On Blogging, Readers and Stats

Blogs are increasingly interesting to me, from a sociological point of view. Writing has never taken such an intimate, immediate and responsive form before. Writers used to be “Writers” as in, someone far away, who could maybe write about what it was like to be you, but surely they weren’t actually like you. Surely a Writer must be a far more amazing person to be able to succinctly gather humanity’s collective thoughts and emotions and lay them out in such polished fashion. Surely they sit at their clean desk, surrounded by subtle yet challenging art, drinking straight black tea while they produce those smooth gems of verbalized consciousness.

Overall, I would say blogging is no different. In fact in some ways the medium provides an even better way to lure the reader towards fantasies of perfection. It’s what most people want after all, to soothe their own chaos with Other People’s calm (whether or not that calm has any basis in reality). But I’ve realized over time that blogging has so much potential. Not to replace literature by any means, I do adore books and the expansive feeling of high-quality that is only possible when the writer works over the same piece for months. But I believe blogs could provide a different kind of depth, a true intimacy never possible with books.

Erica at Northwest Edible talked recently about her “health keystone” being sleep, and how could she re-arrange her life to get more of it. I wrote her a teasingly admonishing email about blogging too much. I guess that hit a chord because her next post explained that she would not be blogging on Fridays anymore, in an attempt to take better care of herself. This is all great, I’m so proud of her, except that– doesn’t it seem strange that she should have to explain at all? Where does this expectation for bloggers to deliver the goods come from?

I mean, we are not (for the most part) getting paid. Erica runs a slightly more commercial blog than mine, but she also puts a shit ton more time into it, and I don’t believe she’s making anything remotely resembling a wage. We do this because we want to, because we love it, because we can’t help ourselves. But I have seen and felt this expectation before– if you want a good readership you have to blog often and consistently. If you take a break from blogging, or get patchy, your numbers will suffer. Do you as readers even know that this exists? Do you know that we otherwise self-respecting bloggers check our stats like little junkies?

I myself have been incredibly patchy. I come on strong for a few weeks and then disappear for a month. I try to post at least once/week, but sometimes even that falls away. Because I am a real person. With a real life. That is sometimes smooth and sometimes ridiculous. Not only a real person, but a real mother! My babies sleep or don’t sleep, nap or don’t nap, go through phases of fits, dvd addiction, and even occasionally happy independent play. Sometimes I get in a funk, and even though I have the time, I don’t give a shit about blogging, it seems trite and useless. Other times my absences here mean I’m busy living my life and enjoying it. And yes, my numbers have suffered.

But overall I have been impressed at how, despite the big unspoken threat of inconsistent blogging, so many people do in fact continue to read! You, dear remaining readers, you have stuck with me through these ups and downs like real life friends. I like to think that, in a way, it deepens your experience here– knowing that my occasionally eloquent words come out of a very banal tide of chaos. My readership may be very small, by big blog standards, but I dare to think that those of you who willingly suffer the inconsistency and foul language are unusually loyal.

I love NW Edible Life. I love her range of topics, I love her candor and humor, I love her absurdly type A efficiency fixation so much like my own (if better realized). I would love it if she would post every single day, alternating in depth how-to’s and enlightening social commentary. But in this life, at any given moment, you can either do or write. Or sleep. More than reading her entertaining posts every day, I want Erica to get enough sleep and still have time to actually be the person she writes about. If that means she has to blog less, so be it.

As for me, I feel a bender coming on. I have six or seven posts going in my head as we speak. If only I can carve some calm out of my chaos.

30 thoughts on “On Blogging, Readers and Stats

  1. I agree that numbers shift and readers drift when you blog inconsistently, but sometimes it feels like people write as if their blog is a personal journal. I believe content is important. I would rather read one good post a week than five mundane articles about doing laundry, shopping for cupcakes, etc. I also agree that sleep is a must, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to catch up throughout eternity.

