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Torontoist to Close

NotesOne of the little games I play with Google involves search results for toronto blog. I'm in the top three, but I have my hands full with a couple of multiple authored professional blogs. One of those blogs is Torontoist, owned by Gothamist. Gothamist has decided to close Torontoist on January 1, 2009 and concentrate on their more lucrative American sites.

When a local blog relies on money to stay online, closing up shop is always possible during recessionary times. Apparently, it's not just newspapers that are hurting. All forms of media are hurting as advertising money dries up.

I'm sorry to see Torontoist go. We need more local blogs, not less. I enjoyed the organic search competition and referenced the site at least seven times over the years.

I kept my day job, so Toronto Mike will stay online through 2009. Farewell, Torontoist...

torontoblog

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Steve Martin Visits Toronto in 1974

CN TowerAs found on Torontoist, which is magically still online despite their threats to unplug the site on December 31, this clip is from Steve Martin's 1974 televisoin special "The Funnier Side of Eastern Canada".

I always thought Steve Martin should have been Canadian. He was recently throwing zingers our way once again as Gavin Volure on 30 Rock. But it all started back in 1974...

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TTC Swag Suggestions

ttcArtur wants me to mention the TTC swag suggestions made by Torontoist. I've checked it out and it's no doubt hipper stuff than what the TTC sells. I've been complaining about the TTC marketing effort for a while now. It's sadly out of touch.

A tee shirt with the "Mind the Gap" graphic or "Please Move Back..." would be very cool. Instead we just get "Ride the Rocket". I'm getting tired of beating a dead horse. This time, it's Artur's fault.

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Who Gets Paid What?

moneyTorontoist, a Toronto blog that is closing up shop at the end of the year, is owned and operated by Gothamist LLC. From the Gothamist LLC "about us" page:

Gothamist LLC owns and operates the most popular network of city blogs on the Internet today. Founded in 2003 and led by our NYC flagship site Gothamist.com , the network has includes thirteen websites in four countries, each covering local news, events, food, and entertainment for an avid audience of young urbanites. Driven entirely by word-of-mouth, the network has grown year-over-year by more than 100%, to 11.2MM monthly page views in November, 2008.

If there was money in Torontoist, it wouldn't be shutting down. Torontoist is, and always has been, about making money, and there's nothing wrong with that. I recently broke down local blogs, differentiating between what I call "one-man-shows" and "commercial enterprises". That prompted an email from my very own Deep Throat, whose identity I shall protect while I quote him word for word.

as for my guess on who gets paid what:
I think Torontoist moved its core contributors up from $4/post to $10 (but the less frequent still get less)
BlogTO seems to be financed by what became a side business with the printed city maps--I'm imagining something as simple as going to the advertisers they wrote nice things about on the site and asking them to buy an advert
Spacing is obviously not being run without money coming in, if not a whole lot

I should point out that Deep Throat is someone who would likely know or have an educated guess on such matters. A member of the mainstream media and local blogosphere, his perspective is unique and appreciated.

Does anyone else know who's getting paid wait in the ever-commercialized blog landscape?

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Timelapse Video of Toronto's City Workers' Strike

videoI found a great timelapse video of our city workers' strike on Torontoist.

On the second full day of the city workers' strike—June 23—Torontoist photographer Christopher Drost set up a camera rig in a window at the corner of Runnymede and Annette streets. Set to shoot one photo every ten minutes (and one every two minutes once the deals to end the strike were in place), the camera looked out towards the street and over two waste bins, one on the south and one on the north side of the street, snapping shots all day and all night for the whole rest of the strike.

I didn't know this camera was there, but I know I walked right by it a few times during the strike. Speaking of the strike, after slo-pitch tonight I'll be putting my extra large bin and several garbage bags full of recycling to the curb. I was ready to go another month or two, but it's still nice to actually have some of these services we pay for.

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A New TTC.ca?

TTCLast spring I wrote a little love letter to the TTC. Although I was gushing at the time, I gave the TTC some much deserved lumps with regards to their website.

Finally, if you want to see how out of touch TTC marketing is in this new age of viral communique, one needs to look no further than their official web site. It's one of the worst commercial sites I've ever come across and a complete embarrassment. If you're interested in a challenge, try and learn from ttc.ca what a single adult fare would cost you today. Good luck! The official TTC site looks especially horrible when compared to Transit Toronto, a fan site that's vastly superior to the TTC sanctioned site.

TTC.ca is unusable. It was horrible then and it's horrible now. Both Torontoist and BlogTO have entries this afternoon about how Adam Giambrone is interested in hearing how local bloggers would improve the TTC's site. As the new Commissioner of the Toronto Transit Commission, he might just be able to give us TTC riders what we deserve... a new TTC.ca that works.

