Thursday, July 23, 2009

Success and the "anti-viral" blog

Recently I posted my 1000th entry on this site. I suppose it was a milestone of sorts. If my site meter is correct, each post averages 46 readers.

The Red Electric clearly hasn’t gone “viral." Anti-viral is more like it.

Also, the average visit numbers are distorted by Sarah Palin.

Or, to be exact, her glasses.

Let me explain.

The day I presented an in-depth analysis of Palin's specs, the site did go relatively viral. If I recall correctly, 700 Palinites flocked to The Red Electric. I’m sure that most of them wanted to emulate the beguiling Palin look. Instead they got references to Marshall McLuhan and Dorothy Parker.

I resist measuring the success of this site by the volume of visitors. Striving to be “popular” for popularity's sake, as we learned in high school, is a fool’s game. Sure, I could make several changes to increase The Red Electric’s popularity. Focus would help. I pretty much write about whatever is on my mind. I like it that way. But I’m told that to be successful I should focus on earthworms or planters’ warts or hubcap collecting.

(Full disclosure: I have a focused site, Backspace Typewriters, devoted to these grand old writing machines. I post there only major developments in my typewriter world. It works out to once a month or so. About as much as one person can take. I understandably get very few visitors, but those I do get, often comment. Alas, not so here at The Red Electric)

No, a subject-constricted, popularity-constrained site would be no fun. I’d rather roam widely: Quakers, my dad’s Buick convertibles, Peace Corps memories, Hillsdale secessionist impulses, “active shooter” alerts on my community college campus, the future of journalism, political mind games and — Sarah Palin’s glasses.

The result is that about half of the 46 daily visits result from the happenstance of chance search engine surfing.

I once wrote about how my iPod cords get tangled in my backpack as if they were engaged in some surreptitious electronic-device orgy. I tagged the post “sonic sex” and ever since I’ve found sonic sex addicts (yes, they exist) visiting the post. I fear my musings were not what they had in mind.

I recently went on vacation and didn’t post a word for five days. I figured the visits would drop off in my absence. To my surprise, the numbers actually increased slightly. Two explanations: Search engine hits keep happening no matter what I write today or tomorrow, and regular readers wonder about my whereabouts. It’s a stretch to say they were worried, but who knows?

So, curiously, in my absence, the site took on a life of its own. Not to be morbid about it, but I wonder whether web sites continue and even grow in popularity after their authors have moved on to the Big Blog in the Sky.

My soul is strangely warmed by the thought of blog immortality.

Until then, I look forward to composing the next 1000 posts.

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