Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Blog Traffic (an IWSG post)

It seems that every few months there will be a string of blog posts about how blogs are dying. I've seen at least three in January, one of them by Nathan Bransford. This worry about the "death" of blogs kind of interests me, because it's so irrational. But, then, most fears are irrational. And emotional (and, if you've been following my "thinking" series, you'll know where emotions can get us).

The truth is, I have no idea about how blogs are doing in the overall landscape of the Internet. I do know, though, that they are not going away. Blogs are, at this point, an integrated part of the Internet and some have gotten so big and pervasive that we no longer even think of them as blogs. Which doesn't change the fact that they are. People just don't treat them that way anymore, so it sort of removes them from the blog landscape in our minds, thus shrinking our own, personal blogosphere.

Here's the real issue as I see it: it's a matter of perception. See, the blogosphere is a constantly changing landscape. It's kind of like this exhibit that was at the Mid America Science Museum, a hands on museum, when I was a kid. It was this topography thing, sort of like a big box of dirt, that you could make mountains and rivers and stuff in. There were water pumps on the side to run water into it, and air pumps to make mountains. The thing is, though, that you had to keep working the pumps to keep whatever it was you were doing operating. If you stopped with the water pump, the river would dry up, and, if you stopped with the air pump, the mountain would slowly shrink. That was kind of the point, too, to show how those things eroded over time. But all of that is kind of how blogs work...

When you're working on your blog, posting (interesting things) regularly, visiting other blogs and commenting, responding to the comments on your own blog, it's like working that air pump and the mountain that is your blog rises. As soon as you stop doing those things, your personal blog landscape begins to shrink. It has nothing to do with how the blogosphere overall is doing, but, since your own landscape is shrinking, it feels like everything is shrinking.

To continue to use Mr. Bransford as an example, he was complaining about how his comment count is down. Well, I would suspect that that is because he rarely responds to comments. When I first started blogging, I was pointed at his blog as being, like, the epitome of the writing blogs, but I have found it to be far from that. Sure, maybe there was a time when it was. A time when he was actively working on his blog. However, I found out very quickly that he doesn't respond to comments. Doesn't even acknowledge his commenters, so, even if I have something to say, I don't comment on his blog. In fact, his posts are so erratic, both in how often he does it and in the content therein, that I rarely click through to see what he has to say anymore. When I do, I generally come away empty-handed, so to speak. I'm not even sure why I have not stopped following him other than that I haven't taken the effort to remove him from my list.

He was also saying how many of his old blogging buddies no longer blog. Well, sure, that happens. The newness of blogging wears off, and many people quit, but there is a fairly steady stream of new people coming into it, so, if you are even somewhat active in your blogosphere, there are new people to meet that replace the old ones that move on to other things. But, if you're not active, not seeking out new worl..., um, people, blogs, your world slowly shrinks as people leave. This seems to be the situation with our friend Nathan. So, yeah, it seems like, to him, blogs are dying.

Now, after having used Nathan Bransford as an example, I have to say that I don't actually know him, and I don't know what his blogging habits are. Maybe, he does visit as many blogs each day as Alex (our IWSG creator); I don't know. My statements are purely reflective of the comments he made in his post about dying blogs and what I thought of as I read them based upon my perceptions. And they are my perceptions.

Honestly, there probably are fewer people blogging today than there were five years ago, but, five years ago, people thought blogging was some kind of "get rich quick" scheme. When that turned out not to be the case, those people trying to strike gold by blogging left. But, then, those people were never really involved anyway. They thought they could just throw their crap into the air and it would come back down gold bricks. "If you blog it, they will come," so to speak. But that's not how it works.

Anyway... all of  that to say that you get out of it what you put into it. There are more than plenty of active bloggers, and the blogosphere is a vibrant, living landscape, whether it's smaller now than it used to be or not.

And none of that has to do with my own insecurity about blogging. I'm not insecure about a lot of things, and I'm insecure about almost nothing that I have control over. For instance, I'm not insecure about whether my writing is any good or not. On the one hand, I know that it is; on the other, it totally doesn't matter as long as I'm satisfied with it, which I am, so I have no insecurities there at all. However, I have no control whatsoever about traffic flow to my blog...

