Whither the blog?

The Thinker by Rodin

In 2002 when this blog started, blogging was new and cool. I was really on the cusp of an entirely new trend that soon became validated and mainstream. At last authors were free of the shackle of publishers! This was true if you didn’t mind your content being served electronically and revenue, such as it was, in the form of tiny Google Adsense payments.

Ten years later in 2012 blogging is certainly pervasive, but it has lost much of its allure. Blogging in fact is being chipped away at via Twitter (microblogging) and social media (principally Facebook). Thus I am not too surprised that Occam’s Razor has been taking hits since traditional web sites represent a smaller share of network traffic. A couple of years ago, at least using SiteMeter’s inflated statistics, I could count on two to three hundred page requests a day. Now it’s about half that. So at some point I ask myself if there is much point in continuing to blog. It’s sort of like Newt Gingrich pretending to run for president when it is obvious he has no chance of winning the Republican nomination. Blogging to declining statistics at some point feels like utter vanity.

Page requests do not capture the entirety of traffic on this blog. There are those who read via Feedburner, currently 62 readers. There are also some who have email subscriptions, although I cannot seem to find statistics on them. They may have been inadvertently dropped. There are also a fair number of people saving my posts locally on their hard drive, principally my mother’s eulogy but also various book reviews I have done. I suspect these are principally students trying to pass off my words to convince a teacher they did a review on a book that I reviewed. Shame on them. The general trend of less traffic is hard to dispute, although some of this traffic has shifted to regular Feedburner readers.

The blog also serves the purpose to keep me writing regularly, as well as provides a hobby that will be hard to replace. Still, traffic on this site is likely down in part simply because I am often stretched for time. Finding the time to post just twice a week is hard when I add in a full time job, adjunct teaching and other stuff going on in my life. Motivation to keep going mainly comes in the form of very occasional comments like this one, where it is obvious that my words moved someone. It is likely that a whole lot of other people are also moved by my words (not always in healthy ways), but don’t take the time to leave a comment.

The logical day to stop would be on December 12, 2012. This would end on a positive note, having completed a full decade of blogging, with my first post on December 13, 2002. I am still not sure what I would do with the time if I stopped blogging altogether. Everyone has a book somewhere inside of them they would like to write and I write well enough where it would probably be of interest. I am not getting any younger. Yet writing a book is highly problematic. It would be unlikely to be accepted by a mainstream publisher, which means it would be something I would market and sell, and it’s likely it would be of a niche interest at best. And effectively this blog is a book, a massive book. Over ten years I have accrued hundreds of thousands of page views that say unequivocally that I am a writer who is read. There are currently 1.42 million words in the blog and a total of 1339 posts.

The more likely course will be to downsize the blog. I would post even less frequently than I do and move the blog out of my current hosting space. I currently pay $500 a year to host this blog (and my other domains). If traffic is going down, I don’t need to pay for premium hosting. I have taken the first steps by moving my other domains to HostGator. Together these domains get at least as much traffic as this blog, if not more, and so far I’ve not noticed performance issues associated with other shared hosting services I’ve used over the years, which is encouraging. My current host contract ends at the end of July. At that point I will likely either move this blog into my new HostGator web space or place it on a free blogging site. WordPress.com is a logical location, since this is a WordPress blog and they will host it for free. The downside is that I would lose a lot of the extras I can provide by self hosting, such as the ability to dress up by blog with Rodan’s “The Thinker” icon, etc. So my inclination will be to move it to HostGator and cross my fingers. If response time is sometimes not ideal, it may still be worth the money saved on cheaper hosting since I am drawing less traffic.

I’ve threatened to take the blog down before and was in fact encouraged to do so by some commenters, whom I suspect are regular viewers of Fox News and are always happy to see another liberal voice silenced. Taking it down wouldn’t mean it would go away, simply that it would become an archive, and one increasingly irrelevant as time goes on. To the extent I have traffic it is because I add blog posts regularly. Posting less frequently than I used to likely reduces traffic, because search engines will see the blog as less interesting. Nonetheless, I have some popular blog posts that seem immortal. I suspect they will continue to get daily hits long after I am planted six feet under.

Feel free to encourage me or discourage me in the comments as you wish. Meanwhile, I will keep blogging at least through December 12, 2012 even in the face of declining statistics.

3 thoughts on “Whither the blog?

  1. Well Mark – I for one would be devastated if you decided to cash in. I subscribe thru’ email & look so forward to your next installments. Maybe it’s because many times it seems like you’ve picked my brain & people always love seeing their thoughts on ‘paper’ written by another. Not only that but reading over the others comments to your recent remarks, I feel in good company…I am not alone in thinking you contribute so much to our lives.

    To the costs involved in putting it out, I am not familiar with Hostgator, but have used WordPress & they are very simple to use, as well as free. Another place where I have two blogs at is Googles eBlogger – Blogspot. They have a myriad of templates you can choose from but you can also dress up the blog with your own backgrounds etc. On a slow day, that alone can be fun to noodle around with. The one small advantage to Googles sites is you automatically get added to their browser, ergo lots of hits.

    I hope this is just a passing phase for you & that you’ll continue to entertain me/us with your excellent humor & insight?

  2. I definitely don’t want to see you go offline but ultimately you should write for you, not us.

    You can import your blog for free to WordPress and Blogger, something worth considering. Hope you stay in the ring! 🙂

  3. Mark,

    I understand your reasoning, but I hope you keep blogging well beyond the end of this year! I find that a blog keeps your thinking fresh – and I agree with spleeness – ABOVE ALL, you must write for yourself!

    You have some superb posts. Twitter has its place, but cannot substitute for such a decade of delicacies and deliberate commentary.

    Keep writing, I say!

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