Social Media Sunday: The State of the Blogs

Normally, I’d share stats today, but I need to think more . . . globally right now. We’ve had a great quarter but a not-so-great month. April and May saved us, thanks to all the people who contributed a volume of posts that allowed us to publish every day while I spent most of my internet time working for traffic.

I think the poor June is partly about the time of year, but is mostly due to my absence from the Internet. When I’m not religiously answering threads, our engagement suffers. When I’m not tweeting consistently, our referrals suffer. When I’m not in a position to guarantee a post per day, we live entirely on search traffic. Etc.

I’ve seen this effect before on more than one blog, and it’s predictable. It’s not a cause for concern, and I’m not even thinking of it as a setback. It happens. Moving right along.

It’s the July 4 weekend. Last year I overextended myself engineering a good July to the point that we tanked in August and didn’t really recover until late September. Not doing that this year. Of course I’ll maintain communication with all our contributors and do my best to make sure we have a post per day, but for the next two quarters, we get what we get while I reorganize a bit and figure out what 2016 looks like.

If you read my #WeekendCoffeeShare post last weekend, you may have noted that I used the word “monetize” in a positive way. And that I said Sourcerer will be just what it is — a noncommercial WordPress.com blog that thrives on contributions — for as long as it remains in operation. The rest of this builds directly from that post.

Periodically, I take a look at all my social media, evaluate it, and re-prioritize my Internet time to shore up the most valuable ones when they need it. This is a requirement for me, because I’m always experimenting, looking for new friends in out-of-the-way places, and goofing around on networks where I’m weak to figure out how they work. This blog is the most valuable social media space I own, and it’s not in terrible shape, but it needs some shoring up.

I’ve poured a ridiculous amount of time and energy into building Sourcerer. Almost two years in, I am ok with that, because it pays dividends for me and for others. Here are some of the dividends it pays.

  • It’s a safe, welcoming place for a diverse group of bloggers to publish about things that they’re interested in but that doesn’t necessarily fit on their blogs, to mingle, and to form friendships with other bloggers who share their interests.
  • It’s capable of generating crazy-good engagement for its size when circumstances are right.
  • It’s supported by a Twitter account that’s valuable for introducing people, generous about sharing links to other blogs, and positioned to grow.
  • It’s a key part of a much larger social network that is good for generating project ideas, though the brainstorming rarely happens on the blog itself these days.

Here’s something to note about these dividends: they are all social. I’ve privileged the formation of meaningful relationships over other benefits from the beginning, and that has worked well. As long as we can maintain a contributor base and keep bringing the content, Sourcerer is just too good a blog to let go of, or to move to a self-hosted model. It stands or falls on WordPress.com. Its purpose is to get bloggers other than me read.

Here’s the problem. I’m maxed out on the ability to keep growing by putting in more time and energy. It’s taken a lot of luck along with help from many of other bloggers to build it to this point. I am happy to be here and believe I can maintain this blog over time, but I think growth, in terms of increasing page views, will be be slow from here on out.

That has two consequences. I have to get more efficient with my internet time, and I need a source of revenue to spend on marketing. Since I’ve ruled out monetizing this blog, and I can’t build another one on the Sourcerer model without a LOT of administrative and editorial help (because who could run two blogs, each with this many contributors?), I need something completely different.

So, I’m in the process of transitioning all my activities on WordPress to Sourcerer and to the blogs I contribute to and guest post for. Just Gene’O hasn’t performed in a while and there must be better options for a personal website — options that allow third-party ads and are more friendly to affiliate links. Also: options that provide better analytics. So, here is my new-and-improved long-term plan.

1. Phase out Just Gene’O over time. No project I’m supporting with that blog requires it for support at this point. #WeekendCoffeeShare will be just fine without it as long as I have someplace else to publish those posts. The Feminist Friday Project has the infrastructure now to keep right on rolling, provided I continue to coordinate it and find someplace else to archive the public schedule, to index the links and to publish my own contributions. I just don’t know yet what this new personal site looks like, nor where it will be hosted.

2. I need a better personal brand and I need site I can use to get a lot more traffic with one or two updates per week than I’m getting from Just Gene’O at that frequency. If I can generate even $15 per month that isn’t coming out of my (very modest) family income, I can use it as a development fund for the larger project. The question at the moment is how I get there.

3. While I’m figuring that out, keep doing the coffee posts and feminst posts at Just Gene’O and pour more attention into Sourcerer and @Sourcererblog.

4. Make smarter choices about how I structure the next site I build, what I commit to doing with it, and where it’s hosted.

5. Keep making friends.

6. Get lucky one more time.

7. Keep Sourcerer posting, maintain my contributions to the other blogs I post at, and be primed to explode from the starting blocks again in January, the same way we have for the last two years.

That’s it. All my thoughts for today. World domination is still very much on. I just need to find more resources to work with.

What do you think about all this?

From the Instigator-in-Chief . . .

I addressed readers directly often during the first year this blog was posting. I’ve done that less and less as our contributor base has grown, because one of my goals for this year was to make Sourcerer a seamless pop culture blog. Since I’ve been scarce around here for the last month, we’ve missed some days, and we’ve had no afternoon photos since May, here’s a quick run-down so you’ll know what to expect from me, and from this blog, through the fall.

