Top Whatever Posts and Social Media Stats, 2018

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:

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.

44 Comments on “Top Whatever Posts and Social Media Stats, 2018”

  1. As an aside, there’s a fellow out there who loves when I post these pieces because he like to then say that his own (self-reported, as these are) blog numbers are higher, and this is evidence that he is truly more popular than I am, I am not all that popular, etc. It’s entirely possible at this point he has a larger number of direct visitors to his site than I do. I suspect I may have a larger overall social media footprint than he does, however. For example, I have 158K Twitter followers, and he has none whatsoever, as he was booted off the site for being a terrible person some time ago. I’m not sure he ever talks about the fact that his being a terrible person means his own site is one of the few remaining social media outlets where he is tolerated at all, so if you want his brand of petty shittiness, that’s where you have to go.

    Plus the vast majority of the readers/followers of Whatever aren’t turdy little bigots, so I have that going for me, which is nice.

  2. “The vast majority of followers of Whatever”? So, 7 out of the remaining 11? What a warm feeling that must bring you.

  3. “(self-reported, as these are)”

    Have you tried self-reporting higher numbers? Merry Christmas from a reader of the dark blog that must not be named!

  4. lol, it didn’t take the sad little person in question very long to take that particular bait, did it. He’s awfully predictable, and easily manipulatable.

  5. Hi, I’ve just come from over there, as he courteously is linking back here to you. So he and I both have helped your “direct views”, which is nice. Now also be nice and say thank you!

    PS. You’ll be proud and happy to hear that I found him via you, years ago, being an even longer ago reader of OMW.

    PPS. Merry Christmas!

  6. Maybe only adjacently related, but do you ever feel intimidated or overwhelmed by having so many people read your blog? Since, I figure, unlike published novels, there’s not as much revision or polishing for blog posts.

    Like, imagining over a million people reading something I wrote might freak me out so much that I’d be hesitant to post much. If you don’t feel nervous, how do you get your confidence? Or did your confidence grow over time as you got more experience and readership?

  7. lgmerriman:

    Nah. My first job out of college was writing movie reviews for a newspaper with a (then) circulation of 150k, and readership of 250k (on the idea that more than one person per household would read the paper). So I’ve been used to writing for large audiences.

    Hawt F:

    Actually, I long ago blocked visits from that fellow’s site from being counted or tracked, because at one point he was whining about me on a frequent enough basis that that I got tired of seeing him there. So in fact your visit won’t count (in terms of registered views, that is). I see his kvetches sometimes in Google searches, and when someone decides to email me about his hijinx. Otherwise I’m mostly content to let him wander in his own miasma, away from me.

  8. Back when I was running a web site, I would regularly peruse the numbers prepared by Analog, and found that web servers count mostly the beans that are of interest to those running the computers, not those concerned with the audience or the audience’s interests. Most of the raw numbers amounted to computers talking to computers (i.e. indexing spiders, RSS feeds, etc.) and were only vaguely useful in an editorial way.

    Now that I’m on Automattic’s WordPress, they’ve filtered all of that out, but they’ve also filtered out about half the actual readers. Plus Google and others have made things worse by encrypting search queries.

    I don’t trust any web numbers as actual counts, they are relative counts maybe. I’m convinced that anyone who pays for advertising on the web “by impression” is getting ripped off.

    But congratulations on the numbers. My corner of the web is truly obscure, but look for no jealousy on my part. Congratulations and I mean it.

  9. Since I don’t do the Twitter thing (my choice for remaining sane) I am very happy that you also write this blog, which I enjoy reading. Got my third volume of your collected blogs not all that long ago! They hold up over time.

  10. rmichaelroman:

    Indeed, the difference between the site numbers reported by my ISP’s stats program and the WordPress site numbers is substantial. Some of it is down to editing out spiders, etc, but I suspect there are other differences as well. I use the WP ones mostly because Whatever is hosted there while the rest of the site is hosted on the ISP.

    And yeah, I’m happy I don’t rely on advertising with regard to this site.

  11. Ah, you kids in your 40s, with your Tweetering on the Interwebs. It’s a fad!

    Seriously, I need to get better at that stuff. Yeesh. Been putting all that off until I’ve got a few books worth peddling….

    I wonder if there’s any way to even estimate how many words of written text there are, out there, in electronic. Even limited to English, and to fiction and nonfiction intended to be read for pleasure or interest (as opposed to purely technical instructions, lines of code, etc.). It must orders of magnitude greater than what existed (in print) just a hundred years ago.

    Anyway — your blog remains excellent.

  12. I see the Mallet is getting a heckuva workout today. It’s amazing how metrics can bring out the dick-bangers, ain’t it?

