In this last week of 2022, I’m taking time to reflect and figure out where things stand with BikePortland (and to finally clear my inbox, so if you get a months-old message from me, that’s why). I’ll start with reflections and an update on the business, and then share a more newsy, year-in-review-type post separately.
It’s hard for me to comprehend that we are about to embark on our 18th year in business. I was 30 years old when I started doing this work and now I’m close to 50. My oldest daughter was just two when BikePortland launched, and now she’s in her second year of college! I think about these timeframes a lot. They fill me with ambivalence and a sense of urgency.
Like every year, 2022 was a roller coaster as we pedaled the ups-and-downs that come with running a local news business that’s closely hitched to the community it covers. Taylor Griggs, Lisa Caballero, and I learned invaluable lessons about how best to host a productive daily conversation among friends and strangers in an ideologically divided community while covering sensitive topics. It takes a tremendous amount of care to balance our roles as objective reporters, community moderators, passionate activists, and personal acquaintances/friends to many of the sources we regularly call on — and that work seems to get more fraught with each passing year.
Personally, I feel like I’ve slowed down in some areas, and sped up in others. After a chronic knee issue flared up just over two years ago, I’ve all but abandoned the extremely time-consuming riding and racing habit I had for many years. That tectonic lifestyle shift gave me more time to focus on other things (it’s freeing to not care about being in top shape and riding every day). And while I don’t cover the community with the same amount of energy I had in our first decade, I bring a different type of energy to the job these days. When it comes to creating stories and content, I feel like I’m using a scalpel now, instead of a machete — if that makes any sense. My bullshit filter is finely honed and my hunches and nose for news have more years of experience behind them. While that gives me confidence, my challenge is to stay creative, keep a fresh perspective, and stay connected to our evolving and always-younger community so BikePortland can produce information people want and need.
While I like to say, “We focus on what’s vital, not viral,” we also can’t be boring or no one will pay attention.
Speaking of paying attention, BikePortland is as strong as ever reach and impact-wise. We had roughly 1.7 million visitors to our site in the past year and we reached an estimated 14.4 million on social media. We currently have around 60,000 followers across five social media platforms including TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Not bad for a little “bike blog” (laughing emoji).
Here’s how our production ended up (keep in mind I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity — especially when it comes to content):
- 937 Front Page posts
- 30,500 site comments (estimated, doesn’t include social media comments)
- 15 podcast episodes
- 83 social media videos
- 47 YouTube videos
I’m still in the process of testing out different platforms and types of content and I suspect that will continue into the coming year. While I believe we must meet people where they are, we have a limited capacity to create content that meets my expectations, so we might pull back from some platforms and invest more in others. (I’m also increasingly wary of supporting platforms run by governments or people who don’t share basic democratic values.)
And as our recent server attack illustrated, we are still working to update our backend code and processes to handle this beastly site. WordPress-powered sites are known to be hogs on server resources, and one with 26,000 posts and 520,000 comments even more so. In 2023 you’ll see more big changes to our home page design, but the changes you won’t see (like database and server upgrades) will likely make the largest impact to your reading.
All this is to say that 2023 will be the most important year in BikePortland’s history. We will need to adapt and change more than ever before in order to meet our revenue and creative goals. It won’t be easy and we will need your financial support to do it. But it will be so worth it! With your help, we’ve created something very special: Our very own bike-centric news source that often gets the same respect as other, larger and less niche-oriented, local news outlets.
BikePortland is of, by, and for the community. It’s “citizen journalism” in its purest form. We are accountable only to you, we are here to amplify your voices, and you are the ones who can decide what our future holds.
Thanks to every one of our 417 paid subscribers, our dedicated advertisers, and generous financial supporters for another year. We can’t wait to get started on the next one.