For me, one of the great appeals of writing for Crosscut is that there is no formula for success.
Looking over a list of the most-popular stories of the last couple of years, it's easy to spot some of the strengths: stories about local politics, the environment, sustainability and urban issues like transportation and density. We're clearly not a website that thrives on slide shows of the Lingerie Football League in action. (If you want to complain about that omission, write the new publisher or click here.)
Crosscut writers don't write on the topic often, but sex is another way to attract Internet "eyeballs" or other parts of the human anatomy.
If Crosscut were simply about building traffic, I would have been asked to produce a story called, "The Sexual Preferences of Urban Planners Who Oppose the Deep-Bore Tunnel's Tolling Strategy," or maybe "How the Seattle Mist Puts a Spring in the Step of Urban Walkability Advocates."
But given our site's strengths, as determined by you, and given our editors' unwillingness to pander, what I find most reassuring is that my own attraction to eclecticism is shared by our readership.
Scanning the lists of most-read stories of the last couple of years, I see a piece on the new Beacon Hill food forest, one about shopping malls, a memoir about Watergate by Bill Ruckelshaus, a story about the meaning of Ash Wednesday, a reflection on why J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is still sometimes banned, a piece I did on a new spider species discovered on Foster Island, a history of Indian reef-net fishing.
All of these have been part of our success, but none follows a formula. These stories are unpredictable successes. The writing is good, the perspectives fresh, the topics can be whatever. They draw new readers in. That, to me, says a lot about our audience: that you read broadly and don't overly obsess about formula.
Crosscut is many things. A regional website about Northwest news, politics and, important to me, heritage. But it is also refreshing for reader and writer alike to have developed a forum for topics far and wide. In an increasingly niche-driven culture, Crosscut defies niche. We're not easily pegged by our content. And this is liberating for writers who can be, well, free-range as in free to range across a complex geographic and creative landscape, finding stories and insights wherever they might be, and posting them on a website where they will be read by smart people who care about the content, not just the subject.
That is rare, and I hope worthy of your support. Because without member support, Crosscut would be forced to tailor its stories to 'what sells.' Please don't make me have to write "The Lingerie Political League: Sex and the Seattle City Council." We'll all be better off if I don't.
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