StumbleUpon v. Reddit

I’m looking at StumbleUpon and Reddit as key networks to expand into over the next year. The reason for that is simple: if you’re looking to bring visitors to a website as efficiently as possible, building a viable presence on one or both of those networks is probably a good move. The problem: They require a lot of engagement, and they step on sharing one’s own stuff pretty hard.

This means figuring out how much time you can get by with spending on them and knowing how often to put your own links out there are tricky. I have no idea how either of those networks decide what counts as “affiliation,” and I publish at and promote several blogs I do not own. I don’t want to be demoted before I even get started, and I don’t have a lot of time. So I’m proceeding slowly and cautiously.

But I have been experimenting. I have a StumbleUpon account I don’t use very often and no Reddit account at all. We’ve seen some success with both over the last couple of weeks. I’ll share a few numbers with you today and then explain the differences between these two networks as I understand them.

This spike happened here the weekend of Aug 10. I’ve included the mouseover info for the peak day. This is a good four-day spike from Reddit. It started on Sunday and trailed off on Wednesday. We still got a little from it on Thursday, and continued getting odd views last week.

15_08_10_spike

Most of this traffic went to a Tolkien post and a Batman post that were shared on various subreddits by a friend of mine who is not affiliated with the blog on Sunday, Aug. 9. The Tolkien was shared early and the Batman was shared late. The Batman post generated about 100 views, and they came in over a shorter period of time than the views on the Tolkien post, which brought us visitors for days. I’m assuming the difference is explained by the relative sizes and activity levels of the subrreddits where the posts were shared.

Overall, we received around 240 documented referrals from Reddit from this. That’s two or three days’ worth of traffic for us, depending on time of week and how we’re set for content. So, totally worth the minimal amount of time it took to drop those links.

Just to put those 240 views over a 4-day period into perspective for you. In the last 30 days we’ve received 195 views from the WordPress Reader, 115 from Facebook, and 75 from Twitter. And we’ve only gotten a little over 1,000 from search engines.

As I was putting this post together Friday evening, this happened. These are stats from Part Time Monster. The Friday/Saturday spike represents almost 800 views. A few came from StumbleUpon, but most came from Reddit. The info in the mouseover is for Saturday, which turned into Diana’s best day ever.

PTM spike 15-08-23

This one was a surprise. Diana’s Girls and Gaming post was shared spontaneously on Reddit by a blogger who as far as I know, we’ve never talked to. That post received more than 307 views on Friday and we recorded 168 Reddit referrals that day. I stumbled the post around midnight and it got another 53 views from StumbleUpon between midnight and 2 am on Saturday morning.

The StumbleUpon traffic trailed off, but PTM received another 179 Reddit referrals, and by the end of the day on Saturday, the gaming post had been viewed another 298 times. Out of the total of 780 views at the Monster on these two days, 605 were on the gaming post. We’re sure that 400 of those came from Reddit and StumbleUpon.

Again, just so you have some frame of reference. In the last 30 days, PTM has received 204 views from the reader, 57 from Facebook, 57 from Twitter and 604 from search engines. It’s also worth noting that Part Time Monster’s previous best day was a 400-view day in mid-March, and 85 of those views came from StumbleUpon. Our best day here at Sourcerer is 391 views, and 81 of those came from StumbleUpon. In fact, every time we’ve set a new best-ever record in the last 18 months at either of these blogs, StumbleUpon has been involved.

This is real progress for us for a couple of reasons. We’ve seen handfuls of referrals from Reddit before, but never anything like this, and these numbers are comparable to all the StumbleUpon spikes I’ve ever seen aside from the two or three very best. The 50 views I got for Part Time Monster from StumbleUpon is also the first time I, personally, have had a successful stumble. Up to this point, it’s always been other people stumbling our posts that got the views.

So which is better, Reddit or StumbleUpon? That depends on how you like to play on the internet, and on what you’re looking to get out of it.

