diamond geezer

 Friday, March 27, 2015


I was going to blog today about how a ride on the cablecar now gets you 20% off your bill at the local Harvester restaurant (honest, it does), but thought better of it. You must be tired of hearing about the Dangleway by now, but then I said that earlier in the week.

Indeed it's been a week for apologies, and rightly so. Over the last seven days I've brought you reports from Birmingham, Hackney Downs, the rural outskirts of Hillingdon, the cablecar and 'my local bus stop'. It's not exactly a cavalcade of riches.

When most people read about London, they want to read about the central bit. That's where most of the big and popular stuff is, and the bit that most people live closest to. By contrast there's nothing much on the edge of the capital, relatively speaking, and once you head across the boundary, who cares?

Which got me wondering about where I blog about. Do I drone on about the periphery too much, or are my eyes fixed further within? Have I so run out of things to talk about in the centre of town that I'm now subjecting you to umpteen reports from the Home Counties instead? So I've done a survey.

I've counted back through the last 100 posts of mine with a specific geographical location to see where they were based. For classification purposes I've plumped for seven spatial areas, the first a 'local' zone for whenever I blather on about postcodes E3, E15 or E20. The next three I based on TfL ticketing zones, that's Central London (Z1), Inner London (Z2-3) and Outer London (Z4-6). I divided the rest of the UK into 'counties touching London' and 'everywhere else'. And I finished off with 'rest of Europe', for those rare occasions where I travel abroad. Results as follows.

of UK

And that wasn't as bad as I was expecting. A quarter of my posts are about Central London, extending to 60% posts being about Zones 1, 2 and 3. A quarter of my posts come to you from the outer suburbs, which actually make up the majority of the capital by area. And only 15% of posts are from beyond the London border - which is a relief, it sometimes feels much more.

Having decided this was quite interesting, I then wondered whether my geographical spread has altered over time. So I went back five years, and then ten years, and did the same thing again. I tallied up the 100 posts prior to 27th March with a specific geographical location, and these are the results I got.

of UK

So, yes, it seems that only around 10-15% of my posts are especially local, with the slight recent drop probably because the Olympics are over. I used to focus a lot more on Central London than I do now, with almost half of my posts ten years ago based in crowd-pleasing Zone 1. I'm definitely focusing on Outer London more than I used to, with the proportion of these posts increasing from a tenth to a quarter since 2005. But my postings from outside London haven't changed that much, still hovering in the region of 10-15%.

One big difference is in the frequency with which I post geographically-based posts. Back in 2004/5 it took me eight months to publish 100 posts about places. By 2009/10 that was down to seven months, and in 2014/5 it's only taken me four and a half. I used to blog a lot more about general stuff, like life and music and TV, but now I blog a lot more about places I've been. It's quite a significant shift in focus, all told, and may or may not be what you like to read.

Then finally I thought I'd analyse two of the most popular London blogs in a similar way. First of all that's Londonist, who fire out a dozen thoughtful London-based posts daily, and then Time Out's blog, the wonderfully titled Now Here This. I looked back at the last 100 posts on each blog that focused on a single location, and made a note of which TfL transport zone that location was in. Here are the results, zone by zone, with my scores along the bottom for comparison.

 Z1  Z2  Z3  Z4  Z5  Z6 Z7+
Time Out553570021
This blog222117761215

I should say straight off that I omitted a lot of summary/compilation/list-type posts, in which several London locations were mentioned, and that a number of these ticked off locations further out towards the suburbs. But the overall pattern revealed is a relentless focus on what's going on in the centre of town and immediately round about, and not much else.

Almost three-quarters of Londonist's single-location posts are about somewhere in Zone 1, very often a show to see, a museum to visit or food to eat. I couldn't find a single post in the last three weeks that focused on a location in zones 4, 5 or 6 (the closest hit being a literary festival in Hendon). Time Out had a more equitable split between zones 1 and 2, generally because no East London pop-up seems to go unreported. But again the outer London suburbs barely merited a mention, the only features in the last month being a cereal cafe in Kingston and the woodpecker-riding weasel in Hornchurch.

It's Greater London's 50th birthday next week, so it'd be nice to think that media purporting to be about London would more frequently remember that the outskirts exist. But then how many people are genuinely interested in Enfield, Croydon or Hounslow, not when there are hipsters serving cupcakes and craft beer from a kiosk in Shoreditch. There's a good reason why house prices are highest in the centre of town, and that's because it's the cool, hip, buzzing and better-connected nucleus of our capital.

In the meantime I shall continue to report on footpaths in Harefield, buses in Stratford and riverbanks in West Wickham. Sorry.

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