This makes so much sense I can't believe it's actually happening.

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2,155 Sources of Traffic, Here are the Top 10

hyperlinkThere were 2,155 sources of traffic to this site in 2009. #1 was Google and #2 was Yahoo. That's search engine traffic, and important, but this entry isn't about search engine traffic. It's about other sites that sent visitors over here throughout the year.

Excluding Google, Yahoo and Bing, here are the top ten sources of traffic to TorontoMike.com.

  1. StumbleUpon.com
  2. Twitter.com
  3. CanadianThinker.com
  4. EyeWeekly.com
  5. Facebook.com
  6. Torontoist.com
  7. CityNews.ca
  8. BlogTO.com
  9. PensionPlanPuppets.com
  10. HumbleHoward.com

Inbound links are always appreciated, and whenever possible reciprocated.

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Best Toronto Blogs

cntowerLet's take the pulse of Toronto's blogosphere. I'm breaking blogs into three categories: best independent blog, best professional/media blog and best Toronto Mike blog. That last one is a little biased, so we'll start with it.

Here are five blogs I'd like to recognize because they're run by frequent commenters on this blog, torontomike.com, or by friends of yours truly.

Here are five blogs that I believe to be one-man-shows. They're independent and written and maintained by a single person, just like this blog you're reading right now.

Here are five blogs I read, even though the writers are paid by large media empires (or small independent organizations) to write 'em.

I've always felt this city was under served by the blogosphere. We deserve better blogs. Please start the next great Toronto blog.

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False Advertising

Thumbs DownWrigley's Extra is gum that lies. You've likely seen posters around town with their new promotion "You Could Win With Pat Quinn". The city is abuzz with anger over this blatantly false advertising campaign.

Their grand prize is "a Pat Quinn coaching clinic for your hockey team in your home town". Isn't that like Billy Joel giving driving lessons or Tammy Faye Bakker demonstrating the fine art of applying makeup?

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Remember Meryn Cadell?

musicBack in 1991, Meryn Cadell released an album called Angel Food For Thought. An unlikely hit single came from that album and the video for "The Sweater" aired regularly on MuchMusic. It's not your typical hit, it's a monologue over top a beat, but it worked.

I haven't thought about Meryn Cadell since those days of "The Sweater", but I just read an interview with him. That's not a typo. Meryn Cadell publicly came out as transgendered and now lives comfortably as a man.

Here's that video for "The Sweater".

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Mondoville: A New Blog From Marc Weisblott

HyperlinkI've always felt Toronto, as a city, has been underserved by the blogosphere. I've always felt something was missing... something more personal than a Torontoist or BlogTO, something that's clever and insightful and funny. We have one or two such blogs, but a city this size deserves far more.

Marc Weisblott, a name you might know from various publications, including a recent run at Eye Weekly, used to have a pretty good blog entitled Better Living Centre. It's been a couple of years since then, and this week he started a new blog he calls Mondoville.

It's early, but so far, so good. There's an interesting perspective on the TIFF, Anvil and a write up about Michael Bryant and his new career as a compulsive oversharer.

If you, like me, are looking for an interesting new Toronto blog, check out Mondoville.

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An Open Letter To Toronto Bloggers

Toronto SkylineI frequent a number of blogs on a regular basis. A frequently updated and interesting blog beats a mainstream media site every day of the week. This weekend, I decided I would write an entry about the top ten blogs in Toronto.

I first referenced my bookmarks, identifying those written by a Torontonian actually living in Toronto. I then asked other blog readers as to which Toronto blogs were their favourites, and I checked those out. I quickly came to realize the sad truth. Toronto has few great blogs.

This is a huge city and home to great communicators, numerous intelligent and educated people as well as many creative artistic types. Throw in our diversity and the e-savvy nature of our citizens and we should have the ideal breeding ground for tremendous blogs. Where's the commitment? Where's the interest? Where's the passion?

This is an open letter to Toronto bloggers. Lets put this city on the blogging map. Lets do something here, something special, something groundbreaking. The best city in the world should not accept mediocrity in any form.

Instead of the ten best blogs in Toronto, here are ten Toronto blogs I check out now and then, in alphabetical order.

BlogTO - interesting and fun local blog that's updated frequently. Sweet.

daily dose of imagery - If you love photography and Toronto, this is your utopia. It's a photoblog, and the author posts one picture a day.

Eye Weekly Blog - I've always loved the paper and the blog ain't bad either.

torontomike.com - This blog really speaks to me.

photojunkie - Another decent site for the Toronto photographer.

