So, which entries on Whatever were the most popular in 2014, how was traffic to the site, and how was my general online reach? These all have interesting answers, or at least interesting to me. Let’s delve, shall we.
First, here are the top ten most-visited posts on Whatever in 2014, according to the WordPress stats package (caveats on that stats package to come). The entries with the asterisks are ones that were written before 2014.
- Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is*
- Being Poor*
- Amazon Gets Increasingly Nervous
- Apologies: What, When and How*
- The Four Levels of Discrimination (and You) (and Me, Too)
- An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: A Play in Five Acts
- 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing*
- You Never Know Just How You Look Through Other People’s Eyes*
- How to Boycott Me, I Mean, REALLY Boycott Me
- An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping*
This year’s top ten entries result is interesting to me, as I think this year is the first when the majority of the most visited posts were from previous years. “Being Poor” and “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know” are perennially popular pieces, but most of the others are newish as repeats.
I think the particular archive pieces that made the list reflect that for internet culture generally, 2014 was a year where sexism and other bigotries were a thing. This hypothesis is augmented by the 2014-native popular entries as well, as well as reflecting my own personal writing interests this year. It also suggests that a lot of the power of Whatever, and the scalzi.com site in general, resides in its archives. More on this in a bit.
If I included only the pieces written in 2014, here are the six other pieces that would have made the top ten:
- Ten Things About Petitions and Freedom of Speech
- Amazon’s Latest Volley
- The Orthodox Church of Heinlein
- Mary Robinette Kowal Offers Herself Up as a Useful Representative Example
- My Thoughts This Morning on GamerGate
- No, the Hugo Nominations Were Not Rigged
Again, a lot about sexism, and/or writing and publishing. It was that kind of year, it seems.
Moving along to general traffic statistics, the WordPress stats package notes that (minus the last three days and 18 hours, which have not happened yet), Whatever received 5.768 million visits, or roughly 15,971 visits a day. This is down rather a bit from 2013, in which the site got 7.572 million visits, averaging about 20,700 visits a day.
Additionally my 1&1 stats package, which tracks everything on scalzi.com that’s not on WordPress (including archived versions of Whatever that were on Moveable Type, etc), and which has no real overlaps with the WP stats package, recorded 4.188 million visits, which is also down from 2013, when it noted 6.13 million visits (The 1&1 stats, incidentally, are why you should take anyone else’s estimation of the traffic to this site with a fairly large grain of salt).
Some of this decrease I chalk up to me posting a bit less here this year, primarily due to travel schedules, and writing less about certain clicky subjects like politics, about which I wrote almost nothing this year at all. And some of it might be ascribed to blogs generally declining. And, of course, more specifically, maybe I’m just less popular as a blog writer than I used to be.
That said, there are other things to note here, not the least of which is that it appears that more of the reading of the content of the site is done off the site proper. A large portion of Whatever’s readership has always been through RSS, which is not noted by the WP daily reports (although if you dig you can find that information — for now, anyway, as the newly updated iteration of the WP stats package doesn’t seem to list that information anymore).
(Update: In the comments, it’s noted that Feedly, a leading RSS service, lists 8,000 Whatever subscribers. Which goes to my point nicely.)
The new WordPress stats package also notes something I didn’t know before, which is that that Whatever has (as of this moment) 12,242 WordPress followers, i.e., people for whom Whatever content is pushed to via WordPress, so they don’t have to visit the site to read it, which means they’re not recorded in the WP site stats. I also push Whatever content to Tumblr and Facebook, so people can read it there. I even have email subscribers (768 at last count).
Without discounting the decrease in visits to the site in 2014, it’s interesting to me that the decline of visits to the site does not necessarily mean that the posts themselves are not being as widely (or even more widely) read. If the decline in visits to the site proper is being compensated for by people following me via WordPress or other outposts, then I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m not like I’m pushing advertising on the site and losing money if people don’t show up there.
But it does also suggest that my Web site stats are becoming increasingly like my Bookscan stats. Bookscan, for those of you who don’t know, is a book sales monitoring service that tracks how many books get sold — but only at specific retailers, and only in specific formats. So, for example, Bookscan captured only about 20% of the total sales of Redshirts in its hardcover run. Bookscan, in other words, isn’t the whole story of a book’s sales, it just points in the direction of the whole story.
Shorter version of the above: Remember how I always note caveats when talking about site stats here? Those caveats have become even more caveat-y. It’s clear to me that the site states don’t offer a clear picture of how things of mine get read online, or by how many people. This is something I’ve already noted this year, mind you. Whatever is the starting place for much of my online presence. It’s clearly not the ending point.
Outside of Whatever, my primary social media presence is on Twitter, and it was a pretty good year there; I started the year with 55.2k followers and ended up with 76.1k, most of them, as far as I can tell, real live humans. According to ThinkUp, a service which tracks this stuff, I tweeted roughly 22,400 times, the most popular tweet of which was this:
Facebook: A high-tech, 21st century way of learning, in the wake of a traumatic national event, which of your friends and family are racist.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 26, 2014
Which got about 216,000 impressions, that being the Twitter term for views. It should be noted that most tweets I write get seen by less than the number of people who follow me, which makes sense if you think about it, since no one is on Twitter all the time, including me, and not everyone sees everything I tweet when they are online — they might be below the scroll, as it were.
Anecdotally, and not counting the tweets in which I am replying to someone (which tend to be seen by exponentially fewer people), a typical tweet of mine tends to garner about 15,000 impressions over the course of a day, with the especially retweetable ones pulling in 25k – 50k or so, and with occasional spikes of over 100,000 impressions (this one, from the other day, got 167k). I’d need a more complete set of data then I have to get more granular about it.
All told, an interesting year for me online. Let’s see what 2015 holds.