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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