    1. i’d take content over regularity any day of the week as well (though, preferably every day of the week). i subscribe to blogs in a reader, so i don’t have to worry about missing my favorite patchy bloggers’ posts, and don’t get any email inbox clogs either. i’ve read a few blogs in the past that posted every day, but even though they occasionally took the time to write something well worth reading, i couldn’t suffer the daily dross and i had to quit them.
      not to say that erica puts out any dross! she is top notch on quality and quantity. how does she do it? and keep up with 16 garden beds or however fucking many? and two kids? don’t you sort of hate her a little bit ;)

  2. “Do you know that we otherwise self-respecting bloggers check our stats like little junkies?”

    Junkie is the perfect word for it. I am pushing myself to finish my boot camp, and over its duration I’ve seen my stats go up, up, up. But I’m not good at completing anything really, so my inner cynic/realist keeps thinking my stats will drop again and quick when the boot camp is over (and thus gives me less motivation to follow through on my last two topics). I will. I’m determine to keep the commitment, but it’s also been a lot of pressure for me and I have several posts/ideas waiting in the wings for it to be over. I keep joking that it’s been a writing boot camp for me, and I really feel it has.

    I don’t know how much readers appreciate bloggers? Or maybe that’s the wrong way to put it – maybe they don’t understand how much comments really mean to the blog author. I LOVE LOVE LOVE comments on my blog. I have lots of friends tell me they are readers but they never comment, which makes me a little sad/crazy. I want to know if lots of different people are reading or if it’s just my mom clicking on my site over and over. ;) And I want to know if people like what I’m writing, or if it’s uninteresting. I generally assume no comments = not a good post. Which just makes me feel like I have much more growing to do as a writer.

    Unrelated: I LOVED your zine. Can’t wait for issue #2 if there is one. ;)

  3. I had literally never read a blog until I started my own. I thought, “What’s a Blog? Online diary? That’s gay.” But you’re right, I do it because I love my life, I love writing, and I fancy that they’re both important on some cosmic level. Over the past year, I’ve let up on the stat checking, although it is great fun to see your traffic sources (how cool is it that other people link to your posts and you don’t even realize it?!). Now I’m at that happy place where I don’t feel the pressure of having to produce something witty. I enjoy my funks where I go dark for a week (and then frantically check my traffic). Those who blog, get it and appreciate it. Trudge on!

  4. It is interesting how readers do become friends in this medium. I, too, love Erica’s blog and will miss her on Fridays. My blog goes through phases of twice a day posts and then once a week. My reader pool is small but dedicated and I like that their visits are frequent and recognizable. Love your site. Keep up the great writing!

  5. *Raises hand* Yep, I’m also a stats junkie. That said, I’ve recently noticed something interesting. I used to blog every damn day. Every freaking day. Sure I had fairly good readership but it wore me down. I couldn’t be an urban farmer and write every day. If I had the time to write every day I didn’t have anything really going on to discuss. When I had tons to discuss I didn’t have time to write. So I backed off the writing. Now I’m lucky to get 2 posts a week in but I make them count. I think they are better written and more in depth because of it. And you know what my stats show? My readership has basically stayed the same *on the days I didn’t write* but it went up on the days I did write. The biggest change, however, was switching over to WordPress from Blogger. I lost a bunch of readers by doing that but it is what it is.

  6. And not just the writing of blog…recently I heard from a reader who had decided to rationalise her time and re-assess her reading list culling some from her list. She then had a blogger email her saying how upset she had made her by “un-following” her blog and wanted to know why, and not in a constructive way I gather. She also commented on the phenomenon of “readers’ obligation/guilt” where some feel this commitment to read everything bloggers write and that can also be a huge time sucker. It’s very interesting sociologically the points you’ve raised and also from the readers perspective also.

    1. A blogger emailing a reader who unsubscribed to demand to know why is pretty sick, imho. Stalkery can go two ways. I lose people on my FB page almost every day, and I’m sure I’ve lost subscribers though I’ve never checked and I don’t even know how I would know if I did. It honestly doesn’t bother me because I know what it’s like to be following too many things and need to cut down. I think the vast majority of the time its not personal. If it IS personal, then obviously I wasn’t the right blog for that reader! :) Either way, being a weirdo about it with the reader accomplishes zilch.

