Sunday, May 12, 2019

Blogging revelation and reflection

There’s an old saying that writers want to be read. Or, that they need to be read. Clearly that phrase doesn’t apply to bloggers, not if they’re realistic, because the vast majority of bloggers have a small readership and very little profile. Consequently, despite all the breathless posts on Pinterest, most people will never make a cent from blogging. All of that is simple reality for most, though obviously not all, bloggers. Which is why all the bloggers I’ve known, including me, do it for completely different reasons.

This was driven home to me following the end of Google+. Back in February, when I talked about the approaching end of the service, I talked about how I shared blog posts to the service. It was a mostly automatic thing, and I didn’t think much about it, but always assumed that there wasn’t a whole lot of benefit to doing that. It turns out, I was wrong.

I’ve noticed that since Google+ went away, the number of page views for my blog posts have dropped—actually, plummeted is probably a better word. In the first week after I publish a post, page views are about a third less than they were when Google+ was still around—but that’s at the end of that first week. In the first few days after I publish a post, page loads are usually about half, or less, what they were when Google+ was around. By comparison, episodes of my AmeriNZ Podcast have more downloads in the first week or so than any blog post does.

I have no explanation, and can no longer check out any theories, of course. I’d always assumed that not many people actually saw a post on Google+, though I had no way of knowing (stats showed “Google”, but not G+ specifically). So, maybe the page views were the result of bots/webcrawlers? No idea.

But a few days ago, after seeing there was no improvement in page views, meaning the audience for most posts is pretty tiny, I had a similar reaction to a less severe drop in page loads I noticed back in October of last year:
A week or so ago, I published a post and got the screen I always get, which is a list of all published posts from newest to oldest, 100 posts per page. That list includes the number of page views per post, and for no reason in particular, I looked at them: They’re all mostly fairly consistent—with consistently low page views. My first reaction was, “why am I bothering anymore?” My second reaction was, “THIS is why I never look at page view numbers.”

So, I saw those numbers, was discouraged, and instantly thought of stopping blogging, podcasts, videos—everything. I thought a bit about what I might do with my time if I wasn’t blogging, etc., anymore. I thought about taking more photos—and then what? Change them around on my office wall? What good, I thought to myself, is working on them if no one sees them?

And that’s kind of the point of blogging, too. I can share my views and opinions about current events with friends and family, but that’s kind of the verbal equivalent of taking photos and hanging them on my wall. And they already know about New Zealand. I’ve learned that there’s always the chance that some post I publish will resonate widely, or even just deeply, for the people who see it, beyond anything the number of page views might suggest.
All of that ran through my mind this week, too, and I remembered the bit about photos as I thought about what I might spend my time doing if I stopped blogging and podcasting. Nothing’s changed since last October: I still have no alternatives.

But then, as before, I remembered that I don’t actually do this for “exposure”, or whatever, and whether a post has one reader or a thousand (it’s much closer to the former…) isn’t actually something I usually pay much attention to. This time, like in October, it was because of a recent decline in page views.

When people share posts, as sometimes happens, page views go up, which makes sense, of course. It doesn’t happen all the time, or even necessarily very often, but that probably just means that I’m not writing about popular things. Even so, from time to time posts about all sorts of subjects may be “popular”, relatively speaking, while other posts on the same topic are not.

I recently saw a piece about the most popular types of blogs, ironically, maybe, on a site for WordPress beginners. The ten most popular types are, in order: Fashion Blogs, Food Blogs, Travel Blogs, Music Blogs, Lifestyle Blogs, Fitness Blogs, DIY Blogs, Sports Blogs, Finance Blogs, and Political Blogs. Personal blogs like this one were ranked 13th. This sort of ranking is probably most useful for people who want to start a blog and make money from it. Even then, getting readers is an entirely different matter.

Maybe part of the problem is, as Vox put it recently, “…the internet is destroying our collective attention span”, something they say may be shortening our individual attention span, too. Even if it doesn’t, the way that “hot” topics come and go so quickly, any blogger pegging their hopes for readers on blogging about those “hot” topics is probably going to be exhausted all the time.

So, despite the brief discouragement caused by a drop in page views, nothing has actually changed. I still blog about what I want to and when I want to. As long as I get something out of it, I’ll keep going. It’s nice to have people read what I produce, nicer if they get something from it—and it’s kind of nice to know that people read it, too.

But, like all the bloggers I’ve known, I do it for completely different reasons.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

i'll probably link to this at eom