My Blog Had a Bigger Audience Than PR Week: The Rest of the Story

Image of Scott Baradell
Scott Baradell

For decades in the latter half of the 20th century, the velvety voice of Paul Harvey entertained America's radio listeners. Today he would simply be classified as a conservative talking head, but he took a gentler approach than what you hear today. He enjoyed telling stories and teaching history. Which is why I always appreciated the segment Harvey called "The Rest of the Story."

I remember listening on the car radio as a kid as he told tales like that of  "Dr. Pemberton's Pick-Me-Up."

Dr. Pemberton, a corner druggist, was not a doctor at all. But he set out to develop a headache cure.

He sold a jug of his syrupy medicine to an Atlanta pharmacy. He explained to the owner that all he must do is mix the syrup with water.

Sales of the headache cure were slow, however.

Then one day a new employee at the pharmacy mistakenly added carbonated water instead of plain water to the medicine.

That headache cure came to be known as ... Coca-Cola.

And that's the rest of the story.

So, since I've been asked about my statement on the Trust Signals homepage that my former blog, Media Orchard, at one time had a larger audience than PR Week, I thought I'd tell the tale in "Rest of the Story" format, in Harvey's honor.

Of course, I've already screwed it up by telling you the surprise ending, but here goes:

Media Orchard was a "weblog" written on the Blogger platform by Scott Baradell, a Dallas PR man who simply wanted to try this new medium out. He wrote his first post in March 2005.

He started by following the lead of the top PR bloggers of the day, Steve Rubel and Jeremy Pepper, but soon got a little bored with all the technology talk. So he started having fun with it -- writing about silly topics for his own amusement more than anything else.

He didn't really know much about SEO, but suddenly he was getting lots of calls from folks who wanted to work with his new PR agency, Idea Grove -- which at the time was just him.

He was the only PR blogger in Dallas, and Google rewarded him by putting "Idea Grove" at the top of search results for terms like "Dallas PR firms" -- over giant agencies with Dallas offices like Edelman and Fleishman-Hillard. 

And the business flowed in.

Scott realized he was on to something when his site became one of the 45,000 most trafficked in the world according to Alexa, of the more than 120 million websites out there. 

As it turned out, PR people and others were starved for industry news online (even the silly kind provided by Scott) because most trade publications had not adjusted to a web-based business model.

In most cases, aside from their publication's homepage, everything else on the site was hidden behind a paywall for subscribers only.

Which meant trade publications didn't rank very highly in Google. 

Scott noticed one day as he was working on his blog that his Alexa ranking was higher than virtually all PR trade publications, including the industry's most popular publication, PR Week.

He knew it wasn't sustainable, of course. PR Week and the others would eventually figure it out -- and they did. As did millions of other publications and businesses.

But Scott realized then the value of being just a step or two ahead of the game. It's what built his agency, and what fuels it still.

And that's the rest of the story.

Thanks, Paul Harvey.

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