Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stats: Is there anybody out there?

When I was a college DJ, I operated under the thinking that there were potentially half a million people listening to me at any given moment on the air as I spoke. This is delusional; the numbers, were they readily available, would likely reveal the number in the tens and not millions, and a significant portion of those tens would have likely remarked that they wished I would stop talking already. But potentially...

The truth is, unless someone I knew caught my show and said something, or I got a caller requesting something other than what I was playing, it seemed like no one was listening and this was, like many artistic endeavors, a largely onanistic one. But one evening I got a mysterious call at my apartment from "a fan" saying to meet her and her friends at a nearby restaurant at 7. I was a little weirded out because someone at the radio station gave a stranger my number, but I figured what the hell. It turned out to be the entire 1990 Architecture Studio class who had spent every Friday evening in the lab laboring away at blueprint drawings listening to my radio show. One of them mentioned the mini-set of polka songs I played as mocking runoff from the dance music show as a highlight of her semester, another said something like, "I usually don't like weird music, but I got used to it." but still - vindicated.

The blogging experience is not dissimilar to this.

Comments were once the most immediate measure of reader responase. Quite simply, if you touch a reader, they would touch back. The RSS feed phenomenon, which allows readers to blaze through hundreds of blogs without ever actually going to them has unfortunately severed that contact. I have discovered that my only responses are those who know me personally and respond ina chatty way, or people who have something to promote. For instance, any time I mentioned Sly and the Family Stone's landmark album There's a Riot Goin' On in my blog (which for a while was often) I got a response form a guy promoting a book he'd written on Sly and the Family Stone. Nothing wrong with that, in fact I admire that sort of moxie, but was it a meaningful response to what I said, or just a blib on his Google Alert radar that said "opportunity?"

So don;t rely in the messy falabilities of human interaction to determine if the word is getting out. That's what your stats are for. They detail not only how many people, but where they are and how often. There are number of services that can provide this data, but my choice is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics gives one rather pleasing histographs of readers, page views, geographical breakdowns of the viewers to your blog - frankly more information than I know what to do with. When I started tracking it, I was shocked to find I hit around 50 readers a day, half from my own town and the rest scattered across the world. I discovered a reader in St. Helier, Jersey UK spent about 10 minutes on my site once, which prompted me to find where Jersey was (it's way down there, off the coast of France in the Channel islands.) I discovered that my father reads my blog on weekdays from his office in Tulsa. I have found that teh word "sex" in the subject line brings them in, but not the word "porn." Plenty of meaningful data can be extracted from this service.

Caveat: the driving force behind blogging is often obsessive behavior. Adding checking stats into the mix only exacerbates things

No comments: