Who’s reading LaCoastPost? Taking stock from Mt. Blogosphere.
Ascending the internet learning curve
LaCoastPost was launched almost 15 months ago, mid-October ’08, on the occasion of my (Len Bahr’s) retirement from the state. I grew up in the analog age of rotary phones and vinyl records, when digital data collection was pretty much limited to hernia and prostate exams, so my assault on Mt. Blogosphere posed a pretty steep learning curve.
The so-called New Media is constantly evolving, so my learning curve may not ever reach a plateau. This discouraging thought is like poor old Sisyphus pushing his boulder, perhaps on an inclined treadmill rather than up a mountain.
Still on the climbing analogy, let me immodestly compare my would-be assault on Mt. Blogosphere to Sir. Edmund Hillary attacking Mt. Everest in 1953. By this analogy Tenzing Norgay, who was Hillary’s irreplaceable Nepalese Sherpa guide, would be represented by Allie Stevens, LaCoastPost trusty blog manager.
Sir Edmund would never have made it without Norgay, who got little credit. ‘Sir Len’ wouldn’t even have gotten his climbing boots laced up without Allie’s guidance.
The purpose of this post is to review and take stock of the first 15 months and I’m very happy to report that the news is good. It appears that the LaCoastPost team of Len and Allie has ascended far above the blogging base camp.
During my (continuing) tenure as an internet novitiate I’ve discovered a predictable generation gap in blogging sophistication. Blogging is foreign to many of my peers. When I introduce myself to someone over forty as the creator of a coastal blog I often see a quizzical look, as in, “OK, but what do you really do?” I disdain jargon but I hate to sound internet-ignorant to prospective members of a hopefully expanding LaCoastPost community so I never know what words to use to justify my blog obsession.
Five years ago, with help from some of her prominent journalist friends and capital resources that I can only dream about, Arianna Huffington created Huffingtonpost.com, which has become one of the most popular and influential blogs in existence. Now she is arguably the queen of the bloggers (along with her friend and rival Tina Brown with TheDailyBeast.com). Anyhow, Arianna Huffington initially helped influence my decision to dip my toes into the internet swimming pool. I just finished reading her paperback manual The Huffington Post complete guide to blogging.
I ordered a copy of this little book soon after launching LaCoastPost but curiously put off reading it until I had almost a year’s worth of experience under my belt. I held my breath while turning the pages, afraid to discover that I was breaking a basic bloggers’ bylaw. Happily I didn’t find anything to wince about – no serious strategy gaffes. Nor did I discover that my goals and expectations were particularly unrealistic – even for a blog focused primarily on the Mississippi River delta.
This information is presented with three motives, one prideful, one promotional and one pragmatic.
From a selfish standpoint I’m obviously gratified that the hard work is bearing fruit* and being appreciated by people who tell me so, many of whom would not want to see their names in print. From a promotional standpoint, to paraphrase what airline attendants always tell exiting passengers, I recognize that you have many choices for reading material and I appreciate every minute spent perusing this blog! (Gag).
From a pragmatic and serious standpoint I think of LaCoastPost as a modern counterpart of the Great Speckled Bird and similar underground counterculture magazines and comic strips from the sixties that were considered subversive by some members of the establishment.
I wouldn’t invest in this labor of love if I didn’t believe that a growing base of knowledgeable folks can reach a critical mass sufficient to influence coastal policy. Bureaucratic and political forces struggle against accountability and transparency, which have become almost oxymoronic terms these days. Information sharing can be a weapon against the hard-wired resistance to change.
Okay, down to brass tacks. The following data provide hard evidence of positive results of almost 500 days of thinking, writing and posting. The data indicate that LaCoastPost appears to have become a real and dependable resource to an impressive number of readers, which is very encouraging – but also adds the pressure of responsibility. Before examining the graphs and tables see the meaning of the three key metrics, as paraphrased from Huffington, 2008.
Hits: Each visit to a web site can generate multiple hits on a single page, so large numbers of hits look quite impressive but they’re not terribly meaningful.
Page views: One page view is registered each time a visitor opens a page in a blog.
Visit: A visit is registered each time someone opens a blog.
Here’s the information on viewership and ‘visitorship’ of LaCoastPost during 2009. For those readers with visual issues who use computer-assisted text reading the tables won’t register so I’ll summarize the basic trends.
In terms of the three metrics of hits, page views and visits, LaCoastPost has grown steadily and consistently throughout 15 months, with December 2009 setting new records. In absolute terms, note that since September we’ve been getting consistently more than 10,000 visits a month (14,672, or almost 500/day in November). About half of these have been unique visits.
I’m intrigued by the pattern of viewership as related to day of the week. Monday is usually the busiest day and traffic declines linearly through Sunday. This would seem to indicate a significant proportion of professional, rather than casual viewers. It also means that lots of folks are watching from office desks, many of which are presumably located in state and federal agencies.
Although I didn’t publish the graph on time of day, peak visits consistently occur between 7:00 and 11:00 AM, declining fairly steadily through the afternoon and evening. Daily information is not shown here either but it came as no surprise that Christmas day had the lowest traffic of the entire year!
Between 1985-88 I wrote, edited and published a little magazine that I called CityFitness, mostly about running. The magazine was distributed free, with ad sales presumably based on distribution and total readership, the latter impossible to reliably quantify.
I don’t have the time or the inclination to market ads in LaCostPost, although I don’t rule it out in the future. It sure would be easy to document readership to prospective ad buyers, however, unlike the old days. Based on hard data shown here LaCoastPost is turning into a serious forum and hopefully one that will be taken seriously by those who make policy.
Len Bahr (firstname.lastname@example.org)
*In satisfaction, not dollars!