I'm still a huge fan of all the sites in the Nick Denton's nanopublishing empire, but I have to say the themed weblog that has resonated with my interests the most over the past year is a brand new one that comes from outside the Denton fold: Curbed, which is focused exclusively on urban planning and real estate in the New York area, and mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn. So there's a mix of interesting new real estate listings (the old FEED office was just profiled in its incarnation a new upscale residential condo); links to news about various urban projects, like a new Chelsea pier or the Queens Olympic village; and entertaining city-themed blurbs grabbed from Craigslist or other blogs.
Curbed fills a hole that I've long wanted someone to fill. Gawker has always had a little of this real estate focus, but the dominant thread there is now gossip. The Metro section in the Times invariably has a couple stories that are the most interesting ones to me in the entire paper (usually about Ground Zero or the Ranter Brooklyn development) but everything else in Metro is skull-crushingly boring. Curbed has a nice edge to it, but mostly it just seems incredibly informative. Already, after just a week's worth of reading, I feel confident that if there's something interesting happening in terms of urban development in the city, I'll hear about it via Curbed.
I think that kind of micro-coverage is one of the great things that these thematically organized blogs provide. It used to be that you could feel confident that you were on top of major news -- or sports or financial stories -- if you read the Times on a daily basis, but your micro interests were harder to keep track of with the same regularity. I remember how hard it was to find out information about Apple before the web -- you'd have to wait for MacWorld and Macweek to come out, and even then they weren't always focused on my particular sub-interests. I knew I was missing information. But now take a micro category like Mac-based audio software: I feel completely confident that if anything happens in that category -- new upgrades, announcements, reviews -- I'll see it via one of the 2-3 blogs that I follow. Same goes for political polls and analysis thanks to DonkeyRising, and DC political chatter thanks to Wonkette, and now urban developments in NYC thanks to Curbed.
One suggestion I have for Curbed: there are already a bunch of tools out there on the various real estate sites for getting automatic notifications of new properties on the market in a specific category: Park Slope 2 Bedroom for less than 800K, etc. That's useful for people who are actively looking for a new space. But there are a lot of us who aren't actively looking, but like to follow the market and don't have time to sift through all the new listings, and don't need a hyper-specific filter. So I would love a feature that pointed me to the most interesting new Brooklyn townhouse on the market each day. I could imagine comparable features for downtown lofts, and uptown apartments/townhouses. If the categories were broad enough, it wouldn't take that much time for put together the collection for each day. Think of it as the Curbed version of Gawker's summaries of the gossip pages: we read the real estate section so you don't have to!