Building the Buzz at Brownstoner
Over the past few years, we've often heard the term "disruptive" used to describe the impact of blogging. More so than any other medium in the last century, blogging has enabled people to quickly and easily distribute information to a wide audience, often with dramatic results.
Nowhere is the term "disruptive" more apt than when describing Brownstoner, a blog that chronicles the real estate market in Brooklyn. When Jonathan Butler launched Brownstoner in the fall of 2004, he turned a keen eye to his new neighborhood and the changes and trends that were occurring on his doorstep.
As it turned out, his timing was impeccable: Brooklyn was poised on the edge of a sea change, as new buyers rushed in to grab bargains, and massive renovation and upheaval ensued. Jonathan's chronicles from "New Brooklyn" struck a nerve with longstanding residents, prospective buyers and speculators alike.
Jonathan chose Movable Type based on recommendations from established bloggers. "MT was the unanimous choice," he recalls. He engaged the design firm Apperceptive, now part of Six Apart, to create several customizations that would help the site stand out. One of the most useful additions was the integration of the Google Maps plugin, which allowed Jonathan to create a map-based archive of thousands of locationspecific posts.
Despite its sophistication, the site feels like a neighborhood get-together. A recent profile piece on the site in New York Magazine notes: "Brownstoner covers the whole borough...but it covers the whole borough as though it were one big block, where everyone has gathered to gossip on their stoops."
Today, Brownstoner is far more than simply a "real estate blog" - it is also home to an opinionated and vocal community made up of thousands of people with vastly differing opinions. The site receives several hundred comments per day, and the dialogue is a lively one.
The comment sections at the end of each post are an important aspect of the conversation, but Jonathan has done one better by creating a Forums area, where people can post topics and receive feedback from the community. From sharing the names of trusted contractors to selling items from marble sinks to wooden doors, the forums reinforce a sense of cooperation and shared interest amongst neighbors. As to his role in fostering such a dynamic community, Jonathan says: "I try to be as transparent and straightforward as possible. Readers can smell B.S. a mile away." Jonathan views his role more as editor than expert, and calls himself "a starter of conversations."
His authentic approach appears to have struck a chord; today, Brownstoner receives about 1.3 million views per month. Just last month, the Historic Districts Council awarded the site their Friend of the Media award for 2007.
As the New York Magazine Article noted: "Butler's become not only a fairly wellknown blogger... but also a kind of virtual developer, someone who doesn't literally rebuild neighborhoods but who has the power to shape the way those neighborhoods are perceived."
Here at Six Apart, we aren't surprised whatsoever that a blog can accomplish so much - but we certainly are proud.