New Canaan 2.0
Published 1:10 am, Thursday, February 18, 2010
"I've always been a talker," said the 24-year-old New Canaan-bred blogger, now a resident of Westport. "When blogs became a platform two years ago, I played around with the idea."
In 2008, Van Buren launched Kiss and Type, a fashion and beauty blog cast in the flavor of a Dear Diary entry.
"Kiss and Type is a play on `kiss and tell,' Van Buren said. "It's a metaphor for me experiencing something and wanting to share it with someone else."
From the hue of her weekly coat of nail polish to her bi-monthly payday clothing and accessory splurges, Van Buren shares down to the detail -- and she's developed an international audience that's all ears.
Kiss and Type attracts between 20,000 and 40,000 visitors each month, according to Van Buren. Its readers represent all 50 states and more than 150 different countries, she said.
Van Buren's voluminous following is no lucky strike. Kiss and Type's popularity is indicative of a trend of New Canaan bloggers who have cultivated loyal audiences for the noise of their daily routines, thoughts and discoveries. Whether blogging about housing market trends or, in Van Buren's case, discount Burberry trench coats, there is a band of locals whose online doings have made the must-read lists of scores of Internet surfers.
Van Buren said she posted periodically from Kiss and Type's launch until traffic began to pick up in 2009. Then she began to post on a daily basis.
"It got to the point where my readers started to demand the kind of content they wanted," she said.
Though flattered by Kiss and Type's success, Van Buren notes that having a few big-shot friends in the PR world helped boost her blog from unknown to online hotspot in a year.
Van Buren exercises her new-found digital voice by maintaining her ground in the online dialogue on fashion, products and beauty; branding herself and garnering slews of freebees and invites. In the last year, Van Buren was granted access to conferences, wine tastings and exclusive events at locales like the Vineyard Vines showroom on Nantucket.
Van Buren keeps a "swag bag" in her bedroom -- a tote full of free products she said she receives in the mail "all the time." Public relations agencies send her free products like laptop cases, DVDs, iPod speakers, beauty and hair care products and complimentary vouchers for dinner and drinks at various restaurants.
"I'm an avid dirty martini drinker," Van Buren said. "PR companies send me mixes with the hopes I will use the mix and blog about it."
Kiss and Type's popularity has brought Van Buren an array of perks, but there's one she says is stand-out. Van Buren recently secured a job offer at a New York City-based beauty editorial site expected to launch in March.
"I went into an interview and the woman basically knew that I was qualified for the job before she asked me any questions because she had read my blog," Van Buren said. "If you brand yourself personally, [the blog] is going to become your resume."
In the works is a blog re-launch of Kiss and Type. Van Buren said she wants to professionalize the blog's format and move out of Blogger, Kiss and Type's current host.
"I'm just really happy and flattered to have my voice carry some weight," Van Buren said. "I'm not an expert on anything; I'm just saying what every other 20-something girl is thinking. All I can do is share my experiences and it's great that people are listening and coming back. ... If I can monetize this and make this my life, I'll be the luckiest girl in the world as far as I'm concerned."
While Van Buren launched her penchant to confide in the masses into a go-to read for fashionistas, fellow blogger Will Symon has also achieved blogosphere success by doing nothing of the sort.
Symon's success is derived from his love of New Canaan coupled with his ability to write his beloved locale while maintaining an air of anonymity.
Though Blog New Canaan is written with personal touches -- during last week's big snowstorm, Symon and his sons packed a "monster-sized snowman"-- the blog is truly a tell-all of the town and not of the blogger who lives in the town.
Symon, who is in his 40s, began the hyper-local news blog two years ago. Blog New Canaan began as an experiment in blogging, social networking and Internet marketing, he said; it became a virtual coffee shop for conversation about town news and events.
Symon, who has called New Canaan home for the last six years, has a full-time job at an investment firm in New York City. Blog New Canaan is a part-time project that he describes as an "after-hours hobby."
"I get nothing out of it beyond the pleasure of helping others," Symon said. "The ad revenue from the blog might pay for a coffee once in a blue moon."
Blog New Canaan attracts an average of 30 visitors each day, Symon said. His readers are not surprisingly largely comprised of New Canaan residents, he said.
"Based on their comments and e-mails, the readers appreciate detailed information and advice about upcoming important events in town, versus overwhelming them with a multitude of tiny niche events," he said.
Symon said his most popular posts are about major town events such as Family Fourth or the Memorial Day Parade. Posts about events sponsored by local charities earn very few clicks, he said.
"My favorite blog posts involve polls because you get to see the real pulse of the town," Symon said. "Often I am surprised about how New Canaan residents feel about a certain event for issue."
