I’ve discovering, particularly in this last year, that the center of gravity of my online presence has shifted away from Whatever entirely and has moved more than a bit toward Twitter. The graph above offers some evidence of that — in the last 28 days, the things I’ve said or retweeted on Twitter have gotten eight million “impressions” (the term meaning “the number of times users saw a tweet on Twitter”). Meanwhile Whatever is on track to get something like six million views for this entire year — down from 2012, the peak year for the site with 8.1 million views recorded by the WordPress stats package (as always, see this caveat about stats here). Likewise, the number of followers I have on Twitter (currently 68k) is higher than the number of unique daily visitors the site gets (the high point number for August: 23.4k).
Breaking down what the stats mean after this point gets complicated — starting with the question of whether a 140-character-or-less tweet can be meaningfully compared with a 500-word-or-more blog post — but no matter how you slice it, it seems pretty clear to me my biggest online audience at this point is on Twitter, not here at the Whatever home base.
How did this happen? I have hypotheses, which include:
1. The relative decline of the blogosphere in a general sense, as blog writing and reading are transplanted for most people by easier-to-use social media like Twitter and Facebook;
2. The UI dynamic of newer social media, which makes it easy to Like/Retweet/Share what people write on them, making for an easier spread of posts;
3. My tendency to put short, funny bits (i.e., sharable) on Twitter that in earlier years might have gone to Whatever, leaving Whatever as the repository for longer, more thinky (i.e., less immediately shareable) bits;
4. My increased travel and work schedule leaving me relatively less time for thinky/funny Whatever posts, but apparently the right amount of time for snarky bits on Twitter;
5. My relative lack of political posts this year, which are traditionally drivers of traffic (why fewer political posts? Because my general feeling this election year has been fuck all these assholes, which doesn’t make for great writing);
6. The various ways of sharing material on Whatever has increased, not all of which show up on the WordPress stats — for example, RSS reader views, which show up in some places in the stats package but not others, and which can be a significant part of readership (40% of the recent “Get Out Your Bingo Card” entry’s readership, for example), but not reflected in the site stats — because, after all, it wasn’t read on the site;
7. I can write a couple dozen tweets a day (or more if I’m exercised) whereas I rarely most more than three entries a day here, so there’s more opportunity to run up numbers on Twitter as opposed to here.
There are other likely hypotheses as well, but this is enough for the conversation at the moment.
For those of you who might be worried that this means I’m about to announce that I’m abandoning Whatever for a full-time residency on Twitter, relax: it’s not gonna happen. One, not everything I want to write online can be encapsulated in 140 characters. Two, I’m a proponent of owning one’s own space online, so when Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Etc inevitably go the way of Friendster and Myspace, I will still have a place to be online, doing my thing. Three, because six million visits here each year isn’t a thing to sneeze at, either. Whatever’s not going anywhere, and neither am I.
But it does mean I’m aware that my online presence is spread out more than it used to be. It also means that I think about the ways the two platforms work for and with each other. I will use Twitter to link back to things I’ve written here, for example; conversely, if I have a particularly interesting set of tweets, I’ll post them here for posterity. I think about how they can complement each other, so that both are useful (and fun!) for me, and for the people who follow me on either, or both.
Speaking of which, now I’m off to Twitter to tell people I’ve posted about this topic here. See? That’s how it works, people.