Jaded

Mark’s blog (my blogging buddy for postaday/postaweek) got over 1,000 pageviews on his blogging buddy post which was featured on Freshly Pressed (the front page of WordPress.com).

I’d like to be excited for him, but having seen this sort of meteoric rise in traffic on a single post in the past (one that’s actually not as fresh as the “Freshly Pressed” moniker implies) on this site, I know that a few things are likely to happen:

He will gain a few regular subscribers and readers.  This will probably last a few days to a week before most of them eventually drop off.  Some will stay and possibly be relatively loyal.  The rest was probably really more interested in the “blogging buddy” and “post every day in 2011” thing and when they realize that’s not the primary subject matter of the blog, they’ll hit the road.

That’s what I’ve seen happen in the past when a single post is taken out of context from the rest of the blog and pushed into the spotlight.  Some blogs make it their entire goal to suck up as much instant traffic as possible to increase their Google rankings, so they post controversial topics or use titles that grab your attention.  I have 3 posts that regularly bring the minimal amount of traffic this site gets on average.

  1. MusicIP Mix handles huge mp3 libraries better than WinAmp [Abandonware] – This gets hits because the WinAmp Playlist Generator is broken and I have a download for an alternative.  Really, I think, it’s mostly for the download, which I got from another member on the WinAmp forums.  Because it’s in the realm of stuff I generally post about, I’m actually fairly happy that this gets a steady stream of people finding it and I think the plugin is useful even if I’ve ultimately gotten completely fed up with WinAmp and switched to iTunes.
  2. Borderlands: Gun Porn – This gets traffic for 2 reasons: “borderlands” and “porn”.  Since posting this, I get all sorts of traffic particularly for “borderlands siren porn” or “borderlands siren nude.”  I’m happy to say, they leave disappointed.  But then, I could always just direct them to free sexy babe photos.  It doesn’t matter that the content of the post is my review of the game — the hits I get to the post are looking for porn.
  3. Scam Alert: “Testers needed to test the Apple iPad” – testitandkeepit.com – This is a scam I stumbled upon when a web design client sent an email to my personal email address (i.e. not the business one I use for communication with clients) inviting me to a program to test an iPad.  It was obvious from reading the email that he didn’t write it, and I did some digging to uncover what I could about it and expose it.  This blog is not that sort of consumer watch-type blog where I expose scams on a regular basis, so that this gets the most traffic on average (corresponding with when another instance or version of the scam crops up) sort of leaves me with ill feelings.  To be fair, I did more for SEO in the title and the post than I would for just about anything else because the point was to grab traffic from people looking into whether this was legit.  But my 1,000+ hit day came from this post and it is not my regular fare.

There’s actually one other post that gets a fair amount of traffic which is In-Place Windows 7 RC downgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium — however, why I still get traffic to that post when Windows 7 RC is long since expired is a bit of a mystery.  The point is that the posts on this site that get hits are about a thing and I don’t often write about things, so it’s annoying to me to see those get so much more attention than, say, this one will ultimately get.  So, I see this whole explosion over the “Freshly Pressed” Blogging Buddy post to be fortuitous but ultimately temporary.  It would be nice if some of the traffic both of us get out of Mark’s exposure on Freshly Pressed sticks around, and I do think some of it will.  (About 1% of the people who have hit his blog have clicked over here.) But people on the internet have short attention spans and The Long Tail rules — unless you’re Seth Godin, the majority of traffic to your site will be based on keyword searches, so it will be some random post in the past that may or may not even be relevant to the original search that draws traffic to your site as opposed to your stellar personality or writing style.

Of course, as the post title suggests, after nine years of keeping a blog and watching the traffic ebb and flow and — occasionally — spike, I’ve become jaded.  I’ve watched newbie bloggers immerse themselves in a community they helped build and, in less time than it took to build this blog up, get more hits in a day than I get in a week.  And I’ve watched established bloggers drag their blog into the sewer.  I’m probably not as bitter on the subject as I sound, I’ve just given up trying to be the popular kid and never cease to be amazed when I see more than 12 people subscribing to my feed.

Now that you’ve gotten this far, I urge you to read TheBoyEllis’ reaction to all the hub-bub yesterday which is much more inspirational and positive than mine.  I actually feel a little sheepish for being such a dick.  But that’s what a real blog is all about, right?  It’s human, it’s personal, it’s real.  If you’re having a bad day, or think something is stupid, you say it.  As much as I like and frequent the ever-present “blog with a topic” (WordPress blog, design blog, news blog, tech blog, etc.), the lack of personality and human connection is tiring.  I might avoid writing about myself as much as I can, oh ye dozen readers, but I promise you that I will be honest with what I do write.  Maybe by the end of this year you’ll see me spilling my guts.  Let’s hope not.  It gets messy.

12 Replies to “Jaded”

  1. Chris, an honest blog post is the only kind that stirs me. Hopefully others agree – your twelve faithful readers obviously do. (heh) So here's my virtual support: just keeping saying whatever the heck you want. It's your soapbox, and some of us prefer your honesty.

