Still here – 6 years of blogging and 4 years of data…

Although I started publicly blogging at TheWayoftheWeb on a blogspot account back in 2006, it was only in 2008 that I switched to WordPress and installed my current Google Analytics account, so May 1 is kind of an anniversary. Technically I really started blogging back in about 1999 with a Homestead website, but that didn’t progress further than some horrific design decisions and a couple of extremely half-hearted business ideas, such as a database of pub reviews (I still occasionally wonder how much revenue the likes of FancyAPint make!)

Either way I’ve constantly veered between writing about marketing and journalism, with the occasional posts about blogging and more personal topics. I’ve invested about $300 in the site over the years, including domains, hosting and themes, and I’ve apparently published 1,299 posts, so an average of 20 per month.

And in the last 4 years, that’s brought me over 113,000 visits, almost 100,000 visitors (Should happen in May), and 157,041 pageviews.

It’s also resulted in about $30 in advertising revenue during the period I experimented with ads on here, and about 3 times as much in affiliate revenue.

So you may think reaching 100,000 for around $180 and a lot of time wasn’t the best way to spend my time?

 

The real value of this site:

But that’s ignoring the real value that this site has given me and continues to deliver:

  • Leads for my digital content and marketing business – I don’t need to reach a million people, if I reach 20 or 30 that want to hire TheWayoftheWeb to provide content, marketing or training.
  • It keeps me writing – If there’s a time when I’m focused on other work, this place is the one where I can write whatever I like, whenever I like, although as it’s the only form of marketing for my business, I’m probably doing that slightly less now!
  • It’s entirely mine – All the content is mine, all the data is mine, and I set the rules regarding privacy. 2 minutes of tweaking domain settings and I can move it wherever I want, whenever I want.
  • It’s helped meetings – Surprisingly often I’ve been in meetings where clients or agencies etc have seen my blog and have even occasionally mentioned a post or brought a printed copy along to discuss a particular point.
  • It gets me referenced – Not only does it provide proof of my identity to the likes of Google+, but it’s also been linked to from the likes of The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal.

 

Blogging dying?

In the time I’ve been blogging, it’s been pronounced dead at least 3 or 4 times, and the latest eulogies are probably the strongest yet with numerous studies suggesting corporate blogging in particular is fading fast.

And personally I think that’s great – because the more my competitors and my client’s competitors ignore the benefits of regularly publishing fresh and quality content on their own domains, the easier it is for me to succeed.

I’ve seen client sites grow massively over the last 12 months. And I’ve seen some of my own sites which are more focused and targeted on mass audiences go from a couple of thousand readers per month to 70 or 80,000 per month.

So although I share some of the fears that others have written about regarding the future of the open web ( For example, see John Naughton and Brendan Cooper in the last couple of days), there’s still a lot of success to be had before the opportunities may start to close.

Feel free to get in touch if you want to take advantage of them right now.

 

Oh, and in case you’re interested, here are the 10 most popular posts so far:

  1. The best webcam-based augmented reality application
  2. 2012 – The year of 3d printing?
  3. Has Microsoft made a major marketing mistake?
  4. The best G1 application, augmented reality and Moore’s Law
  5. Solving Feedburner Feedsmith problems with WordPress 2.9
  6. The best social games on any platform
  7. Problems embedding Youtube videos in WordPress
  8. Augmented Reality needs to jump the shark
  9. Breaking the habit of broadcast media
  10. How the traditional world punishes social media

Twitter growing in visitors and content

With the caveat that it doesn’t cover third party applications, comScore puts visits to Twitter at 75 million – and regardless of the correlation between those numbers and the actual figures, what you can take away is that the graph is still going up and to the right:

 

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It certainly seems anecdotally as if I’m witnessing more colleagues and friends not only using Twitter, but attempting to use it in a fairly sustainable way rather than registering, looking confused and then vanishing again.

Meanwhile the amount of content being produced has also risen – to a whopping 1.2 billion tweets per month according to data collected by Royal Pingdom.

image

The methodology used to collect the figures was pretty simple:

‘we tracked down a tweet from the first couple of minutes of each month. Using the sequence numbers of these tweets, we could then calculate the number of tweets for each month. Since finding old tweets is more or less impossible with Twitter’s own search engine, we used Google, then verified the tweet time stamp by looking at the tweet itself’

Again, while there could be some debate about the accuracy of the actual figures involved, what’s important is that the overall effect is some consistent and sizeable growth. And that’s in the face of the redesign of Facebook – the next challenger on the list is GoogleBuzz, but so far I’ve found it rather unsatisfactory, even apart from the initial privacy issues.

A good clue to Twitter’s growth rates

Although comScore only measures visits to Twitter.com, and more than half of Twitter users use clients and apps, it does provide a clue to Twitter’s growth rates.

In June it gained around 7 million new visitors, hitting 44.5 million unique global visitors, up 19 per cent from May 2009, and now making it the 52nd biggest site in the world (and with a 55 per cent international audience).

