A special edition of The Not So Perfect Ten celebrating ten years of East of the M60
Was it really ten years when East of the M60 began to trouble the deepest recesses of cyberspace? Indeed it was.
East of the M60 started life as a secondary blog to The Stuart Vallantine Web Experience. Its original aim was to promote my activities as speaker with an autism spectrum condition. It was also seen as an extension of the ‘old school’ website – the Mouth of S.V. to the MacNeil of the portfolio. In the early days, blog posts went out on a fortnightly basis, usually written in the last twenty or so minutes of my work dinner hour. As Chez Vall didn’t get broadband access till 2009, anything written at home was done via a 56k dial-up modem.
By the end of that year, EM60 Towers received a welcome upgrade: a new computer, and a shiny white IKEA desk (now worse for wear). With broadband access, East of the M60‘s postings rose in frequency. For most of 2006 to 2009, getting 40 visitors a day was quite an achievement. Today, the average is about 300 daily visitors, first achieved in 2012. Blog posts go out on a weekly basis. On some weeks, daily.
For this month’s Not So Perfect Ten, we look at the ten blog posts which have shaped The Stuart Vallantine Blogging Experience. In other words, East of the M60 of course.
1. The First Post to Go Viral
Some of the previous posts on East of the M60 had focused on my own musings. This has meant low level discussion on sandwiches and hellish bus stations. This was the first truly local post, as my lowbrow musings were hardly going to set the blogosphere alight. For the best part of five years, it had constantly topped the East of the M60 viewing figures.
2. The First Post to Be Referenced in Print
Back in the pre-Richard Desmond era of Channel Five, Britain’s fifth channel won plaudits in the popular press for its cogent documentaries. One of them was Disappearing Britain, presented by Sarah Lancashire. This inspired a review on East of the M60 shortly after the programme’s airing. Within a year of publication, it was listed as a source in Tania M.C. Lewis’ and Duncan Gurr’s 2007 book, Millscape Mansions: Homes and Houses of Oldham’s Mill Owners.
3. The First Successful Not So Perfect Ten post
The Not So Perfect Ten series of posts have been part of East of the M60 since the beginning. The first one to capture the heart of our readers was this look at defunct bus routes in Greater Manchester. This led to similarly well received sequels such as More Lost Bus Routes of Greater Manchester, and Oh No, More Lost Bus Routes of Greater Manchester.
4. The First Press Release Derived Article
Every now and then, East of the M60 receives press releases from other sources. Many of which have focused on public transport stories. The first one we covered was the opening of Stagecoach Manchester’s then-new Sharston depot. Close to the former Northenden depot (closed on the 26 October 1986), its opening was marked by a mini convoy of Manchester’s buses through the ages.
5. The First Successful Serialised Post
October 2011 saw the 25th anniversary of deregulated bus services outside Greater London and Northern Ireland. As a result, East of the M60’s first serialised post had a staggering 26 parts. It was partly a memoir and a history of Dukinfield’s bus network from 1986 to 2011. Each post looked at the impact the changes had on yours truly, and his home town.
The success of this series led to the spin-off, 2011, In the Company of Buses. Prefixed with subsequent years, it became East of the M60’s Review of the Year. Viewing figures for East of the M60 started soaring towards the 200 to 300 daily readers we see today. October 2011 was a record-breaking month for the blog with 52 entries posted – almost two a day. Serialised posts became a feature of other EM60 features, like Down Our Street, The Ashton Review of Shops, and the series of reviews for concerts at Boarshurst Band Club.
6. The First Successful Cash-In Post
July 2010 saw the creation of what remains one of the most viewed articles on East of the M60. Well and truly knocking the IKEA post off its perch. The timing of this post neatly coincided with the start of 2010’s instalment of The X Factor. Viewing figures for this article peak at around the time when any of Cowell’s talent shows start airing. To some extent, this has coincided with other programmes like The Voice or retrospective features on the older talent shows. At this time of writing, it has been read by 23,990 people.