Raymi the Minx - I'm quite conflicted when it comes to Raymi. I like the "I just don't care" quality, but I often wonder how much of that is contrived. I check in now and then, but it's sort of like peering at a car crash. You know you shouldn't, but you do anyways. I should also point out that Raymi gets naked...a lot. Would a fully dressed Raymi be as popular? Not a chance. Clearly, I should devote an entire entry to Raymi, there is much I have to say. If you want more, check out my interview with Raymi.

The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century - The Accordian Guy might be the anti-Raymi. Luckily for us, he never gets naked. There are frequent interesting posts, many with a Toronto flavour.

Torontoist - Like BlogTO, this is an interesting and fun local blog that's updated frequently. In a nutshell, this is all I'm asking for.

Wholesome Goodness - I stumbled upon this blog one day while checking out the website of my alma mater U of T. It's just a regular blog by a regular guy, one of thousands, but there's solid effort, a little passion and frequent updates. I'll pop in and see what he's linking to, just to make sure I'm not missing anything cool.

Zoilus - Carl Wilson writes about music for the Globe and Mail and he maintains this blog. As a huge fan of music and pop culture, I read it daily.

If I missed an awesome Toronto blog, let me know. I love this damn city and I just want our bloggers to effectively reflect the awe I observe daily walking these streets. Ladies and gentlemen, punch the keys!

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Toronto Blog Google Ranking - Help, Please

toronto blog rankingIt's no secret I'd like to rank #1 in Google when people search 'toronto blog'. That became my goal back in 2002 and that remains my goal. This #1 ranking has become my white whale, so close yet so far.

Here's what I see today when I Google 'toronto blog'.

tob

69,800,000 results and I'm #3. I've been toggling between #2 and #3 the past five years, but I've never hit #1.

In my way are two "hyperlocal blogs". I borrow that term from a great article about citizen journalism I posted a couple of years ago. Blog.to and Torontoist are fine sites, but they have many authors and, for all intents and purposes, are commercial sites. It's been an uphill battle for this independent solo act to supplant them at the top of the Google heap.

So I'm asking for your help. Many of you have blogs of your own, or publish on other sites. Help me rank #1 for 'toronto blog' in Google by linking to this site with the anchor text "Toronto blog". Here's the code for you to copy and paste:

<a href="http://www.torontomike.com">Toronto blog</a>

If you're so kind as to do me this favour, let me know in the comments with a link to the web page with the link and I'll happily update this entry with a reciprocal link and great appreciation.

Help me kill the white whale.

moby-dick

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Obay, From the Makers of BecauseISaidSo

cntowerI rarely write about ad campaigns but this Obay marketing effort has me intrigued. Ads have popped up all over Toronto promoting an obviously fictional drug called Obay. They're everywhere and I have no idea what they're for.

One ad shows a father and son with the caption "My son had ideas of his own. Obay put a stop to that". Another reads "My son used to have his own hopes and aspirations. Now he has mine. Thanks, Obay!" A third features a mother and daughter and reads "When Amy started thinking for herself, we had to nip it in the bud with Obay".

Some suggest it might be a campaign for Ontario colleges. Others thought it might be for Scientology. I like the colleges angle, as it would be a great campaign for institutes of higher learning, but I also think it could be a psa reminding parents it's okay to encourage independent thought.

It's like the "Lisa the Vegetarian" episode of The Simpsons when Lisa objects to dissecting a frog and then asks Lunchlady Doris when she lost her passion.

Skinner: Oh oh. Two independent thought alarms in one day. The students are overstimulated. Willie! Remove all the coloured chalk from the classrooms.
Willie: I warned ya! Didn't I warn ya?! That coloured chalk was forged by Lucifer himself!

P2216961 P2216963

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Citizen Journalism Gaining Steam: An Article About Me

newsRemember when I wrote about being interviewed by The Canadian Press last week? The article about me is out there. So far I've seen it in the Winnipeg Free Press and Metro News.

Here's the article in its entirety. I'll share some thoughts at the end.

headline

TORONTO - It took Mike Boon a few years of blogging until he finally beat the mainstream media to a story, an especially big accomplishment considering he lives in Toronto, with its hyper-competitive media market and four newspapers fighting for scoops.

And it wasn't just one lucky break, as he's had another two exclusives this year after carving out a niche for himself reporting on the comings and goings in Toronto radio, a subject he turned his attention to after finding little coverage in the daily papers.

After years of hype, online citizen journalism is starting to have a real impact on the mass media and is drawing readers who aren't getting all the news they want from the mainstream press, said Alfred Hermida, assistant professor with the University of British Columbia's journalism school.

