52 Suburbs: From blog to book to world tour

There are a few very talented photographers whose work I particularly admire, some of whom are quite active online. Along with their quite large number of followers, I’ve come to know their work through their blogs, as they regularly post beautiful pictures that please the eye, tell a story and draw me into another, better looking, world. One of these photographers, Louise Hawson, started small with a personal project to explore Sydney more widely; to visit 52 lesser known suburbs and document each visit on her blog.

The ’52 suburbs’ blog, book and world tour blog are a great demonstration of web 2.0 applications provide a lightweight model for starting up and cost effective scalability for growth. Initially started on google’s blogger platform, this involved no IT cost to startup and provided a forum for the weekly posts. Over the twelve months of the project Louise Hawson built up an audience, reaching an inflection point where the blog started to receive attention from mainstream press. She has since published a book based on the blog, raised funding from her followers through kickstarter to enable her to travel the world for her new project. These funds are taking her to 52 suburbs around the world, and is documented on a a website built with more technical expertise from a sponsor agency. Through each step we can see the brand presence and audience reach able to scale with the demand through the features of web 2.0 applications.

Image by Louise Hawson, 52 Suburbs, Paris

If I may take liberties with Ms Hawson’s personal brand I’d like to suggest some ways that would extend the application of this web 2.0 pattern that was described as a programming model by O’Reilly in 2007, but I’m choosing to apply to this programmer free example.

’52 Suburbs’ could apply the practice of a syndicated business model through providing a framework for aspiring amateur travel photographers to display their talents using a similar structure and a social network that links their projects. The pricing for this service could align to web 2.0 patterns of being free for users who may generate (or just view) the content. If ’52 Suburbs’ could agreggate the generated content with a ranking system there would be a body of high-quality images that document places around the world. These images could be made available for use by tourism boards or travel agencies for a low subscription fee. I image this revenue model would be more attractive than advertisements on each site that may take away from the brand that’s been built up around style and visual appeal. Of course such a framework and aggregation would need to built to scale to the immense demand I have in mind for ’52 Suburbs’: it would allow self-service by the users and subscribers to enable the service to scale without needing commensurate investment in IT or people.

She could scale her revenue and pricing models through a low price offering described above, and a higher price offering that links ’52 Suburbs’ to a high-value service such as commercial photography for magazines, airlines or travel agencies.

Image by Louise Hawson, 52 Suburbs, Hong Kong

There are many examples of individual brands growing through the low-cost startup technology, such as blogs, that are available on the web. While there are many blogs there are a few that have grown virally from a personal side-project into a revenue generating business. ’52 Suburbs’ has brought a unique idea with personal talent to build into a self-funding project, I wonder where it will go next.

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8 thoughts on “52 Suburbs: From blog to book to world tour

  1. That was a really great example of the lightweight models pattern, thanks for sharing. It’s good to see that the Internet enables individuals to get funding to their creative projects in such novel ways. I liked your ideas too on the possible future improvents to her business model. Excellent photography, by the way; I perused the photographer’s website for quite a while after reading your article.

  2. It’s a great idea from Louise to able to document her travels and have her travels funded. This is one of those feel good stories that you can still pursue your own passion and enjoy what you’ll do and still get paid for it. Hopefully one day the blog grows mainstream and reinvent self to just more than a blog about visiting lesser known suburbs. Who knows? but i can see the blog having a lot of potential for the future.

  3. Louise Hawson has really inspired me to consider developing a photography blog now as its a brilliant way to attract followers, at a low entry cost option, and then seeing the audience grow towards the inflection point (hopefully) where the mainstream press becomes involved.
    I will consider what I can do to bring my name forward into the amateur world of photography, because, this blog has made me think beyond just Facebook now. Blogs are more descriptive ways of understanding a location you have filmed, Facebook is just a personal friends expreience on the location, and Twitter is like a way to say I was there.

    And, I can easily see the scalability of her operations expanding over time as well. I agree with a revenue model for high quality images chosen by users being used in travel agencies to promote Australia from another angle using web 2.0 appplications. Being able to positively promote Australia from a low cost stand point would benefit many local tourist destinations that people might not necessarily know. I’ve experienced that missed out opportunity where you go to a location, thinking something nice is there, but not being able to find it because no ones documented it with photographs or Video footage.

    Well, all we know is, “Adventure is out there!” – UP

    • You’ve got some amazing photos on your uni blog, it’d be great to be able follow more of your work Andrew. Like you, I find Louise’s journey inspiring. She’s got the talent and put in the hard work and now she’s doing something we all dream of. Thanks for the comment!

  4. That is a great example about the lightweight models pattern. I used to search for information from the Internet, there will be plenty information being provided by bloggers. I think that is the best way for others who want to find some real and useful information, and also those bloggers can share their experience with others, that is a great way to build personal brand.

    • It’s true isn’t it, this goes back to the very heart of the web 2.0 patterns described by O’Reilly, blogs creating content and building collective intelligence.

  5. Amanda,
    Thanks for sharing Louise Hawson’s work. It’s a reminder to me to not overlook the small victories that people can achieve with web 2.0. These social platforms empower artists to get known and make enough money to sustain themselves. Your ideas for ’52 Suburbs’ explore the pattern well enough. We really could use more attractive advertising on the web. Most ads online are absolute garbage, but I’d happily click on ads that support adventurous artists.

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