The ghosts of London Blogs past

dgivllrfi - The ghosts of London Blogs past

This, my first feature of 2019, takes a look at the past. Yes that of those friendly London blogs right at the very top of the net ratings! We all know of these, Londonist, London Reconnections, Ian Visits, and Diamond Geezer and what they are about. These sites have no doubt had an enormous impact on the world of London blogging and I am sure most of us have had recourse to refer to any one of these sites quite a few times in our lives.

I’ve tried to represent a cross section of main London blogs – Londonist for covering everything possible that can be written about London and managed by numerous staff/contributors. London Reconnections for everything on that very popular subject – transport, mostly in London, – and again written by various contributors with a small volunteer management team. Ian Visits, a very informative blog on everything to do with London and managed by one person. And of course Diamond Geezer, a blog that covers everything all these other blogs do, plus everything else in between – and undoubtedly the best one man show out there!

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I know there’s far more blogs than these I am featuring, however it would take a book to describe them all! Priorities!

Okay. What did their sites look like in those early days? And how much has changed since these influential blogs first made their way onto the Internet scene? Let’s take a look at the biggest of the four and doubtless a major revenue earning site.

Londonist is actually one of a group of city based blogs, all ending with ‘ist.’ The original, Gothamist, is about the Big Apple and its offspring are to do with Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai, Toronto, and Washington. So Londonist is in with these other big guys!

gothamist - The ghosts of London Blogs past

Gothamist – the daddy of all the ‘…ist’ websites and the creators of Londonist.

What about Londonist’s ghosts of the past? I don’t mean real ghosts but those that exist digitally. In the beginning there was a Londonist domain but no Londonist. Confused?

One main problem with the Londonist archives is the Internet Archive has practically recorded almost every single day of the domain since 9th November 2004 – that’s well over five thousand days of copying the Londonist website! It does take a little bit of work to look at the different pages and see how it all came together!

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The Big Smoker – 2003.

Londonist was originally started as a short lived venture called the Big Smoker. Apparently its first editors decided to team up with Gothamist. The Big Smoker ceased publication however its by now static pages apparently redirected people to the new Londonist.

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The Londonist holding page recorded March 2004.

The domain for Londonist was bought in January 2004 according to ‘whois.’ The domain was first recorded by the Internet Archive in March 2004, essentially a holding page for much of that year while the staff of the Big Smoker put their new act together.

Londonist was of course established as part of the wider Gothamist label. Ironically when the first ever Londonist page went live in October 2004 it came with a Sfist (San Francisco) logo!

londonist26102004 - The ghosts of London Blogs past

The very first Londonist page archived was ‘Dave’s Big Night Out’ on 26th October 2004. Note the sfist header!

I’m quite curious about the first logo used on Londonist. The word looks a bit something like, erm fisting. Noooo don’t go there! Let’s keep this totally clean shall we? Actually it was the header used for their sister website San Franscico-ist (SFist if you prefer) at that time Londonist had not decided upon an image for its new site so it was simply using the one intended for SFist. Explains the fisting confusion!

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Still with a sfist header in November 2004…

The Guardian has this page that informs readers Londonist was launched on 8th November 2004. Perhaps it was on that day however it was live several weeks before!

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November 15th 2004 page with both Gothamist and Londonist headers.

They said it was in ‘beta’ so assumingly things like the Gothamist header shouldn’t be taken seriously. I do notice that some pages render a Londonist header whilst others render a Gothamist header. Those right at the beginning however render the Gothamist header for two weeks. Then its a page with both Gothamist and Londonist until March 22nd 2005 when it becomes a Londonist/Laist header Confusing!

Finally on 7th April 2005 the other headers (sfist and laist) are jettisoned and it becomes purely a Londonist webpage. The site is in beta and probably not many people are looking at the site in those early days so its perhaps not too important whatever header was being shown at the time. But let’s not forget the Guardian tells us Londonist was launched on 8/11/2004!

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The first ever page featuring the Londonist editors and their explanation about the site being in beta. 21st December 2004.

Their explanation: “You are reading the beta test site of Londonist: a website about London. Please bear with us as we iron out the fiddly bits and please email us if you have comments or suggestions.”

I think Londonist must have been in beta for quite a while as some of the archived pages seem a bit wonky (it could well be how the Internet Archive garnered the pages together…) It did get much better after a decision was made go from Moveable Type to WordPress.

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Londonist’s pages got a bit wonky at times! This example is from November 2005.

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A somewhat new look for Londonist 28 December 2008.

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November 2010. Londonist decides on a switch from Moveable Type to WordPress.

Upon switching from Moveable Type the website’s editors said they would be able to do so much more with now it was running WordPress, and this shows. The site improved greatly in terms of styling and appearance. There was ultimately one very important addition to the new site. Advertising. This was the very point at which Londonist had decided to become a viable business proposition.

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The new WordPress look in November 2010.

The website stayed basically the same throughout 2010 to 2013 with just some subtle changes. By 2013 however the Londonist as we know it now made its first innings… thus to 2013 it had been main black font and graphics before it was changed to blue and the layout altered radically. The first of those pages was published in July 2013.

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Londonist’s brand new look July 2013.

What of one of Londonists’ most well known contributors, Geoff Marshall? Most of you will know him as the Geoff Tech/All the Stations guy! It seems he joined the editorial team in 2013 when the switch was made to the new look. He is featured on the staff pages for probably the very first time in August 2013.

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Geoff’s first Londonist profile. (And basically the same nowadays!)

In 2015 Londonist (as we know it in 2018) had taken on practically all its forms. It also started to see itself as a business rather than just a pure volunteer blog.

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Londonist in blue, August 2015, and the styling almost the same as that used in 2018.

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The About page in August 2015.

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The contributors page 2015. Geoff’s in there somewhere! One name among the contributors that intrigued me was a James Drury. A modern day Virginian perhaps?

From 2015 to 2018 (oops its 2019 now is it? Well okay to 2019 then!) Londonist has retained the overall blue styling even though its considerably more elaborate these days. For a start there are far more adverts and click throughs than there were in 2015.

Londonist set up a new business portal in 2014 called Londonist Limited with the aim of managing the revenue side of the business completely separate from the management of the blog itself. Its not a generaly public side of the business however anyone can browse its pages at londonistltd.com

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The first ever Londonist Limited portal page from 2014.

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Londonist Ltd’s stats and pageviews graphs page – showing why people should advertise with it.

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Londonist December 31st 2018.

Londonist has quite a large team working on the site and indeed has its very own office based in London. These are at Shoreditch. This is the latest page on its offices. These are down one of the side streets in Shoreditch. (I wont say which but recognise the scene as used to work in the same road!)

Out of the four blogs discussed in these posts, Londonist is the only one with a real world base and this makes it totally unique among all the blogs whose speciality it is to cover London in every shape and form.

The latest Londonist page to be archived is 27th December 2018.

This post continues with a look at the ghosts of London Reconnections. After that its the turn of Ian Visits and Diamond Geezer.

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