    2. I have to agree 100% with Erica. If people un-follow me it doesn’t really bother me because I know someone else will take their place eventually. I think it’s pretty ballsy to confront someone that un-followed a blog. I don’t even care if one of my friends un-likes my FB page. People who are interested will follow and those are the people I want to write to.

    3. What?! That is sooo creepy. I know my blog is not for everyone. I cull my to-read list very so often if only because I have too many other things to do. But it’s usually because a blog that once spoke to me doesn’t really anymore because I’m in a different place in my life (or the blogger is). Others stick with you for a long time.

  7. Thanks for a great post! I’m a very new food blogger with just a handful of followers at this point and am totally a stats junkie for the first couple of days after I post something… I have to remind myself that I’m only just starting! @Anisa, I think you’re right that readers don’t know how much comments mean, especially readers who are not bloggers.

  8. Really, blogging is socially sanctioned voyeurism, in which we get a glimpse into anothers’ headspace. I love to write and can certainly get carried away with my words, but cannot manage to get over the hump of publicity associated with a blog. I started one with friends but found myself intentionally withholding information to retain privacy. It became a battle between sharing my thoughts, experiences, and joys and not revealing details of myself that I felt were better saved for face to face relationships. Over analytical and assuming too much? Perhaps. So, I have returned to journaling and sending torrential emails to friends on a variety of topics that may or may not pertain to us. To be sure, I appreciate a thoughtful, clever, alternative, and inspiring blog. I enjoy reading others’ voices and being motivated to try something new. I don’t even have children but I loved CJ’s DIY Sippy Cups- very cool….I also appreciate the reflexivity behind blogs, in that oftentimes the writer’s experiences mimic my own and by mentioning them it serves as a point of departure for my own journaling and ponderings. A little kick start if you will. Camaraderie in wild living. So, I thoroughly enjoy being both a reader and a private writer, and am happy to be a statistic!

    1. Recently someone said I was an exhibitionist because I blog. Interesting conclusion… Not necessarily wrong, but I’m not sure it’s right either. ;)

      1. Exhibitionist defined as: “a person who behaves in ways intended to attract attention or display his or her powers, personality, etc.” To me, that has more negative connotations than positive, and an obvious power structure contained within. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to call bloggers exhibitionists. Yes, some writer’s may be more ego-driven than others, but it’s a matter of opinion and preference. If I can get sociological for a moment- it’s about individual subjectivities and expressions thereof. The blog authors that I read are far from exhibitionists; as I personally define and view the concept of exhibitionism. If I was so inclined, no doubt I could find bloggers that met my personal definition of exhibitionism. Such is the beauty of the interweb. A bit of everything for everyone. To make a broad sweeping statement equating bloggers with exhibitionism seems unfair, in my humble opinion…..

  9. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only obsessed blogger who checks her stats. My readership is smaller than yours (mostly made up of friends and family) but it’s fascinating to see who stumbles upon my words!

  10. I’m curious CJ: Do the numbers on your blog readership only show who’s visited your site? How about all the people (like me) that read it from their in-boxes? I rarely click onto the site unless I’m leaving a comment, but rest assured…I AM still reading. :)

  11. I will eternally be conflicted over my involvement in social media, I’ve grown to accept that.

    As Arrowleaf said, I do find myself pulling back so as not to share things that are too personal…it’s just who I am. There is something so falsely intimate about blogging that lures you to feel that you are communicating with a small group of those who love you… that said, I think I’ve found my niche and I love writing in my blog and sharing what I choose to share. I also have grown to value that group of virtual friends I’ve developed, and knowing that we read one another regularly, and sometimes comment.

    As for stats…I avoid looking at them. I hate quantifying a person’s worth with numbers, and hide my kids’ test scores so that they don’t begin at a young age to value (or devalue) themselves based on a percentage or a stat.