Reddit is basically a huge forum with sub-forums (called subreddits) for just about every topic you can think of. People chat and share links related to specific topics. Reddit users can vote things up or down. Enough up votes will land a link on Reddit’s front page. Enough down votes can disappear a link entirely from Reddit.

StumbleUpon is a network for sharing and curating links. Users follow topics (called “Interests”) and can follow up to 100 other Stumblers. StumbleUpon sends content from your interests and from the people you follow into your feed, and you can like/dislike things. StumbleUpon saves all your likes and allows you to build lists of things you like. You can also share pages to StumbleUpon and categorize them for other users to find.

Reddit strikes me as easier to use — I find the StumbleUpon interface difficult. Reddit is also probably a more predictable source of traffic if you can learn to share there effectively, but StumbleUpon probably has higher traffic potential. (I’m saying “probably” here because I’m not well-versed enough to be sure). StumbleUpon was one of our top five referrers here in 2014 and brought us almost as many views from two or three lucky stumbles as Facebook did from every link we shared there.

The value of both to bloggers is simple. If you generate enough views on a single post in a short period of time, that helps the post get into Google searches. I’d say 80 percent of the the search traffic we get here is from people finding posts that were put into those searches originally by StumbleUpon.

I plan to eventually use both of these networks, but I am starting with StumbleUpon because I have more friends who use it than use Reddit, and because I already have a StumbleUpon account set up.

What about you? Do you use either of these networks, and do you have any advice for us newbies?

Happy Monday!

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Weekend Coffee Share: In Which My Motivation Fails

If we were having coffee, it would be Sunday afternoon coffee and I would not be as put-together as I usually am. I’d have three days’ worth of stubble on my neck and untrimmed eyebrows. I’d tell you that I had a pretty good week last week, but spent most of my time working the paying job. We also had a good week on the blog, thanks to help from Hannah, Melissa, and Natacha, and to a couple of Reddit shares last weekend from my friend Serins.

weekendcoffeeshare

I’d tell you I’d hoped to continue the conversation about Reddit and StumbleUpon we started last Sunday, share some stats, and build on a couple of things I said last week, but that’s just not happening. I spent most of Saturday flat on my back for no particular reason. I’m not sick and my week was taxing, but I don’t feel exhausted. I simply did not get up off the couch until after 3 pm.

I sat down to write a Weekend Coffee Share/Social Media Sunday post yesterday afternoon, and just couldn’t get it to work the way I wanted it to. I ended up cooking dinner for the family instead, and when I was done with that I just puttered about on Facebook and Twitter for awhile and then went to bed.

I woke up today at 8 or 9, but stayed in bed until 12:30. Again, no particular reason. I just didn’t feel like getting up. So I’m sitting here writing a post that should have published at 7 am, and it’s not the one I wanted to publish today.

I’d tell you I’ve known for years that my depression runs in cycles. It’s not entirely unheard-of for me to have a bout of it in the spring and summer. But mostly it hits me in the fall and winter — it’s almost guaranteed. These last couple of years, it hasn’t been so bad, because the summers have been good, I’ve been learning a new job (you do know it takes two years to master a new job, right?), and I’ve had the blogs to keep me occupied.

This year, I had an absolutely horrific summer, so I’ve not had a lot of recharge time. The job is mostly routine now aside from occasional surprises. And I have a feel for the rhythm of the blog now, too, so there’s less to learn and less to gain from obsessively minding the stats and such. So, I am afraid the depression is going to be bad this year, and the fact that I’ve spent so much time lying around this weekend is not the best sign. I’m hoping it just means I’ve been more tired than I care to admit, and needed some downtime.

And I’d tell you, if we were having coffee, that aside from a Wedensday comics post from Diana (YAY, right?), I don’t know what we’re doing on the blog this week. I’m just sitting here thinking about that now. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays will be easy — all they require are a discussion prompt, a post promoting another blog, and a music video. Monday, I’m not sure about. Possibly the social media thing I’d intended to do today.

