Why Perth should blog

This is part of a talk I gave at the Blogging at the End of the Earth conference.

I want to talk more about how we can be improve our presence on the net. As a state we could institutionalise blogging and use that to increase our voice and our influence on the internet. This would translate to more voice and influence in the real world. And it doesn’t require big capital to do it. Blogging is mostly free software.

In Perth we still see ourselves as technology receivers because in the old days technology was physical and it only arrived here after the US market had been satisfied. However, in the area of social software and blogging and podcasting we can be as influential as any other geographic grouping. We could make blogging a promotional tactic for WA in the same way that the South Koreans have used computer gaming to help drive broadband penetration.

So how is blogging going to help us get our message out there? Last year there was a competition for SEOs search engine optimisers to see who could get the number one Google ranking and they created a level playing field by making up a phrase which had never appeared on Google – nigritude ultramarine. The winner of that was not someone who put up lots of gateway pages or did anything particularly tricky; it was a guy with a well read blog who got his readers to link the words “nigritude ultramarine” to his page. One page. And it re-inforced to me the importance that Google places on the number of incoming links.

If we in Perth were to have a lot of blogs we would have an exponential increase in the number of links and a positive effect on our Google rankings. [I note Warren Duff‘s comment that Google now discriminate against blogs in their rankings algorithm but I think this could be circumvented]. It would work best if we targeted certain areas. And what areas would they be?

The State Government’s industry policy identifies new industry areas in which it wants to “strengthen its identity and recognition factor in world markets” so lets talk about some of them.

Fashion industry, screen industry, electronic arts, contemporary music, tourism

Let’s start with fashion. When Chris Judd won the Brownlow medal his girlfriend was on the front of every newspaper in Australia and Ruth Tarvydas, the designer got sensational publicity. Nothing on the Internet about it. But think about what would have happened if every fashion student at Bentley had to maintain their visual diary as a blog on the net. There would have been heaps of discussion about that dress. What if every footballer had a blog? They would have blogged about it too and because bloggers link internationally, that story would have gone all around the world and Ruth Tarvydas, the designer and Rebecca Twigley would have picked up international profile, not just domestic.

The designer would also have picked up thousands of incoming links which would increase her Google ranking considerably.

So my suggestion here is that education institutions incorporate blogs as part of the course assessment and that these are uncensored. If you censor them they’ll be boring and the whole thing won’t work.

I also think that very modest prizes would generate a lot of content. If we make these prizes public and prestigious we would generate a disproportionate amount of content and the media attention that prizes solicit would increase the traffic to those sites. Most bloggers are young. $1000 is a lot of money when you’re young.

The second example I want to give of this strategy is tourism and I start with two weaknesses in our tourism marketing.

The WATC has a big static web site. Why would you ever come back to a web site like that; it’s got nothing new on it! Unlike blogs which always by definition have new content.

The WATC’s attitude to photos is to send a photographer around the state once every two years with a couple of amateur models. Here they are at Monkey Mia. Here they are at Wave Rock. Here they are at the Bell Tower.

We’re missing something. Why don’t we use the tourists to take the photos (because tourists come equipped with digital cameras now) and write stories about their photos – makes them much more engaging. Let’s give every tourist that arrives in WA a blog they can use and let’s give them a prize if theirs is the best post of the month. Who are they going to tell about their blog? The people back home – our next lot of tourists! Not only that but WA people will read some of these blogs and give them advice on what they can do here; e.g. “don’t go to the Pinnacles”.

All these blogs will contain references to places and activities that will be automatically indexed by Google.

But let’s take that further. We could create key words that we want to improve our rank on and make them into aggregate blogs or blogrolls. We can select blogs that include posts on beaches and aggregate them into a perthbeaches.org. We can encourage posting on twilightsailing.org. We could have a sundaysession.org. Hiking.org a longboringdriveacrossthenullabordessert.org

Sreen industries could blog projects in progress – much more interesting than a finished product because it’s a real story. Contemporary musicians should team up with electronic arts people and create alternate reality blogs to promote themselves. That way we are showcasing our electronic arts ability while actually promoting other industries. Again, a small amount of funding will generate a large visual impact. An impressive web site can give a business substantial credibility. This is very cheap international PR if you get it right.

It’s an axiom of marketing that you try to own a medium. What’s the point of competing with other locations in the TV market? We can’t afford to spend the sort of money necessary to make a splash in the US – a million dollars is not a TV campaign there it’s a couple of commercials. Now a million dollars spent on the internet; that’s a big spend. With the right strategy (and only with the right strategy) that will make a big difference.

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