    Oh, I admit to that rush when you see that your readership is growing, or that unexpected spike!…or even that twinge when you see you’ve lost twitter followers or subscribers. (Rejection hurts, even if it’s virtual and not necessarily personal.) But I also know that the numbers are not a true reflection of your reach. Just try blogging about large breasts or a celebrity and your stats will go insane! I find that the more I avoid even looking at my stats the freer I am to write what moves me, and actually the more sound my readership becomes.

  12. It seems to me that blogging are mutually exclusive things. But so is raising children and doing the things we as Mamas need to do for ourselves. Somehow we learn to ride the balance, push here, pull there and it all works out. At least our untidy boats still manage to stay afloat somehow. I love these juxtapositions. Thank you for writing about them so eloquently.

  13. I hear you! I am SO impressed with Erica’s blog regularity. I wonder what’s wrong when it’s not new every day. I haven’t, yet, posted to my blog this month. Life is messy and gets in the way. Thank you for the get-out-of blog-loserdom -free card! I, happily, await your next post. And yes, comments…so important. Think comedian on stage , tapping the mic…”is this thing on?”

  14. You know, I’ve always wanted to blog more but I never had time. That was when my kids were REAL little. Now that they’re a bit bigger I don’t really want to as I’m so delirious about my little snippets of proper free time I just want to be out there LIVING the stuff I’d want to write about. I don’t really understand my own attitude to blogging – I like writing, sometimes I love to blog, but here I am with an erratic blog with gaps of over a month. Maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’m not sure why I’m writing it? What I do know though is that I love reading a few blogs all the time (yours included) and am deeply fond of some of the blogs/bloggers who reciprocate the ‘reading.’ Blogland is a good, strange little world that has been to front and centre in my life in the past but is in a very cozy spot off to the side right now.

    Write on you wonderful woman – hit me with that barrage of upcoming posts.

  15. I enjoyed this post. I’m a small-scale blogger, but I get kind of obsessive about my stats. Mainly because I find it absolutely fascinating what bizarre searches lead random people to my blog. I am left wondering, did she figure out what to eat with biscuits? Was the person searching for “both tangible and not” satisfied by thoughts about Christmas? Was the person searching for jogging monkeys disappointed by the absence of actual jogging monkeys?
    But I digress. Most of the blogs I enjoy long-term are not constant in their posting– because they have real life to get to, too.

  16. Ok, I’ve been thinking about this, as is typical after you write. (Stop making me think, CJ, damn you!) Here’s my personal take: I am not and never have been a diarist or journaler. I think a lot of bloggers grew up maintaining some kind of written record of their thoughts and life, etc., and their blog is sort of an outgrowth of that. I always *thought* I should keep a journal but the impulse to action never stayed with me more than about 3 days. However, when I was *assigned* a piece of writing, like in school, I loved the process and always was told I wrote quite well. I treat my blog as a job, basically, because that’s the only way I would do it. I love doing it, don’t get me wrong, but if I took a month off, I probably wouldn’t come back. By the time the month had passed I would have moved on to other projects. As it is, what I love most about blogging isn’t as others have said, the community or the recognition or any of that. It’s that it is a new (to me), wide open arena where I have a lot to learn. I really like being on the uphill-learning side of a project. It’s what I like about gardening: always more to figure out and tinker with and re-create. Blogging and the pressure of optimizing my writing so it is honest, educational and entertaining day in and day out has the same fun. Work-fun. I like work-fun. There may come a time when I have it all figured out. If that day comes, I guarantee you I’d quit writing.

    1. hmm, very interesting. i almost wrote you asking why you blogged. so thanks for intuiting my question and answering it here!
      i can totally see that, that’s why i started a blog in the first place. a fun project to figure out. but then the writing bug bit me, and i discovered an addictive love of the process of putting complex thoughts into words.
      this subject is a popular one, eh? i wasn’t expecting this kind of response. another proof that you just never can tell where the comments are going to fall.

    2. Erica, I was totally the same in regards to writing growing up. Never kept a diary/journal and was told in school that I was good at writing. I started blogging to keep a record of what worked and didn’t work for me. Then I started gaining followers and with that came questions so it became a way for me to help teach people what I’ve learned.

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