Okay, yeah, that's not the truth, because, like I was just saying, if you're involved and all of that, you'll get people coming over to check you out just because you're involved. BUT! But... My traffic has been steadily increasing over the past couple of years to the point where my daily traffic is as high as what I would get in an entire month when I first started. That's good! Great, even. But I do worry about sustaining it. Every month, I have anxiety as the month begins as to whether I will retain the traffic flow of the previous month, and I don't always do that. There are some months with some pretty steep drops. But, overall, it goes up, but, overall, I can't keep myself from fretting about it for about the first half of each month. Of course, that's part of what drives me to be involved, so I guess it works out.

So there you go: why not to worry about blogging being on the way out and why I worry about my blog traffic anyway.

Today is the last day for submissions for the Great Chocolate Contest. If you have an entry, post it on your blog and leave me a link, OR email it to me. Either is fine. For those of you that post them, I will leave links to the various stories tomorrow (or Friday at the latest). Thanks! And may the best chocolate in the world (that I've ever tasted) go to the best story!

And I almost forgot!
As a special birthday present to all of you out there (that don't already have it), "Christmas on the Corner" is FREE! today! Drop by and pick it up! (And click the "like" button!)


  1. I went to Nathan Bransford's blog for the first time just yesterday because a friend sent me a link to a post he'd done last August. And while I was there, I did see the post to which you're referring.

    I never know if blogs are in or out, alive or dead, or any of that. I know I am blogging less than I have in the past, but that's me being me.

  2. I used to be a regular visitor there, but I went because he was an agent that posted about the industry all the time. About what was selling, about outside things that will effect the industry. When he quit being an agent and said he was an author I quit on the spot.

    Not because I was mad at him, but for the reasons you mentioned above, he has little interaction with his commenters and his area of expertise - that made him worth reading regardless - was taken away.

    My story will be a midnight sort of post... It's not ready.

  3. New bloggers join all the time. It's an ebb and flow thing and I don't think it's dying at all.
    It does take effort. It takes interesting posts AND interaction. I do visit a lot of blogs, but it's because I have made so many friends.
    I think I visited Bradford's site once or twice, but he never interacted or visited other blogs, so I didn't understand the fascination with him. I've never understood why someone would pour so much into a blog and yet never interact or go out and visit others. Seems like a waste of time.

  4. I have been blogging for a pretty long time now (I started for the gold bricks) and I have found comments going up and down. I write 6/7 and enjoy every minute of it. I try to interact as much as possible and I always reply to a comment left on my blog. Don't normally read ISWG posts not being a writer as such.


  5. I find that if a blogger doesn't respond to comments (or at least clearly read them, which may be reflected in later posts) or otherwise reciprocate, I become irritated very quickly. Why waste my time commenting? I don't even know if the person is READING them. I'm not writing this comment to bump your comment numbers. I'm writing it for interaction. Sheesh.

  6. I agree with you completely. To me the blog is my own little corner of the Net and I'm thrilled to be able to interact with other bloggers. I think it does take a great deal of effort to maintain a blog but to me the rewards are well worth it.

    Great IWSG post! :)

  7. I couldn't agree more. I've only been blogging for just under two years, and about the time I started, I read a couple articles about how blogging was already going the way of the dodo, but as far as I can see, blogging is still alive and well. But as you say, you've gotta participate to be a part of it. Publishing a post and then disappearing doesn't cut it. No matter how good a blog may be, it's only gonna thrive if the blogger gives a good diddle about the people who leave comments. It's kinda like inviting a guest to your home. It's up to the blogger to make his "guests" feel welcome... and eager to return.

    Thanks for the heads up on your book. I just snagged it.

  8. Nathan rarely visits anyone's blog. If he does, it is the one formerly called the Rejectionist and Tahereh Mafi's blog (who no longer blogs). The thing is, they are part of the elite publishing industry of agents and the Big Six. Nathan went to Stanford and works at CNET as the head of their social media department. Mafi got a $500,000 book deal from Harper Teen along with movie rights.

