Making of a Prince: Prince of Petworth
By Tara Campbell
“I saw it on Prince of Petworth.”
This is how so many links and bits of info come my way, I feel like I follow the blog myself, even though [*collective gasp*] I don’t. I know I’m vastly outnumbered in this regard: Prince of Petworth, now PoPville.com, is arguably the largest single-author blog in the DC-metro area. It permeates District air like pollen.
PoPville estimates viewer traffic at more than 1.5 million page views per month. Readers visit multiple times a day to follow events, quality of life issues, restaurants and bars, real estate, transit, crime, and other trends in DC’s neighborhoods. So when NetSquared DC hosted PoPville creator Dan Silverman at an event this Tuesday, I was curious to see how it all started.
The setting at Affinity Lab on U Street was a fitting venue for the entrepreneurial, DIY nature of the talk. The structure of the session matched Silverman’s personality: relaxed, informal and direct. After a brief introduction, Silverman launched right into questions from the audience about what inspired his blog and how he grew it to its current popularity.
His message was relatively simple: do what you are passionate about, find your niche, and stay true to your concept.
Questions from the audience kept inching back to strategy and business models, but these aren’t the keys to Silverman’s success. His focus is on delivering a diversity of content in his unique voice, while giving people a safe space to interact and ask questions. He sees himself not as a journalist, but a facilitator. Abusive content is axed, naysayers are dismissed with a wave of the hand and a fuck-‘em-if-they-can’t-be-civil attitude, and pet features will continue—if you don’t like ‘em, you don’t have to look.
After moving to Petworth in 2003, Silverman started thinking about creating a blog because he didn’t see anyone else covering the area in the way he wanted to read about it. He launched Prince of Petworth part time in 2006, and as it grew in popularity, advertisers started contacting him. Things eventually reached a point where his expenses could be covered by ad revenue, and in 2009 he took the leap and decided to devote himself to PoPville full time. He has enlisted the help of BlankSlate to manage the business and technical aspects of the site so he can focus on content.
Now he writes every morning, attends events in the afternoons and evenings, and walks about 15 miles through the streets of DC every weekend to keep his content fresh and authentic. The blog has expanded beyond its original Petworth/Columbia Heights beat to cover the District as a whole. Silverman predicted that his beat will extend even further to neighborhoods east of the river as that area grows and develops.
A relatively late adopter of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, Silverman has come to value them as means of expanding his audience and pushing out content. He is also excited by the idea of video/YouTube, despite the time-intensive production process. That said, while other social media outlets have helped increase his readership, he doesn’t think that Twitter, for example, can be a platform for a real exchange of ideas. The PoPville site itself is where his community resides.
Silverman is slightly obsessive, confident without being abrasive, fueled by ego but self-aware enough to joke about it, and approachable despite his cult hero status. These are the real secrets to his success as a one-man blog dynamo.
Tara Campbell is a Washington, D.C.-based writer of crossover sci-fi. With a BA in English and an MA in German Language and Literature, she has a demonstrated aversion to money and power—despite living in a city obsessed with both.