7. How Old Shops Equal Stellar Viewing Figures
With shop closures pretty much in the news in 2012 (and of now with BHS’ departure from the High Street), this A to Z triggered a few memories among our readers. In the last half decade, East of the M60’s historical posts have dominated the blog’s readership stats. This A to Z also led to a spin-off Advent Calendar (in 2015), and contributed to the highly success Retail Comings and Goings in Tameside posts, otherwise known as The Ashton Review of Shops.
8. The First Scoop
In April 2014, we said goodbye to JPT Travel, the Middleton-based bus operator. East of the M60 was among the first sources to break the story. It was on the blog before the Manchester Evening News got the story. On publication, over 2,200 people saw the post which was an all-time record for the blog.
At the time, East of the M60 was averaging 370 daily readers and things went well for the blog. Then, shortly after the follow-up post was published, the hard drive on his PC conked out. This led to East of the M60 running a skeleton service almost a month.
9. How This Blog Spawned a Friendship
If the future Mrs. Stuart Vallantine is reading this post, there is no soppy stuff for this entry. What the original version of this post lacked in viewing figures was more than made up by gaining a friendship with the former LWT Graphic Designer, John Tribe. As some sort of a The South Bank Show type feature (previously done with Stalybridge’s Ken Mortimer, former Industrial Designer for Greater Manchester Transport), my subject was inspired by the internet. Or rather, an obscure comedy show that he did the graphics for in 1979.
The second version marked East of the M60‘s first co-production, with Mr. Tribe’s name on the credits for his additional notes and graphics. He also has the honour of receiving a bespoke S.V. Christmas card. Plus he’s another Gemini with a love of Art Deco architecture.
10. Live at the BBC: Boarshurst Band Club
The start of 2016 saw the first of a near-weekly series of posts from the Boarshurst Band Club. This post was a preview of the Sunday night concerts at the band club in Greenfield. This preview would lead to several reviews of various bands within a 30 mile radius of the club. Marple Band were the first brass band to have been given an East of the M60 review. This was followed by coverage of the Road End Fair concert, Boarshurst Silver Band’s bid to win the day at Cheltenham this September, and – we may well see on this blog – reference to their forthcoming Youth Band concerts.
The result had been viewing figures above the usual 260 – 320 range: figures towards the 400 to 500 mark. Also a wealth of social media shares among brass bands, and individuals on Facebook, Twitter and the like.
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The Record Breaking Post:
From April 2014 to October 2015, the JPT Travel saga posts held the blog record for single day viewing figures. On the 24 October 2015, it was the demise of J. Fishwick and Son which broke the record in a single month, and that day. So far, this post has been read by 5,935 readers, with 5,597 readers recorded in October alone. Even so, it is dwarfed by the JPT report, which has been read by 6,154 people.
Though the aforementioned posts have held single day records, their all-time record is nothing on the UK Television Talent Shows Through The Ages post. For the number crunchers:
- UK Television Talent Shows Through The Ages: The Not So Perfect Ten: 23,990 – Most Viewed Post on East of the M60 from 2010 to 2013;
- Nightlife on Old Street: 16,094 – Most Viewed East of the M60 Post of 2014 (9,595 in that year alone);
- Going Up Town in 1980s Oldham: 15.253 – Most Viewed Post on East of the M60 so far this year (correct as 12 August 2016);
- JPT RIP: Family Firm Acquired by Stagecoach Manchester: 6,154 – in any other year, this would have been up with the big hitters. This was eluded by the Nightlife on Old Street thanks to coverage in the Cheers Mag pub and club listings guide;
- End of an Era for Long Established Leyland Bus Operator: 5,935- Most Viewed Post on East of the M60 in 2015;
- New IKEA Store, Ashton-under-Lyne: 3,158 – Most Viewed Post on East of the M60 from 2006 to 2010;
S.V., 15 August 2016.