Techcrunch points to the Iran election as a contributor to the growth, while Mark Evans over at Twitterati somewhat confusingly uses comScore and Compete figures to calculate a 50-50 U.S and International split.

For the record, the biggest properties measured by comScore are Google sites, Microsoft sites, Yahoo sites, Facebook and Wikimedia Foundation sites.

Why it’s dangerous to compare print figures to website stats

Although hardly newspaper/print apologists, both John Duncan and Martin Langeveld have posted interesting articles trying to compare the print/online split in newspaper readership in number terms. Duncan comes in with online having 17% of page impressions on Inksniffer using the Guardian as a case study,  while Langeveld posts that only 3% of newspaper reading happens online.

While I totally agree that it’s easy to overestimate the online figures in comparison to print products, and both articles are good reality checks, I have to say that I think comparing print and online readerships directly in this way  is equivalent to comparing the number of people who drive cars with the number of people with vowels in their name.

And touting the eventual figures is very dangerous.

For starters, the readership of print titles rests on research figures for average shared readership of titles. For instance, the metrics John Duncan quotes are:

From 2007:

Average daily UK uniques for Guardian website: 270576 (after discounting overseas readers etc).

Average UK sales of Guardian/Observer: 310788

But then the UK sales figures is multiplied by 3 to take into account shared readership, becoming 932,364, on figures available by the Guardian.

Meanwhile Langeveld refers to an engagement study from the Newspaper Association of America conducted in February 2006, based on 4594 respondents to a survey.

Now shared readership definitely happens, and without being able to actually see what people do, rather than what they claim, it’s impossible to be totally accurate.

But…

If you’re taking shared readership of print products into account, then surely you’d also need to factor in people reading newspaper website content without ever being logged as a visitor to the site?

That includes people blocking cookies, people using RSS, people reading reposts of newspaper content (Great example of the spread of multimedia news by Martin Belam by the way), people reading content via aggregation sites and site scrapers etc, etc.

And by the time you’ve taken into account all the vagaries of print readership figures (which aren’t a bad guide to something so difficult to measure), and then taken into account the vagaries of online measurement (Less inaccurate, but still pretty fairly vague), and using data and research from 2+ years ago (But that’s probably the most recent readily available)  it starts to be apparent that quoting a an exact figure is pretty irrelevant – especially when some people will undoubtedly take it as gospel.

After all, two years ago, Facebook didn’t have 200 million users, Twitter had just launched, there was no iPhone, there was less broadband penetration in the UK, there hadn’t been events like earthquakes or Mumbai to highlight realtime information, etc, etc.

And there’s a big elephant in the news room: Whoever said that print newspaper readers were guaranteed to only be getting their online news from newspapers?

I can get digital news on my mobile or my PC, via text,audio or video, and via social networks, blogs, websites, link aggregators, RSS, podcasts, videocasts, and from global sources. Whether or not print titles are only seeing a small percentage of their print readership visiting them online is less relevant, than how many of those readers are getting news content online from any source.

So what can you do?

When it comes to looking at the situation now and for the future, the numbers are far less important than looking at data trends.  I’d much rather base a theory or business strategy on a few years of data showing a rise in one area and a fall in another. The numbers are rough guides to point towards when the trends are in the same area, but that’s all.

Just to reiterate, I don’t want to criticise John and Martin for doing what is a useful, if flawed, exercise to highlight caution in assuming that online readership is bigger than it really is, or that print readership is smaller than you might think. As I tried to comment on the Nieman Labs site (sadly it vanished into cyberspace after I submitted it), it’s the way the information is being presented that worries me.

The consequences of revealing myself online…

It’s been a few days since I switched from my Badger Gravling alias to blogging under my real name. And bearing in mind it coincided with a weekend away from my computer, and self promotion via the likes of Entrecard, I wasn’t expecting to see any kind of change. And looking at Google Analytics and visits via Entrecard etc saw a slight drop due to my blogging drought (albeit just a few days). On the plus side, less visits from Entrecard did see my Bounce Rate decrease.

But logging into Feedburner to check my RSS stats revealed a bit of a surprise. My subscriber numbers have hovered around the same figures for ages, never varying more than 1 or 2. And yet, by changing to my real name, it’s jumped by a significant amount!

It can’t be due to new visitors rushing to a popular post, because I haven’t contributed since, or had a huge audience surge.

In fact, the only other reason I can possibly find is that I have Twittered a fair bit – to the point where I’m almost worrying I can’t sustain Tweeting so much alongside blogging regularly. But that would only work if every single person referred via Twitter had signed up for RSS. It seems a little unlikely, but if not, it’s a stunning recommendation for the power of connecting to like-minded people on Twitter.

So if you are a new subscriber, let me know whether you came through Twitter, or whether something as simple as being open about who I am made you consider signing up? Or was it something else?