    I suspect that what matters about your blog to most regular readers (regardless of how we get here) is the combination of the quality of the content, and the well-curated, interesting, and occasionally funny comments threads (take a bow, fellow Whateveristas!)

    These are not quantifiable metrics. But then, very little that really matters can be described thus. Thank you, again, for making this one of the most refreshing places to stop in on the Toobz, John.

  13. Maybe your readership is declining because of all the new books you’ve published.

    TBH I’d rather have my readers reading paid content instead of free stuff.

    Good luck in 2019!

  14. “Tor Books” (as in, not the actual Tor Books):

    As noted in the piece, I published fewer posts here this year in part because of work-related commitments, and I do think there’s a correlation between fewer posts and lower traffic. But I don’t worry about whether the readers here monetize into book purchasers. It’s not why I post here.

  15. For Igmerriman (and others), I liked your question as to confidence and fear.

    My reply is that you can just jump in, as John did, or build up. When I was a volunteer student newspaper reporter I was amazed, in a conversation with her, to find that the paid writer of the establishment campus paper had no stage fright whatsoever, for writing, as I had lots. But not now.

    A theatre major who did a term paper on stage fright told me that her conclusion is that one could do self-validation, or affirmations, enough to counterbalance fears from the audience. I can still recall how written affirmations did me good. Years ago. Now that I’m O.K, I resist doing any more affirmations, just as regular people resist. (The trick is to make a concerted effort, not just once in the morning. I note this because folks might start doing affirmations on January first)

    Self help expert Dale Carnegie reports that the greatest magician of his age would stand in the wings before a show, reciting, “I love my audience.” For me, before writing a blog or speaking up in a meeting, it helps my confidence enormously if I check first that my intention is mostly to help others.

  16. A:

    He is successful! Which is why I’m delighted to have him narrate my audiobooks.


    Hey, sockpuppets and lickspittles, I’m just gonna delete your posts from here on out, as none of them have really been interesting enough on their own to keep, and otherwise you’re just confirming what we already know, i.e., the people on that site are more often shitty dweebs than not. So, run along, children. Thanks.

  17. Funny you should mention that. I’m Doug Dimmadome, not Too Books, and I’m here to destroy your childhood dream of being an author who is taken seriously.

    I’ve sent you VIP tickets to watch your dreams be destroyed at my concert venue, the Dimmadome, formerly known as AT&T Stadium. Check your inbox, Ticketmaster should’ve emailed them to you.

  18. [Deleted, because, dude, you’re aware I can see you attempting to sockpuppet here, yes? I mean, come on, this is just sad — JS]

  19. I don’t comment all that much, but I have read Whatever for a whole bunch of years.

    In fairness, a lot of the readers from here, from Whatever, did go over there and say a whole lot of nasty things, and some of those things were about the relative sizes of the two blogs. Many of the comments were belittling, insisting that this blog was much larger and thus somehow more important thereby. A lot of those nasty comments were clearly intended to shame the other blogger.

    So a part of me does get it when the comparison is thrown back on an annual basis. Sort of a tradition, I guess.

  20. Jo:

    Eh. I’ve never encouraged anyone to troll over there (indeed, it’s my ethos to tell people never to be an asshole on my behalf), and in any event, I’m not the one who is measuring his manhood (or anyone else’s) by the comparative size of the blog numbers, aside from prodding him today about those Twitter numbers, because I knew how he’d react; he’s not a great mystery to solve. That the sad little fellow actually cares is part and parcel with his pathological need to think we’re in competition for… something. That’s his karma, of course. As noted, he certainly is predictable, however.

  21. I didn’t mean to give the impression that you directly encouraged your followers to do anything like that. To my knowledge, there was no (for lack of a better word) weaponization of your followers to actively engage in harassment.

    I spent some time years ago trying to get to the bottom of where the original “beef” started, which I found intriguing.

    But anyway. This post is about your statistics. Congratulations on having run the blog for so long now. Your numbers, even when read conservatively, are certainly impressive.

  22. There are objective reasons for the viewercount diparity between u and the “other guy”. For one he is more relevant in the altright sphere than u are in the leftwing sphere(which is awfully crowded). He also posts a heck of a lot more often than you(on average probably twice a day) and he posts all of his projects there- u don’t seem to be doing that. and as u mention u mostly use twitter for politics while he uses his blog. he has also been more active in the recent 2 years with different projects like bok launches, comic book stuff etc all of which are coordinated through his blog and his publishing house. as u mentioned the projects u are working on are not yet public

  23. Congratulations on another year of blogging! As Dave Winer is apt to point out, the blogsphere itself is still out there, even thoug the social media verse has cannibalized the readership. I have been blogging far more sporadically than you for about as long, and I think I have maybe a couple million hits total over the past decade and a half, so the fact that you can still pull in these numbers means that there is still a market for self-hosted, self-owned, non-gated content.