In August 2008, Symon asked his readers to weigh in on the location of the New Canaan Farmers' Market near the town library. In his post, Symon said that he and his family love the market -- his wife visits weekly in summer to collect locally grown produce and pies from its outdoor stands. Symon wasn't interested in finding out whether or not the market is popular among residents -- he wanted to know if it had become "too popular."
In his blog post, Symon wrote: "The parking lot at the farmers' market is overflowing. People are parking on many of the side streets and weekend traffic is becoming very congested in this part of town. Moreover, this could lead to a potentially dangerous accident [like] a child darting out into traffic ... ."
Symon asked his readers: Should the town move the market to a new location?
Symon said he was surprised that the answer "no" earned 12 votes, while "yes" only earned four votes. Of the 16 voters, 75 percent considered the market location to be ideal.
"I thought more people would want it to move to a spot with more parking and where accidents were less likely to occur, but people said `No,'" Symon said.
Symon has used polling to tap into popular opinion on a range of topics, including the best pizza in New Canaan (Vicolo Pizza & Trattoria), best restaurant in New Canaan (a tie between Gates Restaurant & Bar and Ching's Table) and approaches to problems arising from deer herds in town (the town should curb the deer population hire professional hunters).
Symon said his pet blogging project has developed his knowledge of the quirks and character of New Canaan. He's even developed a few virtual acquaintances into real-world friendships.
"As a hobby, blogging is useful, but as a business model, I'm not sure how it could be sustainable," Symon said. "I don't know how blogging as a business could really work."
Denise Gannalo, 58, might have the answer. Gannalo uses blogging strictly as an agent for business. Though she doesn't make an income from the blog, it's a career tool she describes as essential to staying current and establishing credibility.
From her New Canaan home, the William Raveis sales vice president blogs about the state of the real estate market -- its triumphs, its falls and its properties. Gannalo has been selling New Canaan real estate for 27 years; she's been blogging about it for more than two.
"I've seen the business change from how it used to be before computers to how it is now with online business," Gannalo said. "You have to have the best and the most current information and statistics and this blogging is a tremendous vehicle for that. It's a good place to get your voice heard."
Gannalo began blogging in November 2007 when her daughter, a 30-year-old IBM employee, suggested that she create a real estate blog as a tool to dominate the conversation on the local housing market.
"People were certainly blogging then, but it's much more prolific now," Gannalo said.
Gannalo said that Bill Raveis, founder of William Raveis Real Estate, warned her in 2007 of the responsibility tied to her decision to launch the blog, aptly named New Canaan Real Estate.
"He said, `Oh, [blogging is] such a commitment -- do you know what you're getting into?'" Gannalo said. "Now he set up a [blog] template for new agents to use."
Gannalo attributes her blog's success to a recipe of commitment, consistency and her insider's perch over the market.
"I see what's happening on the front lines before the buyers or the sellers," she said. "I blog about the good and bad. It's very real -- all from my perspective. That makes what I have to say valuable."
New Canaan Real Estate attracts between 50 and 100 viewers each month, she said.
In the last 28 months, Gannalo said she has bulked her blog with 250 posts. She said she spends about two hours creating about two posts each week.
"I've gotten excellent comments from my clients and even from people I don't know who are curious about the market," Gannalo said.
She added, "It's all about commitment. You have to go into [blogging] prepared to make the commitment. It seems most blogs last for about six months, but if you're committed you can really make a difference with your audience."
When Keane Angle, 25, began blogging about three years ago, he was about as uncommitted as bloggers come. The New Canaan High School graduate simultaneously launched two blogs when he decided to enter the blogosphere, and abandoned them both about six months later.
Since his start in 2007, Angle has launched seven different blogs on topics ranging from green architecture to viral online content.
Angle, a Web designer, marks the four-month life of his now defunct blog Appify as his shortest-lived venture in the blogosphere. On the other end of the spectrum, his blog The Interactivist has been going strong for two years.
Angle describes The Interactivist as a digital repository of studies, statistics and tips pertinent to the "interactive junkie." He says the blog, which contains posts about topics like online coupons, Web publishing and Facebook use, attracted about 3,000 visitors in 2009.
As a digital strategist, Angle is tasked with creating digital marketing campaigns that meet client objectives. The fact that he sees results marketing his own blog using social media tactics, Angle said, gives him a field for practice.
"Anyone can start a blog," Angle said. "It's great for credibility. I'm not just talking the talk, I'm walking the walk."
Kiss and Type by Arax-Rae Van Buren: http://
Blog New Canaan by Will Symon: http://
New Canaan Real Estate by Denise Gannalo: www.newcanaanhomes.blogspot.com
The Interactivist by Keane Angle: http://