    I liked seeing your take on your own popular blog posts. I did the same kind of review recently with the canned email I got from WordPress showing 2010 in review. Whatever the numbers might mean to someone looking at the stats, I know the background story. It was cool to read your rundown. I've noticed the same kind of popularity phenomena on my flickr photo views.

    1. I get annoyed that the stuff that gets hits isn't the stuff I care about nearly as much, but I've been doing this long enough that I can't say I'm surprised. I tried to make my blog vaguely topical and write the kinds of posts I thought people would want to read, followed the steps you're supposed to follow to be a "successful blogger" but I gave up. I'm crap at it because I just don't care. I like what I like and writing Top Ten Design Trends of 2010 can go on someone else's blog. I'd just be clogging up the tubes with more inane noise.

      Thanks for your comment — glad to have you here :)

  2. I started a blog 2 months ago and I'm happy if I get even 30 views a day! I don't know where this is going to lead and whether it's going to last. Ok, I'm having fun but also stress because I want to post once a week. I have learned a lot doing this, but I certainly want people to read what I post, otherwise it wouldn't make sense, let's be honest. I would love to be freshly pressed – and yes, I want comments, I want to know WHO is reading my posts, what they think. If this is only one-way-communication, it's not fun at all.
    But I agree: being honest is the only way – and if you don't like what you are talking about it will certainly not work.
    I wish you and your blogging partner luck – this seems like a good idea!
    Greetings from Germany, Uta
    My recent post Housewife – Jay Brannan

    1. Good for you for starting a blog. It's true that a blog that exists in a vacuum is no fun, but it's also true that it should be something you want to do and what you want it to be, rather than something that just exists for other people. The best way to do that is to engage in the community — find other blogs you like and comment when you think they've said something interesting or cool…something I admit I could do better, myself.

  3. Hi Chris,

    I'm happy to read someone that thinks exactly what I suspected of "Fleshly Pressed" and instant blog fame. I've read your buddy's post and don't understand why it hit the "Fleshly Pressed" list nor do I believe people reading his blog for the first time would be coming back because of that post.

    I, as you, also gave up completely in trying to have followers. To be honest, I've come to the point where I suspect newcomers to any of my blogs, because my first thought is that they only want me to check theirs. Sad, I know, and on the verge of psychotic I'm afraid…

    My definition of a successful blog includes my own happiness, and although in the past (about 10 years ago) I've managed a blog with many followers and comments, I wasn't happy: it was all hard work and premeditated actions to please others. I've discovered I'm not happy 'being famous' and learned to not care for it at all.

    Nowadays I have two blogs: I've learned to laugh at myself and grow from my own writing. I write everyday without effort. I rarely have comments. Of course I would like to have people reading my posts and truly getting the thoughts behind them: but we all want that in the web as in our daily lives, it doesn't mean we should change the way we talk each time we meet a new person on the street.

    I've subscribed because I liked your honesty and I honestly don't know when's the next time I'll be coming back or why. I'll be checking you on my subscriptions.

    Happy 2011 Chris,
    Vanessa.
    My recent post 3

    1. I think he got Freshly Pressed because we both posted about the blogging buddy thing fairly shortly after they talked about it on The Daily Post. He has a WordPress.com blog, mine is self-hosted. Honestly, I assumed there'd be a ton of such posts and didn't anticipate that either of ours would get any amount of attention.

      This site started out being my own ramblings so it's probably best I leave it that way. I've tried — unsuccessfully — to steer in in a particular direction, write the controversial posts with grabby titles, but it's not my style. There's plenty of other blogs for that.

      I used to have a fanzine in high school (anyone remember those?), and I literally could count my subscribers on one hand. That was okay, though, because in some cases I got their 'zine in trade, and I was able to peer into their lives as much as they were peering into mine. My blog has always sort of been an extension of what I started back when publishing was more than a blue button and involved blackened fingers, staples, and Kinko's.

      p.s. I've subbed to your blog, too (the other one). I sometimes consider myself a writer (this might be obvious), and reading about your challenges and musings on writing makes me feel better about my lack of completing anything.

      1. Oh Chris, you're such a sweet. I'm glad I make your failures look better. (Really laughing out loud : P )
        My recent post 5

  4. Feeling a little cynical I see? I agree that some blogs that don't seem to deserve it get a lot of views and attention, while others that seem very good don't. Being Freshly Pressed does give your blog a boost that is somewhat temporary, but in light of all the thousands of blogs that are out there, a temporary boost is better than nothing. I've been FP's myself, and appreciated the recognition, even though it is fleeting. The reality is – so many blogs, so little time.

    Being a blogger is a lot like being in high school again – except this time if you can't stand the sometimes unfair popularity or lack there of, you have a choice to get out.

    1. I'm always cynical, sometimes bitter and frequently sarcastic. What strikes me most that his post hit the front page and didn't deserve it, but rather that frequently the posts that get huge amounts of attention — especially in stuff like this — are the ones that bear the least amount of resemblance to the other content of the site.

      If I'm honest with myself, I'm also a bit annoyed that there's this WordPress Post-a-day challenge, but if you aren't hosted on WordPress.com, you're not listed with all the other bloggers doing the challenge. WordPress is more than the .com platform, and I know that they want to make WordPress.com more of a blogging community — similar to Blogger and LiveJournal before it — and there's probably very little they can really do about it, but I can tag my posts postaday as much as I like and — were it not for my buddy's accidental stardom — it wouldn't show up on the radar.

      Also, I kind of hate the way that pic of me looks on the front page. Serves me right, I suppose, for using that picture — and the filters that went into making it — on my About page…

      1. I'm not sure what's driving WP's post a day/post a week campaign. It seems a little silly and overdone to me, and I liked WP better before. It's like we're student bloggers and they're making us go to blogging school. If I don't have anything to write about without cute little prompts then I shouldn't be blogging. But hey, we're adults and we don't have to participate if we don't want to.
        As for your picture, maybe your buddy should have checked with you before using it.
        Don't let your cynicism and bitterness bring you down – maybe there's a reason for it that you're not addressing.

  5. I can say from experience that websurfers are a finicky bunch. And as a websurfer myself I can agree, I'm a finicky bastard too. Considering the average Internet attention span most visitors are unlikely it even get to bottom of the page, let along venture out to the backwaters of its archives. It shows that the number of page views a blog gets is in no way proportional to its quality. And anyway a lot of popular blogs are just aggregators anyway. Take Kottke.org for example. He rarely posts his own content, only harvesting "cool" finds, putting minimal effort and probably no time into each post, and he probably gets 100 times the traffic as other bloggers working 10xs as hard. Sad and ironic but a simple fact.

    I can hardly talk though. My blog is in essence and aggregator too. More than half of my content is finds from the around web. But I try to at least put effort info the posts, writing personal takes and reviews on each piece. But I have a specific example to support your argument above, which is the reason I wanted to comment. Last August I reposted something I found one day surfing around the web called If World War One Was A Bar Fight. The site where I found it had taken it from another site who had taken it from another site who probably didn't even write it themselves and failed to credit. Regardless, I credited the site where I found it, posted it in the "humor" category on StumbleUpon where it sat for a week. One Tuesday afternoon I was surprised to find my site had crashed inexplicably. Later that night I was finally able to log in to see that over 50,000 people had found the post via SU. I was flabbergasted to say the least, and foolishly thought I had somehow "made it". The next day it was viewed 35,000 times and steadily fewer as the weeks went on to this day garnering over a quarter million views. This may seem like a success story until you look at the other significant metrics. Since that post went viral my bounce rate has never dropped below 97%, the average time people spend on my site has never risen to more than 1 minute, and only 2% of the people who visit my site look at more than that one page, no matter how beautiful the site design or compelling the other posts happen to be. The only positive aspect is that when you Google "bar fight" 10 Times One ekes out the first page. A great if ill-categorized distinction.

    Like you say, this one post is out of the scope of the theme of the rest of my content, I rarely post what one would consider "humor", my blog falls more under the "arts" category, and the other posts just may not interest people coming to 10×1 via a humor tag. My guess is they're not even reading the post the whole way through given the 50 second average time spent. And for all the now quarter million people that have landed on the site, take a guess how many of them signed up for my RSS? Yep, that's right. 0. Only after 6 months of that post being popular has my Feedburner count started to rise.

    After contemplating on this for several weeks I came to the conclusion that people will not be loyal to the unknowns, we the bloggers, no matter what they saw once or how entertained they were ever so briefly. For the most part the web is filled with content, often recycled, and often trash, but also often fresh and interesting and unless there's a reason to, such as the NY Times or Boing Boing mentioning them, the vast majority of surfers will not feel compelled to venture forth into a random blog's content. And unless you have cute kitties doing something cute or have developed a hilarious niche (hello, damnautocorrect) you will probably be drowned out by the noise of the masses.

    Sorry to be pessimistic but the other vast majority, the bloggers, will have to be satisfied with a steady trickle and/or the occasional traffic spike and carry on doing what we do simply because we love to do it. And in my opinion, like you asked for it, it's the consistency that will eventually be rewarded.

    Okay then. Carry on.
    My recent post Bicycle Typography

    1. That's funny about your Google page one ranking. The last thing I would think is 10 Times One being a place to read about bar fights. I only just discovered the If World War One Was a Bar Fight post by way of the World War II bar fight post which I thought was better written and funnier. I'm sure my post on World War II propaganda art draws adds to the gun-toting lunatics you get coming to your site as a result.

      I suppose in dwelling about the failures or inconsistencies in what gets featured from our blogs in relation to everything else — which is controlled, really, by the collective whims of Google and people searching for stuff, all of which is completely out of our control — we forget the little successes. I have a lot of essays I wrote in college posted here, and a couple of them, my Gender Manifeste and my essay about our addiction to violence in this country always get a few hits here and there. I don't know if anyone stops to read them, but, honestly, the first time I saw a hit to the Gender Manifeste, I considered that to be a win. I'm still fairly proud of those. We can never control or predict what the masses will like or be compelled to, but if we've managed to bring some level of insight or beauty or shown someone to an idea they wouldn't have thought before, then that's a success, however small.

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