    These people follow the mantra "birds of a feather flock together." You know how you and I are not going to get a visit from Mitt Romney anytime soon? Well the same goes for these other people who have the entitlement and perception that you should be reading and commenting on their stuff and that it won't be reciprocal. IT's called human ego, and they got it in spades.

    But to be honest, blogs are not what they used to be. I visit many a blog but the content is usually something I already know or is boring to me. I comment because I'm a nice guy and want to show interest in someone.

    However, the real source of what I like always comes from Reddit, io9, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. That's just the way it is. I feel that others probably feel the same way.

    So the TL;DR version: Nathan is whiny because he's not as famous as Neil Gaiman or George R.R. Martin and probably never will be. Those authors can post a laundry list and get a hundred comments.

    And that's just the way it is.

  9. To tack on to Michael's TL;DR -- except that Neil Gaiman doesn't allow comments on his blog and I still read every single post because the man is flippin' amazing.

  10. First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANDREW!! Second, I think you get out of blogging exactly what you put into it. I, for one, do not reply to comments, but rather, I try to visit and comment on my commenters posts. I say I try because I have very little time to do so and some days, even if I post myself, I simply cannot visit. I have deadlines and little time to work. But I never went into blogging with the goal being to achieve this great following. My traffic is up and my comments are also up, at least when I post rather than someone guest posting. As for Nathan, he gets a lot of comments. Plus he has his day job and he writes, publishes and markets his titles, 4 of them now, I believe. There are very bloggers out there who make the rounds like Alex does. And, quite frankly, I don't know how he does that while performing his regular job. It's a mystery! But it must also be a tremendous amount of pressure. I could never and WOULD never put myself under that strain. I'd go completely nuts and probably shoot myself. This writing thing is supposed to be enjoyable and blogging is supposed to supplement that. It may be on the way out, and, frankly, I'd miss it if I had to give it up, but I'd also be a bit relieved. It's a lot of work!

  11. I always hear that blogging is dying (especially from agents in the publishing industry) and yet I've seen nothing to support it. Yes, blogging's probably smaller than it was 5 years ago, but the people that say this kind of thing act like you should just stop trying because it's pointless. And yet the two of us sold thousands of books last year, books we would have not sold if all we had was a Facebook fan page and a personal website. So until we get 10 pageviews and 0 comments a day, and until we start getting 0 sales on Amazon, I'm going to keep blogging and I'm also going to keep believing that it's single-handedly the biggest reach we have.

  12. I'm kind of a compulsive commenter. I love the interaction on my blog and on other people's.

    Of course, with Nathan Bransford he built up his following because he was an agent and everyone was hoping he would pick them as a client. But since he quit agenting and became solely an author I think a lot of people have stopped trying to kiss up, to put it bluntly, and don't comment or read there as often as they used to.

  13. As long as there are writers, there will be blogs. As with any other social media [and blogging is social media], you get out what you put in.

    I learned so much from blogging. And you have to keep going out and meeting new people, because people stop blogging all the time. But new people start all the time.

  14. M.J.: The blogging less as time goes by is fairly typical of people in general.

    Rusty: He was already not an agent when I started blogging. I went there because "everyone" said his blog was "the" blog.

    Alex: He doesn't pour that much into it, as far as I can tell. At least, not any more.

    Jo: One of these days, when I get time, I'm gonna peruse all those recipes you put up.

    Callie: I tend to stop going to blogs when the blogger doesn't respond to comments. Or do something.

    Julie: Lots and lots of effort.

    Susan: Hmm... Maybe they meant blogging is for dodos? Now, I feel self-conscious.
    Thanks for picking up "Christmas"!

    Michael: Man, I don't know what I'd do if Romney wanted to visit me. Pretend I'm not home?

    I do get the impression (and it's just an impression) that Nathan's books haven't done as well as expected.

    Callie (again): Gaiman does allow comments on his blog as it posts through goodreads, if you follow him there. I understand Gaiman's thing; he posted about his "answering email" job a while back and talked about how he had to, basically, stop.

    Nancy: Thank you!
    I'm not sure how Alex manages, either. I'm sure there's something going on there.

