Londonist is 15 years old this month (October 2019), and about to reach our 50,000th article. To celebrate, we look back on a decade-and-a-half of London adventures.
2004: In the beginning
Londonist officially launched on 25 October 2004, having previously existed since the start of the year as The Big Smoker. The first three articles were alluringly titled Islington Cares About its Drunks, Sex at the ICA and Manhole Cover Theft, all written by the site's founding editor Rob Hinchcliffe. The site attracted immediate attention from The Guardian.
2005: Highs and lows
The first full year of publication saw great joy at London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, followed (the next day) by the horrors of the 7 July terror attacks. Here's how we covered the Olympic win, and our liveblog of the unfolding tragedy the following day.
2006: Londonist gets a book
Our very first book, called The London Collection, was published by Think Books. It's a pocket-sized collection of trivia and made-up stuff about the capital. The London Paper (remember them?) described it as "no ordinary miscellany... a joy", while City AM declared it "daft but diverting bog literature". Few people bought it, which means it's incredibly rare, and copies sell for as much as £0.17 on Amazon.
2007: Touch Up London
Londonist in its early days was all about reader participation. One of the many competitions we ran asked readers to send in Photoshopped images of the capital. The results, of varying quality, are collected here. The image featured above attracted the attentions of Norman Foster's practice, who wanted to display it in their offices (we don't know if they ever did... anyone reading this work for Foster & Partners?).
2008: Non-business as usual
Although part of the Gothamist family of city sites, Londonist was still, at this stage, more of a hobby than a commercial operation. We were thus immune to the financial crash of this year, and carried on our non-business as usual.
2009: Reuniting long-lost families
Our most-viewed article of the year was a map of second world war V2 rocket strikes on London. The article and map gained much attention, getting picked up by a Channel 4 TV series, and attracting hundreds of comments. Among those commenting were many eyewitnesses to the attacks. Two long-lost relatives even rediscovered each other many decades after they'd lost touch, after leaving comments about the same event.
2010: Londonist Ltd launches
Londonist as you know it really began in 2010. The site had grown large enough to attract advertising and, with outside help, we were able to set up as a proper business for the first time. We also got a better stats package at this stage, so are able to tell you our top articles for each year from this point (excludes listings and seasonal stuff). Top articles: A Tour of the New East London Line; London's Twitter Traffic Mapped as a Contoured Landscape
2011: A bland new look, a maps exhibition and celebrity endorsement
After many years in blog format, the site shifted to a menu-driven system, with highlighted stories up top, rather than a simple reverse-chronological display. It's all a bit grey, looking back. Much more colourful were the cohort of hand-drawn maps sent in by readers. The standard was so high that we convinced the Museum of London to put 10 of them on temporary display in the entrance lobby.
Finally, we were chuffed to bits when Frank Skinner told the Observer that he'd put Londonist "up there with St Paul's and Westminster Abbey as one of the great London monuments".
Top article: London's Top 10 Tunnels and Catacombs
2012: Olympic year
London's big year dawned. Along with the games themselves, this was a time of rapid change for the capital, with structures like the Shard, Orbit tower and the cable car appearing on the skyline. In fact, so much was going on, we doubled the number of options on our menu bar. Please can we bring 'Geek' back, Mr Editor?
2013: Londonist In Space
Our ambitions went beyond the planet this year, as we secured a grant from the UK Space Agency and put on a space-themed variety show at Leicester Square Theatre. No one remembers exactly why a London-themed website should put on a space show, but there we go. Still, we sold all 400 seats, got some celebs on stage, and had a right old laff.
2014: Londonist turns 10
To celebrate our first decade, we threw a huge party at the Bishopsgate Institute. One highlight was getting every person in the room to make an 'L for Londonist' (or 'loser') sign at the same time.
2015: Argh, the colours, they burn!
It was about this phase in our life that we decided to make the site a lot more colourful. A LOT more colourful. Every topic on our menu got its own section colour — chosen to match the hues of the different tube lines (a conceit that not one person noticed). The result was a little bit gaudy. Also, the 'related subjects' list on the right was only useful if you were looking for a random set of ideas upon which to hang a short story. I mean, 'toast clothing'?
2016: Launch of Pengeist
In a bid to extend our brand to hyperlocal channels, we launched south London microsite Penge-ist. The site only lasted half a day, after we got a cease-and-desist letter from writing magazine Pen Zeitgeist, who own the pengeist.com domain. Others pointed out that launching the site on 1 April was never going to be a good idea. Still, the Twitter feed remains live, if inactive.
2017: A new book
After an 11-year hiatus, we finally got round to writing another book. And this one's an absolute champ. Londonist Mapped is richly decorated with gorgeous illustrations and insightful text, if we do say so ourselves. And it even won a Stanford's travel writing prize. You so want to buy it.
2018: Londonist Beer
The pinnacle of all our careers came in the summer when, with a little help from FourPure brewery, we crafted our own delicious IPA. We still have a few cans left in the office, although they're liable to explode.
2019: The inevitable book about drinking
Given the events of 2017 and 2018, it was inevitable that we'd get around to producing a book about drinking in London. Londonist Drinks came out in October 2019 and coincided perfectly with our 15th anniversary. Three more years, and we'll be legally allowed to actually have a drink.