The State of Blog Address: March 31, 2005

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The Launch Party - March 2004

A year ago this week, ApartmentTherapy.com shoved off from the dock and proceeded to swim out into the open sea. We were very small. We had 700 visitors a day. We posted only a few times each day - maybe three posts, maybe seven - depending on what time allowed. It didn’t seem so pressing as we didn’t have many readers and work with clients took up most of our time.

Our goal was simply to record the good things and ideas we found that would help make a home feel like a home, and to slowly review every good home furnishing store in NYC.

Within only a few weeks, we began to get a whiff of how big the seas could get (as well as how few boats were out there). On April 19th we were picked up by Boing Boing and clocked an earth shattering 4 thousand readers in one day. As readership continued to rise and comments began to ping in the mailbox, we caught blogging fever.

What is blogging fever? It is the feeling of stepping onto a piece of land that no one has ever seen, and having it all to yourself. You can do anything, say anything, make anything. The only guideline is, “Do something good with this.”

All of you who have been reading since last spring have shared in this. And in a city where space is scarce, it is amazing to feel how much room we can share online.

Now, a year later, we have over 10,000 readers a day and new people are coming on board, growing the traffic 25% a month. We eat, sleep and think full time about apartments, furniture and design: what is already written, what will be written, who has written in, and where the hell the next typo will show up. We – and this goes for the whole family – have never been more excited about a project, and it has taken over our lives. As a result, we have made some plans to do something about it and ride the wave with more skill.

The most important thing is that we want to do this better.

ApartmentTherapy.com has been a work in progress for the past year, and we’re ready to kick off the training wheels and really let this boat sail. This is how we’re going to do it:

1. Being clearer about what this is about. Mission statements are important. They give you a sense of direction. Here is ours:

  • We believe that a calm, healthy, beautiful home is a necessary foundation for happiness and success in the world.

  • AT stands for reconnecting and enjoying your own home....however you want to do it. It stands for simplicity and modesty, but it also stands for a bit of decadence as well. It stands for doing-it-yourself and working within a tight budget, but it also stands for hiring people to help you and splurging every now and then. AT stands for finding the balance between simplicity and luxury.

  • AT’s goal is to raise awareness, weed out the crap, connect people to a community of resources and to inspire them to aim higher, while reducing their reliance on stuff.

  • AT is therefore a cross between CNN and Zagat’s, providing constant news, reviews and how-to’s so that you are informed and inspired and can find whatever you need for your home, when you need it.

2. We are redesigning the site. We think that as lovely as AT.com is right now, it is too cluttered. We are working on a redesign that is in keeping with our principles and much, much cleaner. It also flies in the face of the general direction all the blogs are going in. We are putting the reader first and the massive ego of a big banner second.

3. We’re improving the Stores Guide. The Guide is the heart of the site and it’s not good enough. We’re going to be cleaning it up, making it more prominent and adding better, cooler reader voting buttons so that getting a bead on a furniture store is as easy as checking out a restaurant in Zagat’s.

4. We are adding cities. In an effort to get more people on board and grow the Stores Guide, we will be launching new sites in a number of new cities in the next six months. As you may already know, we have been starting to work with readers in other cities to get them involved, so that we can form local teams that will be the basis of new sites. If you know someone really good, who can tell a hold-back from a finial, have them send us an email.

5. We are trying new things:

  • Next month we are launching our most ambitious contest to date – The Smallest, Coolest Apartment Contest – which will have big prizes, big coverage and allow finalists an opportunity to have their apartments professionally photographed.
  • We are launching a new feature in May – Chair & - which will be a year long web-based photography show celebrating the nexus between art and great design.
  • We are going to start using Filck'r on the front page of the site, allowing responsible readers to become instant photo reporters and send in images of cool stuff they find around the city.
  • We will be opening an Apartment Therapy Online Store, which we plan to stock slowly and carefully with hard to find, useful and beautiful things that kick ass.

6. We are staffing up! Despite the fact that the site is only making a very small amount of money, we are investing in the future. We have hired a phenomenal talent (and old friend), Paul McKinley, to be the managing editor and make sure that the trains run on time, and we have begun to “hire” (if paying pennies qualifies as hiring) new writers and photographers in an effort to find new editors and “eyes” and ultimately allow MGR to get back to his clients and concentrate on the big picture. Truth is, there’s a lot to do, and MGR needs to kick the blogging habit and not do three things at once.

That is it. Our little boat is stocking up, growing and inviting others to come on board. All of this is possible because we took advantage of a good idea and found great readers who make this site come alive every day. Thank you all, hold onto your seats, and here's to the new year!

Best, MGR, OHR & SKGR

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.