Every year I post stats on traffic for Whatever, and every year it gets harder to see how it accurately reflects my actual readership, because of the way people read things I post here. Bluntly, relatively few people visit the site directly at this point in time — As of this moment, for 2018, Whatever has had 2.82 million direct visits in 2018, down from last year’s 4.1 million, and substantially down from the 2012 high of 8.16 million. At the same time, Whatever has 30k+ followers through WordPress and email, another 10k+ on Feedly and other RSS aggregators, a few thousand though social media feeds, and there an unknown number of people reading the site’s content on mobile, through AMP versions of the site. None of those impressions/reads get tracked through the WordPress stats suite.
What I can say is this: The majority of Whatever readers don’t read its content directly on site anymore. This has been true for a few years at least, but has become especially noticeable in the last couple of years. I don’t have a real problem with this — I don’t really care how you read stuff I post on Whatever, I’m just glad you do — but I do miss having a better statistical read on what pieces of mine are resonating with people. Stats are difficult in the fractured reading reality of 2018.
Also, 2018 continued 2017’s trend of (relatively) fewer posts on the site: Counting this one, there were 475 posts on Whatever this year, a bit up from last year (452), but below the average for most years. I chalk this up to being busy and also mostly avoiding political posts this year (because as noted elsewhere, there are only so many ways of saying “He’s a bigoted crook!” and keeping it interesting in a longer format). Regardless, there is a pretty solid correlation between number of posts and number of visits. Write fewer posts, you’ll generally get fewer visits. It makes sense.
With all that said, here are the top ten Whatever posts written in 2018, as counted by the WordPress stats app, from most popular down:
- Thoughts On A Wrinkle in Time
- An Interview With Santa’s Lawyer
- Trump is a Racist. Stop Pretending Otherwise
- Regarding a Recent SFWA Action
- Thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War (and Yes, There Are Spoilers)
- Meet Keith Johnson
- Incels and Other Misogynists
- Regarding Your Application Status
- RIP, Harlan Ellison
- No, In Fact, You Should Not Write For Free
Once again, social media’s dominance of the Internet is underscored by the fact that the two top sites that send traffic to Whatever (not counting Google searches) are Twitter and Facebook, with the former sending four times as much traffic (which makes sense as I am rather more publicly active there). After that it’s WordPress, Goodreads, Hacker News and Reddit. No individually-owned site shows up in the top ten; File 770, a science fiction news blog, shows up at number 14. From a traffic-driving point of view, the “blogosphere” continues to be greatly diminished from its heyday.
Outside of Whatever, and in what will be absolutely no surprise to anyone, Twitter remains the place where I see the most social media action, in terms of followers and impressions: As of this morning,
293.8 322.5 million impressions (up from 269 million in 2017; and number updated to reflect I left out a month when I added it all up) off of 15,346 tweets (down from 17,059 in ’17), with 157,909 followers, up 24,149 from last year’s count of 133,760. My Facebook fan page is up to 22k followers, from 20.5 last year, so that’s nice. I’ve stopped counting Google+ followers because that site’s going away anyway. I have a few thousand followers on other social media sites, but I use those only sporadically so I don’t tend to think about them, stats-wise. Again, this year, Twitter is where it’s at for me, social media-wise.
For 2019, I suspect I will continue to do what I’ve done in 2018, which is to use Twitter for short-form, immediately-reactive bits (Twitter was where most of my political fulmination went this last year, as it’s been best suited to my mood), and Whatever for longer pieces and bits that I don’t want to have disappear down social media’s memory hole. I said last year that I wanted to write more Whatever pieces, but 2018 included two novels and two book tours and a bunch of travel and other work, so that didn’t quite pan out. Let’s see what 2019 has in store. I’m looking forward to it.