the new economy is shaping up and where the new opportunities will lie. They want to make a decent living, do right by their families, tread a little lighter on the earth, and live to fight another day.

Fair enough, so we’ll stick with it. As before, we’ve enjoyed being a part of the conversation and hope the perspectives shared here on Placeshakers have been of some small value to you and your own efforts.

Keep the faith. Keep connecting. Keep fighting. And thanks for dropping by.

–Scott Doyon

If PlaceShakers is our soapbox, our Facebook page is where we step down, grab a drink and enjoy a little conversation. Looking for a heads-up on the latest community-building news and perspective from around the web? Click through and “Like” us and we’ll keep you in the loop.

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