I post the social media stuff on Sundays because they do just as well on Sundays as they do during the week, and they get me a post for #SundayBlogShare. They don’t do poorly during the week — it just doesn’t get us anything extra to use a weekday slot for them. So Maybe I’ll just do that and get the blog scheduled through Friday. It’s a rare week that this blog isn’t scheduled five days in advance by 3 or 4 pm on Sunday afternoon.weekendcoffeeshare_2015

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you school starts next week. The week after, my office reopens to the public for nine hours a day, and I’m back to overseeing 15 people who provide tutoring services for 35 to 50 clients a day. I’m into the part of the year where I have to do the pubic speaking and iron out the wrinkles and put out the occasional fire.

It’s a rewarding job and I love it — I never have to wonder if what I’m doing for a living matters because it absolutely does. But it’s hectic and requires me to be on my game at all times. Aside from Labor Day, I don’t get anything like a real breather until things settle down around the first week of October, and I still haven’t really adjusted to the commute.

And I’d say that’s about all I’ve got for today. How’s your weekend going?

You still have time to get into the linkup at Part Time Monster, and don’t forget to share your coffee post with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

Blogwanking and Social Media Sunday and Long-Term Strategy, OH MY!

I’ve gotten out of sync with the quarterly stat sharing. I discussed April at the end of A to Z, but I never looked at the entire second quarter, and now we’re through July. I’m discussing the past three months today. Y’all can just deal with the fact that this is 2500 words and has very little art. Read it if you want to up your game. Learn something.

Quarterly Stats

Here’s where we are with Sourcerer.

stats_src_15_08_06After the April we had here, I knew we had to come back to earth in May. I would like to have remained above 3,400 total views for the month, but I’ll take 104 average views per day for this blog and be happy with it any month of the year if that’s all I can get. It was an improvement over last May, so good — one of the things I look at with the stats is same-month comparisons from year to year.

Then June hit us, and as you can see, it hit us pretty hard. It was the first month of the year we didn’t see an improvement over 2014. There are reasons for that, and the effect carried into July. I’m hoping we’ll at least be able to do better than we did last year in August, and that’s entirely possible since these screenshots were taken on the 6th and we already had almost 500 views for the month.

The downturn in June was entirely predictable. I’d hoped it wouldn’t be quite that bad, and that we could contain it to a single month. But oh, well. We’re bloggers. We deal. It started in May, really. Once we all had A to Z in the bag, many of the regular contributors here spent some of their blogging time in April and May stockpiling content to get Comparative Geeks through the arrival of Geek Baby. And this emphatically is not a complaint. I volunteered for it, actively encouraged it, and Diana and I pitched in some posts of our own. David and Holly are our friends, if you haven’t realized. We’d be pretty sad around here if CompGeeks went silent.

But this group of content-producers we’ve assembled only looks big from the outside. It’s a small group, and nearly everyone has their own blogs. I made a calculated decision to do as much as I could to ensure CompGeeks didn’t have to go dark for any significant period of time, no matter what it cost Sourcerer. That decision was worth it and I’d do it again, but it meant our planning for late summer suffered, and we all had less to offer Sourcerer in June because we gave a lot of our writing-ahead time to CG in April and May.

All this came to a head at the beginning of the worst single month I’ve had, offline-wise, in years. I relocated my family the first weekend of June and the move turned into a never-ending disaster. There was a car accident that had to be dealt with, and a death in my family the weekend of July 4. This meant I didn’t have the means to cover the blog myself, and I wasn’t good asking contributors to just run the blog while I was basically off the internet for several weeks, because they were in the middle of doing the same for another blog, and they had threads to mind at CompGeeks.

This translated into more missed days in late June and early July than we’ve had since we started. It meant I wasn’t around to chatter and work my WordPress reader to keep the blog on peoples’ radars. It also meant photo features had to be suspended. That is costing us two posts a week, every week. Those still aren’t back. I’m working on it, but they aren’t coming back until I can do them consistently, so, might be awhile yet. Irons in the fire and all that.

The thing about the photo features is this: They’re great for likes and getting into the feeds an extra time. They’re better than nothing, and sometimes good for generating conversations. But I am not actually sure they get us any page views. They are always the first thing I cut when times get tough, and the last thing I bring back when times are good. Afternoon photoblogging here means we’re feeling prosperous.

So, June/July was entirely predictable — partially the result of conscious decisions about where to focus contributors’ content. Partly about me not being able to be present here due to unforseen circumstances. It’s not a concern, and we’re still on track to do better than we did in 2014. If we can end the year north of 100 average daily views, I’ll be happy with our progress in 2015.

Far as referrals go. The quarterly summaries are rolling averages and I didn’t pull them at the end of July. But in general, the traffic’s coming from the same places it always has: Search engines, the WordPress reader, Twitter, and Facebook. In that order. Search engines are by far the largest source — the only source that’s gotten us a four-digit number over the last 90 days. Our referrals from the reader and Twitter are way down, because I’ve not had time to spend on other WordPress blogs, nor to tweet properly, for most of the summer.

Our most popular posts in the last 90 days, aside from two or three Batman and Penny Dreadful posts that account for 85 percent of our search traffic, are the Geek and Greet blog party post; Rebecca Bradley’s Disclaimer review, which got Google traffic on the official release day; one of Hannah’s Ms. Marvel posts; one of Rose’s She-Ra posts; and my recent interview with Gretchen Kelly.

Now take a look at the recently-redesigned and better-than-ever Part Time Monster.

stats_ptm_15_08_06

I’m proud of the progress Diana is making with this blog. It just keeps getting better. The decrease from April to May is entirely the post-A to Z effect, I think. June was comparable to last June, and I don’t know what happened over there in July, because I was too busy to be paying attention. But I will say. A lot of people seem to have had down months in July. Since she’s on track to have a good August, I’m not concerned about July and I’m looking at it as an outlier.

If you compare our total page views for the year, you’ll see that PTM is about 4K ahead of Sourcerer. You’ll recall that for most of the time we’ve been doing this, our two blogs have run neck-in-neck. I’ve thought many times that PTM was going to surpass us here for well and good, but we’ve generally stayed within 1K of one another. Those days are over now, I think.

The Monster is in a position to consistently generate at least 500 more views than Sourcerer every month from the #WeekendCoffeeShare linkup alone. Monster Mondays, a feature Diana developed from her A to Z theme, have been well-received, too, and those posts tend to be uber-shareable. Throw in the Top Ten Tuesday traffic, and the Monster’s just better for attracting a consistent number of readers week-in and week-out.

None of this is a complaint, and it’s got nothing to do with the quality of the posts we publish here at Sourcerer. Our contributors are a collection of some of the best bloggers WordPress has to offer. We set this whole thing up with the idea that if these blogs were going to break out, the Monster would be the one to break out first. So, our evil schemes are going as planned, and I’m getting a LOT of satisfaction out of having been the chief architect of the whole thing.Even_More_Evil_Plotting_Raccoon_Quickmeme_by_GeneO

The Monster’s top referrers for the quarter are the same as Sourcerer’s. It’s getting a little less search traffic, but more from the reader, a comparable number from Twitter, and more from Facebook. The Monster’s always gotten more from Facebook. Both blogs are seeing a slight uptick in referrals from other blogs — we’re talking about maybe 25 or 30 per quarter each from a handful of blogs. But the handful is growing, and in January, those 25s and 30s were more like 10s and 15s. That’s a good sign — it’s an indicator that we’ve made the right call by prioritizing network depth and engagement over traffic.

Part Time Monster’s four most popular posts are the Princess Bride and Giving Tree reviews, one of Jeremy’s Tough Ladies posts, and the Evil Queen from A to Z. Aside from a post about sexual violence in television, PTM’s most popular posts list is otherwise dominated by Weekend Coffee Share linkups. Search engines and the linkup are driving Diana’s traffic, because all the most popular posts other than the coffee posts were written weeks or months ago.

What It All Means

First, Diana and I aren’t running a race against each other with these blogs. The very idea of that would just get a “WTF?” from us. We don’t compete, ever. Not even in half-serious ways just to draw a crowd.

We cooperate. We’re trying to help one another find readers and make friends, and we’re trying to get better at this. That’s what the sharing of these stats is about. So, here are a few thoughts on what we might learn from this latest phase of the PTM-Sourcerer blogging enterprise.

First, WordPress is more a social media network than a publishing platform. A post on a wordpress.com blog is basically a longer, prettier status update with outgoing links. This is important to note. Because one rule of social media networking that seems to be ironclad is if you aren’t interacting on a network consistently, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, you aren’t on that network.

Aside from the missed days and lack of photo features, the biggest reason Sourcerer suffered in June and July is because I’ve not been liking and commenting on other WordPress blogs for weeks, and I’m the one whose likes/comments point to this blog. In fact, I suspect my lack of engagement has hurt us more than the missed posts. Whatever else I do, long-term planning wise, I’ve got to prioritize engagement on WordPress to get the activity level back up here.

Second, Part Time Monster’s gearing up to be more successful than Sourcerer in the short term because Diana has advantages with her blog we don’t have here. We have advantages, too, but they’re different — the entire styles of these blogs and the way they’re run are different. They’re designed to compliment one another, assuredly and intentionally. But they are not cast from the same mold.

I don’t consider Part Time Monster to be a niche blog, but it has a more specific content focus than Sourcerer. PTM is about “books, girls, and monsters.” Our motto around here is “all pop culture, all the time,” with a little social media thrown in and as much smartassery as we think our readers will put up with. That’s a much broader focus, which means it’s more difficult to know what to expect from Sourcerer. This blog will surprise you on occasion, but aside from a Wednesday comics post and occasional Social Media Sundays, you just never know what you’re gonna get here — especially during periods where most of our contributors are wrapping up runs and either planning the next one or working on their own projects.

Another advantage the Monster has is the regular content tends to be more consistent. Because Sourcerer runs on contributions, and bloggers have to be able to come and go as they please, we tend to do short-ish runs and one-off posts: Movie reviews, tv series blogthroughs, things like that. Those are fun to write and do well when we have them, but they don’t provide much long-term stability or focus.

Then there’s the fact that Part Time Monster is set up as a personal blog that accepts contributions. Sourcerer, whatever it is, isn’t a personal blog. It’s set up for one purpose, and one purpose only: to publish contributed content as a way of encouraging a community to form around our blogs and help bloggers form lasting relationships. I provide as much as I can, but fundamentally, Sourcerer will live or die based on my ability to maintain a contributor base and keep other bloggers interested in publishing here. Not on my ability to produce five or six posts per week myself. If I ever reach the point that maintaining active contributors is untenable, I’ll shut it down, give all my content to PTM, CompGeeks, and a handful of friends, and point my WordPress account to the Monster to give Diana the benefit of my WordPress engagement.

Sourcerer’s advantage in all this is that we have more latitude to experiment here, the potential to attract a larger number of contributors, and the ability to generate impressive traffic spikes on occasion. But it sets us up for boom/bust cycles with content (and therefore with readers) until we attract a a few more bloggers to join the crew. There just aren’t quite enough of us here yet.

I’m nowhere near ready to call it a day at this point. We’re doing well. We’ll get through the year and have another awesome spring if things keep going the way they are. So no worries. Slow and steady wins the race.

What’s Next For Sourcerer?

I’ve already written one post that specifically outlines where I’d like to take this blog over the next year, and given the length of this one already, I’m not going to rehash it all here. But basically, we need a few regular things — things people can count on seeing at specific times of the week or month, and we need to do that in a way that allows room for contributors to join in when they feel like it.

I think moving the #WeekendCoffeeShare posts here will help. I’m also liking the Sci-Fi Saturdays. Those started as Star Wars Saturdays, but I think I like “Sci-Fi” better, because it allows us to write about more than one franchise on Saturdays. Other than that, I want to keep the interviews going and eventually do more than one a month, and I want to do more collabroative posting like Hannah’s and Melissa’s Age of Ultron review.

Aside from those things, I’ve got to bring the photos back, engage more with other bloggers on their blogs, and get back to Twitter. I’ve somewhat prioritized Facebook since last fall, and that’s paid off, but it’s come at the cost of WordPress and Twitter growth. I’ve done what I can on Facebook by spending large amounts of time there. I’m friends with enough bloggers now to be happy where I am, and I’m content with slow-and-steady progress driven by genuine interaction.

So, once we move into the fall, you’ll see less of me over there, but more of me in the blogosphere and on Twitter. Once I get back where I need to be with those two networks, my next big project — probably my big social media project for 2016, has to be cracking either Reddit or StumbleUpon. We’ve proven we can do engagement, and what we need at this point is big traffic. We’re getting all we can get by working for views in ones and twos. We need to figure out how to attract readers by the hundred through a single link, and one of those two networks is likely the shortest route to that.

This is quite enough for today. I hope at least a few of you find this helpful.

Social Media Sunday: Some Thoughts on the Direction of This Here Blog

My quarterly stats are past due. The old stats page that I was using to take the simple screenshots and do quick-and-dirty trend analysis went away (thanks a big fuckin’ lot for that, WordPress gods!), and I’ve just not had the time to crunch numbers lately. I’ll discuss how we’ve done here this summer at some point. In general, we’ve taken a traffic hit and our engagement is down since June. That’s mostly because I’ve not been around enough to keep up the chatter.

social media

Today I am more interested in discussing what’s worked here over the last 21 months and why. This is important because we’re one quarter away from our two-year blogiversary, and because I think we need to do more of what’s worked best.

What’s Worked Best

Batman

Worked because Jeremy blogged Batman (an insanely popular character) here every week for almost eight months, and he did a good job saying interesting things about Batman characters.

The Walking Dead Recap/Reviews

Worked because Luther is one of the most entertaining bloggers around, TWD is very popular, and we timed his reviews to catch people at the right time to offer them a recap of the previous episodes before the next one aired.

Penny Dreadful Season 1 Reviewspenny-dreadful-ep-6

Worked because Diana is just plain good at writing about anything involving monsters, has an engaging, easy-to-read style, and picked a winner — a show with a small but engaged audience as it was airing for the first time.

Marvel Comics, especially Marvel Cinematic Universe blogging

Worked because Marvel is growing in popularity and David’s made good choices about what to focus on. Agent Carter and Guardians of the Galaxy both did very well; and Melissa’s Ant-Man post has also done well.

Sourcerer’s 11 Interviews

Work because they’re fun, easy-to-read, entertaining, and are good for capturing the attention of both this blog’s normal audience and the friends/readers of whomever is being interviewed.

A Handful of Blogging-Related and Social Posts

survivor-atoz_by_RetroI’m thinking of the Geek and Greet post, some of the A to Z organizational stuff, and a few of my Blogwanking posts. The Geek and Greet worked because I offered to do something for people who joined in and the event was an opportunity for people to get their blogs seen by other bloggers. The rest worked because they grabbed the attention of bloggers who are trying to up their games — and I say this a bit. Whomever else your target audience is,  it’s mostly bloggers who read and share blogs.

What’s Not Done as Well as Expected

Doctor Who Reviews

Will reviewed the latest season here at the same time I was reviewing it at Part Time Monster and Hannah was writing about it at Things Matter. That was a lot of fun, and it didn’t do so poorly that I’d rule out more Doctor Who. But it didn’t do what I expected, even though we timed the posts well. I think that’s because Doctor Who is so well-established that the competition for audience is just too intense for us to handle.

Penny Dreadful Season 2 Reviews

Again, not so poorly that I’d rule out a third go. But it didn’t do what the first season did — especially not with search traffic. Lots of reasons this could be. Penny Dreadful hit us just as we were wrapping up A to Z and neither Diana nor I had time to do much in the way of interacting because of offline stuff. But I think either a lot of people lost interest after the first season, or a lot more people were writing reviews this time around, and so we had a tougher time getting into searches.

House of CardsHouseofCards

Diana and I just plain played this one wrong. Everything about House of Cards says we should be able to work it for traffic. We got the timing wrong and we shouldn’t have done extensive recaps. I think the time to post about a Netflix series is either immmediately after it’s released, or AFTER everyone’s had time to binge on the whole thing. I don’t see episode reviews being an effective way to blog about series that are delivered all-at-once. Because no matter when you choose to publish them you don’t have a weekly timeslot generating internet buzz on a predictable schedule. I think the way to go with these is to do one to three posts per season and publish them either on Mondays or Saturdays.

Arrow

The performance of these reviews was the biggest surprise to me in all the time I’ve been doing this. I expected them to do way better than they did, because I know a lot of people who love this show, but the audience isn’t absolutely huge. And I don’t think the problem has anything to do with Melissa’s blogging. Everything else she’s published here has done just fine, and she usually gets good comments. I think we timed them wrong. We didn’t have a lot of choice, because we had to work around the UK air date. But Friday morning has always struck me as a bad time to post long-ish, serious posts. That’s why I mostly do music videos on Fridays. I also think we overestimated our ability to compete for searches, and we expected too much, given that Arrow was into its third season before we ever started blogging about it.

Actual Music Blogging

I’m not talking about the posts where I share a YouTube video and write a paragraph or a personal note about what it means to me. Both David and I have tried serious music blogging, and it’s just never worked for us. Could be that we’d need to blog about music once a week for a year to gain the traction to make it worthwhile. It could be that music blogging is just not a good fit here, or that people who like our comics and tv posts have different taste in music than we do, so aren’t interested in what David or I have to say about music.

Arrr, mateys!

Arrr, mateys!

Everything else has been within the bounds of my expectations. I don’t always make content decisions based on the traffic I think it’s worth. Sometimes I approve things for the fun and the mischief value. Sometimes I just want to give another blogger the chance to step onto the stage here and try to find a few new readers, which is a game of ones and twos no matter how you go about it. But I always have some idea what I think a series of posts should do, traffic-wise. I don’t approve things that have no chance of getting read, and when a post does exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly, I try to figure out why.

The Takeaway

Consistency, not Content, is King

Content quality and topic selection are vital, but the most important consideration, if you are trying to build an interest-based audience, is to offer the quality content on a schedule and do it so consistently that people just come to expect it. The most successful thing we’ve done here is comics, and we blogged about Batman every Wednesday for the better part of a year, then once the Batman run was done, we moved into Marvel without missing a beat just as the MCU was getting crazy-good. There’s no coincidence here.

Timing is as Important as Topic

It’s true that you have to write about things people are interested in if you want readers. But you also have to publish when people are looking for it. This is the lesson of The Walking Dead, Penny Dreadful, Arrow, and House of Cards.Arrow-arrow-cw-fanpop

Consider the Competition

If only a handful of big sites are writing about something, it’s possible for a blog the size of Sourcerer to get a slice of the search traffic (see Penny Dreadful above). But if everyone from io9 to the New York Times entertainment section is writing about a thing, best make sure you’re getting a lot of personal enjoyment out of your own writing, or bring friends along (see Doctor Who above).

Multiple Voices are More Compelling Than One on an Everyday Blog

If I had to, I could shut down my personal blog and run Sourcerer by myself. I could even keep the focus on pop culture and do comics every Wednesday. But if only I had been blogging here these past two years, I’d not have seen even the modest success we’ve achieved by publishing contributions from 12 to 15 bloggers.

What’s Next for Sourcerer?

Tl;dr version: Do more of what’s worked and less of what hasn’t.

Keep it up with the Comics

Comics is obviously the core interest at this point. Maintaining the quality of our Wednesday posts and finding ways to expand our comics offerings are the smartest things we can do for this blog over the next year. Since both comics and significant content from me are essential, it makes sense that I should find a way into comics. I’ve not written much about them here to this point because we’ve had so many contributors here who are better-versed and better at writing about the comics than me. That’s gotta change.

