It is 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful day at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, and I am out on the patio with a sweating glass of iced mocha. Birds chirp while I scribble last-minute notes for an interview. A lazy morning breeze blows and it almost feels like summer has begun.
A woman in a laid-back denim dress and amiable appearance approaches with a smile.
Kristy Owen is the creator of the popular blog ‘365 Things to do in Austin, Texas.’ Featuring lists of activities, tour suggestions as well as good deals, the blog effectively introduces the lively atmosphere of Austin to locals and visitors alike.
“The blog means everything to me,” Owen smiles. “It’s who I am. But if you had told me five years ago that this is what I would be doing with my life, I would have said you were crazy.” According to Owen, she was not very good at spelling in grade school and never dreamt that she would end up with a career in writing.
The blog started on New Year’s Eve in 2009, when Owen says she was thinking of a resolution to pursue for the new decade. She decided to start a blog on things to do in Austin. “I never imagined it would get this big,” she says.
The blog began on the first January on a WordPress platform until a friend suggested Owen publish a post on Facebook. “By the next day I already had over a hundred likes on Facebook by people I didn’t even know. That was on a Thursday. By the end of the week, I had over a thousand likes.”
The first thing Owen blogged about was Mozart’s Coffee. “I planned to suggest Abel’s on the Lake as the last thing to do of the year, which is right next door.” Originally, before the blog snowballed into a hit, Owen was blogging just for herself and didn’t plan on doing it past a year, hence the name 365 Things to do in Austin. “For the last post, I was going to write something like, ‘now you have explored Austin, go pick out a different city to explore!’ But then I got a following. I realized there was so much more to do in Austin that I wanted to share with my followers and so I decided to keep on blogging.”
According to the young blogger, the website receives anywhere between 10,000 to 30,000 hits a day, while the Facebook page gets between 25,000 to 300,000. Because the blog’s content is available through social media outlets, on which younger generations are more vigorous, Owen says her largest audience is between 25 to 35 years old. Still, followers as old as 70, as well as little kids, tune in to her posts.
About 70 percent of the followers are from Austin and Central Texas while the rest are from China, Australia, Europe and all around the globe. Many of those followers have never been to Austin but are either planning to visit or move to the city. “That’s just crazy,” Owen says. “In a way, the blog has become a sort of entity that introduces and welcomes people to Austin.” Owen actively posts contents on over 16 different social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“I think the interactive nature of what I do contributes to its success,” Owen says. All of the blog’s social media platforms allow followers to leave comments and make suggestions of what else the blog could post about. “I don’t delete any of the negative comments unless they are super offensive. I feel like all the feedback I get, whether positive or negative, help the blog evolve to become even better.
“I discover so much stuff because I am such a go-with-the-flow person. I’m just open for any suggestions. I will try anything. And people know that about me so they call me if they are going somewhere interesting or new because they know I will always say yes.”
Because the blog has become so big, Owen says she is subject to constant love-calls to visit new restaurants and businesses. “I would hate to go somewhere and feel like I have to blog about them because I owe them something,” she says. “Especially if the experience turns out to be bad, I don’t want to feel like I have to blog about it and lie that it was good.”
For the same reasons, Owen refrains from telling businesses she is with the blog. “I’ve eaten at a lot of bad places and done a lot of things that I didn’t like. But I just don’t blog about it,” she says. “There is already so much negative in the world. If they are a small business trying to make it through, who am I to give them negative publicity if they were just having a bad day when I happened to be there?”
Advertisements are the site’s primary revenue. Owen relates, “I am very picky about the type of advertisement that goes onto the site – everything has to relate to things to do in Austin in some way. I tell companies that the best way for them to get exposure is for them to do a giveaway by selecting winners at random who like their Facebook page. That makes everyone happy.”
Owen’s entire day revolves around the blog, whether trying out new things she could write about, thinking of new ideas for the blog’s contests or researching interesting events going on in the city. “I’m always on my phone or computer. The entire blog has become my full-time job. But it’s hard to call it work because I really like doing it and the love for it has become so much a part of me.”
Owen feels her blog would not have as much success in a different city. “Austin is so unique in that the people here have so much pride to be a part of Austin,” she says. “I think the reason my followers embrace the blog and share my posts so much is because they want to show other people that they are a part of this amazing city.”
Currently, she is working on an interactive trivia iphone application, printing reusable bags and incorporating video to her blog. In the future, she hopes to write a travel book on Austin and launch a smart car promoting the 365 Things to do in Austin logo.