In October, I posted an entry about the readership stats for Whatever and noted at the time that it’s often difficult to get a true bead on how many people are reading what I’m writing here, in part because of the variance in reporting between stats programs, and then also because the stats programs may or may not report syndicated views (i.e., people reading and sharing via RSS), but even when they do those reports don’t show up as part of the “official” site statistics.
To bring home the latter point, the picture above shows you the WordPress stat suite tracking for the “Interview with the Nativity Innkeeper” piece, tracking the readers of the piece from yesterday through about 10:30 am today — more specifically, people who visited the entry page itself (rather than reading it off the front page of Whatever, as regular visitors were likely to have done), and those looking at it via RSS feed. The light blue bits are the people who are looking at it directly on the site page for it; the dark blue bits are the people reading it via RSS.
What do we see? In this case, the RSS readership is swamping the direct-to-page visitors; since the piece went up yesterday (and not counting those who read it directly off the front page) the stats suite has reported about 51,000 readers, nearly 84% of whom are reading it away from the site. This percentage is higher than usual for my posts, but in a general sense there’s always a substantial number of RSS/offsite readers, none of whom are part of the “official” site numbers.
I bring this up partly because I nerd out about how people get hold of my stuff, but partly to make the point that online readership numbers are highly fungible. If I were trying to sell advertising on the site, I could say that this entry has had 8,000 readers or so; the RSS readers would be, in a sense, dark matter, or the equivalent of people who watch shows on DVRs — watching but not useful to advertisers. Unless, of course, I put ads on my RSS feed, which is a thing I’ve seen people do. I think this stuff is fascinating.
Bear in mind that I have no plans for adding advertising to the site (save for another possible sponsored piece of fiction, a la “An Election“), so for me this is largely noodling over numbers. However you’re reading the writing on Whatever, I’m glad you do so.