Get Smarter about the Television

I’d like to move away from blogging tv shows just because we like them. The time to blog about a tv series, honestly, is during its first season, unless you have a lot of advantages to work with (like we have with The Walking Dead). This means, for example, that while I might blog the next season of Doctor Who, I’m not twisting myself in knots to give it a prime posting slot, I’m looking at as a “just for fun” series, and I’m not asking anyone else to do it (though I’d certainly consider volunteers, because if someone else blogs Doctor Who here, that frees me up to do the same at Part Time Monster and we can link to one another in our posts).

I think we need to concentrate on Marvel Cinematic Universe series and promising new series (see what I said about Agent Carter and Guardians of the Galaxy above), and we need to figure out how to blog Netflix effectively. TV viewers who also read blogs are moving decisively to a “binge on instant video when you can find the time” way of interacting with television as opposed to the old “drop what you are doing and watch at the same time every week” pattern.

I’m thinking the way we’ve been blogging tv is eventually not going to be a sound scheduling strategy, no matter how well we do it. We’re approaching the point where the behavior of our tv audience has changed so much that posting a review the day after a tv episode runs, in and of itself, doesn’t get us anything we couldn’t get on our own by sharing on Twitter and Facebook.

More Book Bloggingtolkien2

Our book blogging has always been sporadic, but given that we’ve never done it consistently, it’s been successful. Some of our most popular posts in 2014 were book lists written by a variety of contributors. Rebecca Bradley’s reviews did well here, and the fact that our first few Sourcerer’s 11 interviews were author interviews timed to coincide with releases has helped that feature a lot. All this tells me that people who read and follow this blog are interested in books — and interested in the same sorts of books we are. This is our easiest and most promising area for real growth. There’s traffic here to be had for the asking, and we’ve not fully tapped into it yet.

Marvel Movies, Please

It’s just essential for this blog that we review every Marvel movie from here on out within a week of its release, publish those reviews at a prime time, and share them around, for as long as we continue to hang together. Absolutely essential.

More Collaborative Posts.

See the Hannah-Melissa collaborative review of Age of Ultron. That’s a sweet post — quality-wise, one of the best we’ve offered to date. And this is something we can do that very few blogs can. We’ve got a dozen contributors, easy ways of communicating with one another behind the scenes, and this blog to post on. Collaborative posts could be a thing for us, and I think readers will love them. This is a genuine advantage. It’s something we have that almost no one else does, and it’s compelling.

Sourcerer’s 11 Reorganization

SourcererCollageEventually, I want to have more than one interview per month. For now, though, I just want to keep them going. They’re good, but the “tag, you’re it!” model just isn’t going to work for a feature that comes around once a month. We set these up from the beginning so we could not only interview authors to coincide with book releases, but could also sometimes interview interesting bloggers who don’t have books publishing. I’m starting the blogger interview thread of these next month.

What we need for this is a pool of contributors who like to do these interviews, and we need to have a once-a-month discussion about who’s doing the next one and who they are interviewing. If, on occasion, I want to offer people we’ve interviewed an opportunity to interview someone else, I will. But just not something we can do with every interview, because it puts too many constraints on the schedule and limits the pool of potential interviewees.

More Contributors

Not a lot more, but a couple. People come and go here. We’re in a phase now where a lot of the people who have contributed over the last year are ending runs and have other projects they need to prioritize. We have a rule that contributors come and go as they please, and that once you’re to the point where I trust you to schedule a post, you’re free to pitch future contributions to me at any time — a week from now, six months from now, doesn’t matter. We’re ok to get through the fall as we are, but I’d be a lot more comfortable if we had another blogger or two in the mix here.

And that’s it. This is where I think this blog is, and this is my vision/direction statement for the next phase. I thought I needed to do this today, because we’re certainly moving into the next phase.