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June 26, 2004

Reading Hraka In Blogtext

In general, when conservatives disagree with something I've written, they think I'm a dumbass. When liberals disagree with something I've written, I'm evil.

I've gone back and forth, but on the whole I think I prefer "dumbass." It at least holds out the possibility that my motives are pure, if egregiously misdirected.

Not that "evil" doesn't have attractions of its own. For one thing, I get to walk around the house saying "Soooo, Mr. Bond," at the cats.

Neither of the above applies to the conservatives and liberals who make up the regular Hraka readership, who, thanks to their regular (and inexplicable) habit of returning each day to the site, are able to judge individual posts in relation to the whole of the blog. In other words, they know the blog's context, so they're more likely to debate a post, rather than dismissing it or jumping to conclusions about what I or the others happen to think about issues tangentially related to a post.

A fair amount has been written lately about the declining level of discourse in the blogosphere between the right and left halves, and I'm wondering if this contextual unfamiliarity might have something to do with it. Blog readership numbers, not to mention the sheer number of blogs, are constantly growing, so the odds that a casual visitor will have any knowledge at all of a particular blog's contextual history are miniscule--especially if that blog doesn't happen to be one of the big....I was going say 4, but let's make it an even 10.

Let's also shorten Blog context to blogtext, so that we can keep to the blog tradition (blogdition) of turning two perfectly serviceable words into one off-putting one.

Blogtext unfamiliarity affects more than the level of discourse in the blogosphere, something that I suspect the vast majority of bloggers will only shed a few token tears over to begin with. It also affects traffic numbers.

Blog Homer:" mmmmmmmm.......Traffic numbers."

Think about it. What's the percentage of readers sent to a site via a *-lanche that read a single post and then depart forever, or at least until referring site links again? 95%? 99%? Less?

I'd go with "Less."

Historically there's been one sure way to raise traffic levels. Post constantly, and get noticed by the big boys on a regular basis. No wonder Instapundit is besieged by thousands of emails on a daily basis. It's a recipe for burnout, even for those who are moderately successful at it.

It's also the wrong way to go about growing traffic. The competition is too intense and, thanks to blogtextual unfamiliarity on the part of readers diverted to a site by the occasional link, the rewards are too small.

Now this may be the vanity speaking, hell, I'm sure it is, but to my mind, if a casual visitor were able to familiarize him or herself with the blogtext of Hraka, then I think they'd be likely to return on a regular basis. Frankly, it shouldn't matter if they originally arrived via an Instapundit referral or a Google one.

Essentially, this boils down to a marketing problem. Aside from the big bears of the blogosphere, who draw a number of visitors solely because they are the big bears of the blogosphere, how does a blog go about turning, say, 1% of daily visitors into regular readers?

1% growth might not sound like much, but over a three month period it would triple a blog's readership, something which only a very few blogs, if any, are able to do on a regular basis.

I suspect that if more blogs made a concerted effort towards familiarizing the casual reader with their blogtext, a 1% growth in daily readers would be easily achieved.

Well, duh, but how?

Back in the day when Hraka was hosted at blogspot, we had a list of greatest hits over on the right side of the page. It was a pain in the ass to keep up, but it was a stab in the right direction when it came to allowing the casual reader to bone up on what we were like.

Aside from the pain of maintenance, there was another problem with the greatest hits list--sidelinks on blogs are as common as fleas on a Frenchman. The best stuff we ever did eventually became little more than background noise.

Still, it attracted readers, as more than one person emailed me to say.

I'm wondering now if an altered version of the same thing, something like a "greatest hits" or "new reader's guide" link at the bottom of each and every post wouldn't go a long ways towards making new regulars--not only at Hraka, but everywhere.

After all, we can hardly blame readers for not knowing blogtext when, for the most part, we haven't made such knowledge easily accessible.

Posted by Bigwig at June 26, 2004 12:03 PM | TrackBack
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.

I've created a Greatest Hits category, for stuff that I thought might have been overlooked the first time; I don't know if it's generated any traffic increase, but it does get the occasional hit.

Posted by: CGHill at June 26, 2004 12:17 PM
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