June 21, 2011

I Do This Why?

I'll let you in on a little secret: No one reads this blog.

Well, that's not quite true. The people who read this blog aren't anything like "no one." There just aren't very many of them.

To put this in perspective, last Thursday night I wrote a blog post regarding a ridiculous letter published in Times Higher Education in support of Satoshi Kanazawa, the "researcher" who claimed that his analysis showed that black women were "objectively" less attractive than women of other ethnic backgrounds. The letter was causing an angry buzz in my Twitter feed, and I put that anger into words.

The numbers looked good to start with. A dozen people or so have shared it on Twitter, a couple of them quite influential. It's being passed around on Facebook a little. It was Tumbled and reblogged a few times. Go, me.

I know better than that, though. I passed the post on to the JAYFK as well, to give it its best chance of finding an audience. After all, the defense of Kanazawa isn't just ridiculous; it's damaging and outrageously hypocritical. So I also pushed the post more than usual, playing up the controversy aspect by retweeting John Rennie's "Possible to draw & quarter people while hoisting on own petards? @szvan does it to Kanazawa's defenders. http://t.co/oxWIjoQ" and Chris Clarke's "Note to self: stay on @szvan's good side. http://t.co/EEECI3q #kanazawa"

Jason at Lousy Canuck, very much not a "no one," also thinks the topic is important. He wrote a post yesterday reporting on my post and promoting it. Half a dozen people retweeted his post, mostly the same people who had promoted mine, including me.

Now, this is how my blog traffic works: In two hours, Jason's post--meant to get people to read mine--passed it in total traffic, at least on this blog. For the record, that's less time than it took to put my post together. Half a dozen people clicked through from his post to mine. One person retweeted my post again.

So much for timely and topical. So much for content is king. So much for networking and self-promotion. So...yeah.

Why do I do this again?


Kelleytastic said...

You're awesome anyway. XOXO - No one named Kelley

Randy Murray said...

This happens to me all the time. It's simply a matter of connectedness.

For example, yesterday, Monday, expected to receive my typical readership (which I've slowly built over 2 years), but a very popular site picked it up and I received 10 times the traffic. I look at that as a benefit, not an indictment of the online community.

Keep writing good stuff. Publish more frequently. If you're luck, and not everyone is, you'll attract an audience. And take those traffic bumps as gifts.

arensb said...

For the same reason I post to my blag that no one reads: because you get something inside you and it just won't let you rest easy until you grunt and push and sweat and get it out there.

Unless I'm thinking of constipation. No, I'm pretty sure I'm talking about writing.

Clarissa said...

Blogging is, indeed, weird. I write a post that takes a lot of work, that I feel is important, that required research and that addresses important issues. Nobody reads it or comments. Then I go to a Japanese restaurant and post a very unprofessional photo of the sushi I ordered. Crowds of people come to look at the photo and comment.

I have no explanation for why some posts become super popular and some don't.

But I do read your blog. :-)

Jason Thibeault said...

I've expressed, in private and in public, how annoyed I am that this is the case. It's not fair. And mine is not a particularly popular blog.

I think I might have had two advantages on your post: I called Kanazawa's defenders racists in the title, and I'm a boy.


Unknown said...

I wish I could help. Unfortunately no one reads my links anymore unless they're fluff. I feel like people that I know just don't care about anything important.

But if it matters, I read you.

Greg Laden said...

Clarissa has correctly described the nature of the blogosphere (and cap). The biggest peak I've ever had was a cartoon someone sent me that I reblogged. On the other hand, the most read post on my site is probably one that I did put some time into on the origin of the chicken. However, I quickly add that people flock (as it were) to that post mainly for the picture of the chicken, which I have been asked to used in some publication or another by various people over a dozen times.

FWIW, all the stats I have access to have shown that the blogosphere is running at a less than average activity level over the last three or four days.

Finally, and you know already that I think this, being part of either a network or a group blog makes all the difference As Cap implies, frequency of posting feeds back into overall numbers per post. However, that means that you have to post more often than you want to, especailly if your pattern is to mostly post thoughtful pieces that take more time. A group blog solves that problem.

Tom Foss said...

I subscribe to your feed and read the blog that way. The unfortunate result is that I don't often see comment threads, and I don't show up in the visitor statistics.

But there may be more than you think as a result.

Unknown said...

I know the pain/bite of networking over content all to well. My writing has taken a huge step back in part because of it. I get lots of traffic when I write about silly stuff, controversial stuff, but rarely do I get traffic on important stuff.

For the record, I'm glad you're still writing.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks to those of you just checking in. I appreciate it.

As for the "explanations," no, it's not just a matter of connectedness. I've already explained here how these posts were passed around and by whom. Virtually identical, with the differences in my favor.

No, it's not a question of how the blogosphere is generally running for the last few days. That can make my traffic low, but it would do the same to Jason's. And actually, my traffic isn't low. It's fairly high at the moment. Half of that is because someone high-profile somewhere mentioned Penny Arcade's Strawberry Shortcake debacle to a crowd who didn't know about it. Half of that is because Skepchick Jen linked to something that reliably drives traffic for me: talking about being a girl instead of a boy.

As for group blogs, my last one melted down, and I'm the only person who seems to be ready to do the work of getting it back up and running. If I don't have time to blog more often, and I don't, I'm sure as hell not going to do it less often for a group blog that's just a "nice idea." No one has invited me to a network, the general ones are working to look big and important (which I don't), and I don't suit the trend toward more specialized ones.

But really, thanks for trying to diagnose my pathologies as though they were news.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense. Just because you don't always see comments or reposting does not mean no one reads your blog. Besides... sometimes it takes a little time for people to find out about things.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Did I say anything about comments or links? I do have access to my traffic numbers directly, you understand.

Clarissa said...

"All the stats I have access to have shown that the blogosphere is running at a less than average activity level over the last three or four days"

-Thank you for mentioning this. I though it was just me or something.

Greg Laden said...

The Canadian blogosphere is fine. It's the American blogosphere that is running low.

I'm pretty sure no one is doing anything more than I am to resurrect the melted down blog. Which isn't much.

I don't think the surges are about connectivity if by connectivity you mean sending a link to five or six key places who will promote it to hundreds of people. The surges are something else. I'd be interested in any info Jason has on who has been reading his post.

A group blog has to have more than a certain number of authors ... that number is more than three ... and at least two or three of them have to blog exclusively there ... that was never the case with Quiche Moraine except for a brief period when Mike closed down TUIBG, IIRC.

I suspect a LOT of people read the RSS feed.

Temaharay said...

I rarely post comments, but I found your "With Friends Like These" post through Facebook yesterday and really enjoyed it.

Good job.

RPS77 said...

One person's comment probably doesn't mean much overall, but I'm a frequent reader of your blog and I always find it very interesting and well-written, even when I don't agree. There often seems to be no rhyme or reason in how much traffic a particular post gets.

Gregsly said...

Just cause you don't get a comment doesn't mean you're not affecting your readers...on the contrary, you are!

Greg Laden said...

I'd also like to point out that I have a list of blog posts already set up as HTML links with placeholder for the visible text, each dealing with some issue or another like internet trolls, racism, sexism, etc. ... you know, those posts you read at one point in time and later need to recommend to people to look at, and a larger percentage of them are off this blog.

Jason Thibeault said...

Wish I could provide better info about my readership, but all I have is wordpress.com's stats API which evidently misses about three quarters of my pageviews, and a simple pageview counter on each post which hashes all the unique IPs together into one variable so I can't pull any trends from them. Sorry Greg. Trust me, I obsessed over the problem all last night. I'm working on Google Analytics now, but there's no way to get data historically from before you installed the code. :p

I promote Stephanie as often as I do because she's easily one of the best and most insightful writers I read. Possibly THE best. And I honestly feel more than a little bit of shame when my linking posts garner twice as many views as her originals, and worse yet, she'd be lucky if 5% of those views convert into clickthroughs to her post. (That much I can tell you from Wordpress' API, at least, assuming that the quarter of views it catches are representative.)

Glendon Mellow said...

I've spent years oil painting and focusing on weird little winged trilobites, promoting characters of my own making, promoting science and Darwin and fossils - and the most popular thing on my blog ever is a pencil drawing of an Ent from LoTR.

After being on io9.com, and that article easily clearing 12000 views in 24 hours, my blog merely doubled in traffic for one day.

It's hard to say. Thank you for saying things so well and so often, Stephanie. I wish I could write as well as you do. (And as well as Jason, and Greg, and Ophelia Benson.) You guys all rock. I need to say it more often.

Shari said...

here's a question, and maybe one better put for the group at large - Steph's blog tackles a pretty decent variety of topics. At the big picture level, it's civil rights, literature, current political issues, science, the arts. (You long-time readers will correct me if needed, I hope :-)

For the blogs she is comparing her traffic to - topic-wise - is it apples to apples? I know that she is comparing specific topics and links, but I'm curious if those blogs cover similar areas, more focused ones, or less. Probably this is moot, but I'm curious just the same. Her readership is Much higher than mine, so I don't have such questions about traffic yet ;-) I appreciate the consideration she gives each topic she writes on - gives me a nice high bar to shoot for :-)

george.w said...

It's no secret that people who want to think are fewer in number than people who want to be entertained and not work very hard. So it's a bonus when a big-name blogger sends you traffic. And many people follow you on readers.

Our culture drives out humanistic values; sends them into the desert with all the sins of capitalism and prejudice on their backs. You call those values back into the village, dust them off and stand with them.

So while you're struggling with the stock vs. flow equation remember that just being open on the side of equality and passion and curiosity and science helps others find space in their own heads for them. Has for me, for instance.