"People are looking for news that's relevant to them . . . and perhaps that's not something that a mainstream publication will publish because it might be too narrow, too niche," Hermida said.

"But if you have, essentially, more media, there's the ability for more stories to be reported."

Canadians have been active in the citizen journalism field, launching sites like Orato.com, Digitaljournal.com and Nowpublic.com, which was acquired by the American site Examiner.com in September.

So-called hyperlocal blogs add to the mix and well-established sites, such as Torontoist.com and Blogto.com, have enough clout to see their content syndicated by the Globe and Mail and National Post, respectively.

NowPublic co-founder Len Brody said his site was launched a few years ago after recognizing the media was facing a challenging future and wouldn't be able to cover everything.

"You now have millions of people around the world that are out recording everything they see and we realized there was going to be a big market opportunity for the next generation (wire service), an organization that would have the ability to help news companies and media companies make sense of this rapid-fire news economy we were going to live in," Brody said.

Examiner.com has entered the Canadian market with local content for Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver but they're not setting out to compete directly with mainstream media, said Brody. Instead, they're hoping to empower local users to create content for their peers.

"Our focus was really on having people in their communities speaking to one another . . . it's about having people who are passionate about any particular subject in their locality writing on it."

In Boon's case, his early postings at Torontomike.com covered his love for "The Dukes of Hazzard" and The Tragically Hip. Over time, posts about local radio piled up and Google began to recognize his site as a main source of that content.

His first big story came in 2006 and involved the firing of local DJ Humble Howard. His web traffic logs suggested users were bombarding his site after searching for information about his on-air absence, which at that point hadn't hit the mainstream.

Boon noticed Howard's name had been scrubbed from the radio station's website and figured he'd write something about it, since there was an obvious appetite for that type of news.

"I had thousands and thousands and thousands of people trying to find out about his radio career, that was the first time I noticed there were suddenly people . . . reading what I have to say."

A couple days later the mainstream media caught up to the story, with Humble Howard - whose real name is Howard Glassman - confirming he was let go.

A little more than a week later, Glassman posted a message on the comments section of Boon's blog and readers continued to talk about that story for another two months. A story the mainstream media initially didn't care about had a lot of legs for Boon and Toronto readers.

Boon's biggest coup came this summer, when he was the first to report on the suicide of local DJ Martin Streek, based on a tip from one of his readers. At least one newspaper quoted his blog as a source and, while he was confident that what he was posting was true, Boon now says he's conflicted about his role as a news provider.

"It frightens me when people sort of take me as a definitive news source, I just think it's dangerous and I'll be the first to admit that," he said.

"Having the audience is very powerful and totally awesome at times but there are times where it is completely scary because, suddenly, people are actually listening to you and a lot of people start to confuse you with CNN or the The Canadian Press."

The questionable credibility of citizen journalism has been one of its biggest criticisms but online readers will quickly decide which sites are reliable and worth reading and which aren't, Hermida said.

"If you don't find a site useful you're never going to go to it again, so the credibility comes from the content rather than the credibility of the brand, and that's not necessarily a bad thing," he said.

"(Readers will question) is the content there valuable to me, does it help me live my life, does it tell me something I didn't know, because essentially, online you can switch at a click of a mouse."

Brody said it's an exciting time for citizen journalism, which is finally building steam and yet is still at an embryonic stage.

"We're really at the beginning of a journey, we're kind of in the 2nd inning of a nine inning game and I would argue we didn't even step onto the ball field until seven or eight months ago," he said.

I've had a few of these interviews lately with the mainstream media, and they're tougher than you'd think. They get you talking, sharing stories and opinions on the subject at hand, and then they take your 60-minute convo and boil it down to 1000 words and a couple of quotes.

For example, regarding my Humble Howard, Are You Okay? entry from 2006, I wrote that after several visitors arrived after searching "humble howard fired" and keywords of that nature. I wrote about it because I was a fan of the Humble and Fred morning show and I sincerely wanted to know if he was okay, because where there's smoke, there's often fire. I didn't write about it because "there was an obvious appetite for that type of news", even though there was.

And I assure everyone, I handled the Martin Streek topic with great sensitivity. Reading that part of the article, especially the reference to my "biggest coup", makes me look a bit like an ass. I wasn't an ass, I promise.

Looking back, it's tough for me to even read Martin Streek Dead. That's not a story I ever wanted to break.

But all in all, it's a pretty fair article and I think the point is valid. Citizen journalism is gaining steam, but everyone needs to check their sources when reading news. I'm not the Globe and Mail or BBC, but I have been blogging for 7 years and 10,000 entries, and over time you do earn trust and integrity. You can't buy cred, you have to put in the time and prove yourself worthy.

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