Arrr, mateys!

Arrr, mateys!

The main thing you can expect is more written posts from me, and more personal engagement on the comment threads. The blog has suffered from my absence this month, and that’s not surprising. I’ve seen it happen before both here and at Part Time Monster. It’s not a cause for concern — periodic absences are a part of blogging, and I’m sure we’ll do better once I’m able to give the blog more attention.

  • July 4 is a week away. That’s my target date for the slowdown. Doesn’t mean we’re going away, and it’s my goal to update this blog daily year-round, but our schedule during the second half of the year is lighter, and includes more photoblogging, video posts, and reblogs.
  • Our Silly Rabbit (Monday) and Penny Dreadful (Tuesday) features will finish their runs in the next few weeks. I’m not sure what we’ll do on those days during late July and early August. We’ll continue to have an interview on the first Monday of every month, and I’m considering increasing the frequency of those, because they’re fun and popular.
  • Comics on Wednesdays is still the top priority.
  • Throwback Thursdays will continue until I run out of Tolkien posts, so at least through mid-August.
  • We’ve moved the Weekend Music back to Fridays. On weeks when we don’t have anything else to post on Saturdays, Weekend Music will run on Saturday mornings and Friday will be an off-day.
  • Star Wars Saturdays, our newest feature, are as high on my list of priorities as comics. I’d like to build this feature into a consistent staple here and write a few of them myself, but that will take some time, and we may miss a few weekends in the next month or two.
  • Sundays, typically, are either an off day or the day I post social media-oriented things like quarterly stats, Twitter geekery, etc.

sourcerer_imageWe have space for another contributor or two. I’m not going all-out with recruitment, nor am I particularly concerned about a lack of content. But if you’re interested, read our For Contributors page.

Basically, the way I handle contributions is to have people who want to contribute pitch ideas, then brainstorm and tweak them together until we find something that fits. I’ve accepted everything from one-shot guest posts up to long weekly runs in the past, so frequency isn’t an issue as long as we know you well enough to grant you author access to the dashboard and you have the ability to deliver finished posts which include at least one shareable image.

This is where we are. A big thanks to all the friends and contributors who have kept the content flowing during my recent troubles. Once I’m satisfied that I’ve re-established a sufficient personal presence here, I’m back to Twitter and to a few social blogging activities that fell off my radar in June.

2014 Review, with Blogwanking

Since Luther and Sabina discussed their latest stats recently, I pulled a few of mine this morning. A lot of the info I usually talk about in these posts — top referrers, most popular posts, etc. — is covered in the annual reports, which I made public earlier today. In this post, I’m looking at how we did for traffic this quarter and how well we’ve accomplished our 2014 goals.

First, let’s take a look at Sourcerer’s month.

Sourcerer_December_2014The big spike on December 12 represents 118 views and 79 visitors. That was a Friday. We ran an American Horror Story review and I announced the redesign. I’m surprised we didn’t take a bigger hit the last two weeks of the month. We even managed 42 views and 30 visitors on Christmas Day despite the fact that I forgot to tag my Christmas post.

I’m satisfied with our best ever day, total views, and comments. I’d certainly take more, but they are better than I thought they’d be at this point. I am especially pleased at our views-to-comments ratio, even when I account for the fact that almost half of those comments are responses from the authors of our posts.

Now our monthly views and daily averages since we started.

Sourcerer_Monthly_2014_12_30Our overall daily average hasn’t changed since last quarter, so that number has been rock solid for almost six months. Let’s take a stroll through the year.

  • The massive January-over-December increase is not repeatable. We debuted our first four contributors last January. We also had a string of good luck that amounted to being struck by lightning three times in three weeks.
  • However, given where we are now, 3,500 page views in January is doable if we can get rolling early enough in the month.
  • I expect February though May to improve this year. We have a more solid contributor base, tons more friends, and an all-around better blog than we did last spring.
  • June, our best month, was not a matter of luck. That was a solid 30-day run of good blogging and it was our first good month for search traffic. We can do that again any time we can get the blog firing on all cylinders, pick the right topics to blog about, and sustain it for a month.
  • July and August only came out so well because I overextended myself. That won’t happen again, because you see the price we paid for it in September.
  • I’m surprised we held up so well in November and December, especially given that both David and I went on vacation and ended up down sick for nearly a month each. We have Luther, Diana, Will, and Google to thank for those numbers.
  • As I read the last quarter, if I am left to my own devices and have two or three top-notch contributors, this blog is good for 2,000 views per month just for posting every day. Obviously, more contributors, popular topics, and me having the time to do a lot of networking improves the numbers.

Just for the sake of comparison, here are Part Time Monster’s monthly totals and daily averages for the same period. The Monster is at 31,000 views and 5,126 comments as of this writing. Sourcerer is still keeping pace, and the Monster’s view-to-comment ratio is even better than ours.

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Not Everyone Was Born to Be a King . . . But EVERYONE Can Raise a Glass and Sing!

Video

This is one of Diana’s anthems. I post it from time to time to make her smile. Also, to make a philosophical point in a humorous way. It has the added bonus of dropping an F-bomb on the front page of a blog that is notoriously conservative where the publishing of profanity is concerned. And it is truly the only eulogy I need.

Click “Continue Reading” for some gossip.

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