Sunday, July 20, 2008

On Keeping a Blog: Unintended Audience.

Although I didn't have any specific goals in terms of readership when I started writing Serendipity, it would be disingenuous to claim that I haven't give much thought to numbers. When I set up the blog, Susan Constance was kind enough to give me pointers and introduce me to a site called StatCounter. She reasonably suggested that I would eventually be curious as to who was tuning in. Of course she was right. I do indeed have the kind of competitive nature that makes me want to put a score to every endeavor I participate in. Actually typing this admission gives me pause and makes me mildly depressed. After more than two years of virtually daily writing, my audience remains discouragingly small compared to my original expectations.

It's all really a matter of perception. The fact that I can pretty much count on at least fifty unique visitors daily is impressive when I think about it in terms of pre-Internet assumptions. When I was in my early twenties and started writing poetry, I was lucky to convince five or ten folks to either read or hear my work. In retrospect I suppose there was a sort of mercy in this fact, since the stuff wasn't especially good and the relative ignorance of what I was doing couldn't shame me. I surely would have been shocked if someone then would have told me that I'd actually have strangers intentionally reading my future thoughts. In a way I guess it's sort of surreal.

Before the age of blogs, there were only very limited ways to put yourself out there into the world. You could write a letter to the editor. You could start a "zine", make lots of photo copies at retail cost, and pass it out by hand. There was no way to access a potentially unlimited and anonymous readership. Now all of that is changed, and there is a viral tool at my disposal. There's a real sense of possibility, and a feeling that anything can happen. In reality the chances that you will be "discovered" by legions of unknown viewers is increasingly slim in the modern saturated media environment. Yet that dream exists as something with a corollary in reality. People actually have become famous doing this.

I do know what limits I labor under. There is no specific reason for anybody to regularly visit my blog. I fill no specific niche. There is no special demographic that would be interested in what I have to say, other than those who wonder what I am currently thinking about. Do you like to read reviews about films or books, or enjoy poorly informed political rants? Well... then you might enjoy yourself here. Do you occasionally get a hankering to visit some obscure and strange tourist destination? I've got a few ideas on that as well. But if you are searching for specific information that can help you live a better life, then you'd do better to seek out Cursor or Martha Stewart Living (sorry, you can find that one yourself).

You may wonder why I decided to address this topic today. Well, the other day another site linked to an old post I did about John D, Rockefeller, Standard Oil and alcohol-based fuels. I am no expert on this topic- but I had heard a strange story in an unlikely place, did some online research, and put together some basic thoughts. Lo and behold someone did indeed find my blog, albeit a year after I posted this particular entry. They linked to it and all of a sudden my site came up temporarily as the third option on a Google Search for "alcohol-based fuels". I don't know how that works... I guess it is "magic". But I tripled my numbers the next day. It's just a passing boost but I find it fascinating. Who knows what surprises the future holds in store?

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