    ABftS: I think blogging has a reached a fairly stable spot, which is good.

    L.G.: Well, I don't know what it used to be like on his blog, but he still gets tons of comments. He seems to have a group of commenters that interact with each other, though.

    M Pax: Yeah, that's it exactly.

  15. This is an interesting discussion. I notice I'm gravitating away from pages where the authors don't interact. They are just not as fun. I know people have busy lives so I don't always expect a return comment or visit every time, but once in a while is nice. It's like watering the plants :P

  16. Winopants: And we all know plants grow better when you talk to them, right? Or play music. Or something. Hmm... now I'm wondering if that music stuff has anything to do with birds...
    No, I don't know what any of that has to do with anything, but it's late, and I'm tir..e...

  17. Yeah, like many others I've been hearing blogging was dying from when I took it up forward. Good thing I ended up having so much fun interacting with others, and ceased caring if I was creating the perfect platform or not. I am frequently overwhelmed in trying to keep up with everyone, and I don't know how to fix that, but I like it anyway.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  18. Shannon: Well, I've just determined that I can't keep up with everyone. Not if I ever want to write. I probably still spend too much time on blog stuff as it is.

  19. I know there are times I have to step away from Blogger for various reasons and I don't expect people to keep on commenting on my blogs if I were still posting them. It just doesn't make sense. Why comment on me if I'm not making an effort to comment back on you or even reply to a comment left on my own blog, it's just rude. I truly cherish the fact that people take the time to read and the time to comment on something I wrote. Blogging takes time and effort and I think you're right, it's not going away any time soon.

  20. Elsie: Yeah, I find it kind of strange to complain about something you're not actually participating in.

  21. I like the landscape analogy. Since I've entered the blog landscape I've seen the gradual changes. New bloggers keep coming and some of the older ones disappear. Others have posted consistently since before I joined and they go on rarely receiving a comment--don't know what they're in it for but they go on like lazy rivers.

    I don't think blogging will be going anywhere for a long time--or at least as long as there is an internet and dreams of writing or people just wanting to say something. I haven't visited the Bransford site in ages and only did for a couple of times for that matter. I wasn't all that amazed by what he was saying and much of it was being said by other bloggers who are far more accessible.

    There's blogging community and there are blogs that some people go for information for whatever reason and don't really become a part of. There are the lone bloggers who seem to be so wrapped up in what they're doing and don't even understand that there's another world out there who don't pay any attention to what those bloggers are doing.

    Tons of bloggers with a myriad of reasons to be doing it. I don't think the scene will die soon unless something else amazing comes along to take its place.

    One thing I don't think is happening is all that many people making a lot of money off of blogging alone. The blog may be the platform to connect to the world of enterprise, but in and of itself I don't think it's an overly common way to make a living.

    Blogging is a dreamworld to help us to try to tap our dreams into reality and it can also be a presentation of a certain reality presented to certain dreamers lost in the internet. Blogging is so many different things that if it dies, it will be a prolonged fragmented death that most of us in blogland will never sense.

    Oh, and blogging provides a great outlet for rambling with wordage. It's more fun than writing essays for classes or writing crap in a notebook that no one will likely ever read.

    And that's what I like about blogging.

    I feel like I'm in school again.

    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  22. Lee: Yeah, I think it's something that changes as you move across it and is often different when you go back to where you started.

    I think we've already seen a few of those amazing things that have come along (facebook, twitter, etc), but blogging is still here.

  23. That analogy is perfect, Andrew. Like most things, you get out of it what you put into it.

  24. Matthew: It's too bad that's not how people want things to work.

  25. Hey, Andrew!

    Being a newbie blogger, I really appreciate this post. This clears up lots of the rumors and puts my mind at ease. I'm still learning my way around and trying not to stress too much. I don't want blogging to ever get to a point where it isn't fun, so I update weekly, and I try to respond to all comments. In my free time, I visit other blogs. I think I'm doing okay. Deep breaths, lol. :)

  26. celeste: Well, welcome aboard!
    Wait? You have free time? Can I have some? Where did you get it? Does it grow somewhere or something where I can go pick it? Or do you dig it up or what?