  24. Jensen Rijkan:

    Sure. As noted, I’ve been posting less here in the last couple of years, which I suspect correlates to less direct traffic, even factoring in the other content distribution avenues. And again, as that fellow is largely confined these days to his blog, people who want what he’s offering have to go there, whereas people have other options for finding me — there are people who read the blog who don’t visit my Twitter presence, and vice versa. I don’t think there’s a relative comparison to be made politically; I write about politics but it’s not my bread-and-butter, as it were, whereas that fellow’s online identity is largely focused on his particular brand of identity politics.

    But more to the point, it’s not a competition — my blog numbers and his blog numbers don’t really mean anything relative to each other, since they are not addressing the same audiences (generally speaking), and there is neither a penalty nor a bonus to either of us having more or less than the other. Nor, needling aside, does my relative larger social media footprint. I’m not sure that fellow realizes it; alternately, he does realize it but simply chooses to advertise it as being important to puff himself up. Which is a little sad.

  25. It was Vox Day who refereed you to me to you ages ago. It was positive referral. I became a regular reader at the time. But the times they did change. Yes in my eyes you grew boring and I faded a way. I believe it is not common for a writer to keep up a steady pace of good work over the years. There is no shame in not being Hemingway. And no one expected Hemingway to keep pumping out a blog,twitter, Facebook plus a Snap Chat for the groupies

  26. I still have no idea who this Vox Day guy is, nor what his deal with you is about. Please nobody tell me, this seems like one of those things I really am better off never knowing.

    I am slightly disappointed by the lack of raging over Trump, because I remember the wonderful posts you used to do back in the Shrub era, but then I suppose Trump is just so dumb and one note that it isn’t even fun to rip him apart anymore. At least Shrub and Cheney (and over here, Blair) had enough variety in the nefarious misdeeds department to have a fun factor in disassembling them.

  27. Crypticmirror:

    I suspect I might write more about it in 2019; it helps that one house of Congress is in Democratic hands so the entire government will no longer be run by the complicit.


    I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway so I don’t mind not being him.


    I’m going to play some video games and then turn in for the night. As we’ve already established that the trolls are out in force in these comments, I’m turning them off and will reopen them in the morning. Night!

    Update: Comments back on.

  28. It’s much harder to track *anything* these days – readers, book sales, etc. But this thread has certainly sprouted trolls – how about kittening them again? I remember that rather fun way you had of dealing with them :) .

  29. I still think disenvowelment is the best!

    For those who don’t know what disenvowelment is….

    “John Scalzi is a stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder”


    “Jhn Sclz s stck-p, hlf-wttd, scrffy-lkng nrf hrdr”

    But I understand just deleting….disenvowelment takes more work.
    And as they say…time is money (or word count)

  30. Well, next time someone tells me that a blog post about statistics and tracking makes his eyes glaze over and he falls asleep, I’ll say, “Well, hey, I know a stats post by a science fiction writer where even the trolls stay awake and converge.”

  31. Hi John
    Have you written enough interviews that a book could be put together?
    I’m thinking of pieces such as Interview With Santa’s Lawyer, Regarding Your Application Status, and that one with the customer service line of Vacuubot.
    It would also fill that void of nothing getting published in 2019.

  32. I’m surprised “Meet Keith Johnson” isn’t higher on the list, considering the circumstances of that post. I would have had it pegged for another breakout piece a la “Straight White Male,” albeit less controversial. I guess it just goes to show that it’s nigh-impossible to predict (or engineer) a viral hit.

    As for VD, he’s a small fish in the tiny little puddle that is the “intellectual” alt right; I don’t think it’s that surprising that he has a built-in audience for his highly idiosyncratic opinions. And I’ll say one thing for him: he’s persistent. That blog has been going for over 15 years at this point, and he updates it multiple times a day on top of various other flamboyant antics.

  33. Aaron:

    One never writes viral hits. One just write pieces. The virality happens or doesn’t.

    Also, remember that if people are coming to the piece from mobile, they’re as likely as not to be served the AMP version of the page, which my stats suite doesn’t track.

  34. As one of the googleusers my second most comon place where I visit you from is only on number 14. (Never heared of Hacker News). Your twitter I will mostly visit from your site or if someone links to a tweat from you, so not typical.
    Actually the year was interesting, with the intern as guest poster, I am a bit suprised that a moviereview was your most viewed post.

    To all have a nice end of the year.

  35. I’m incredibly amused to think that, despite not knowing the username of the ignominious pustule mentioned, I figured out who it was based on the sheer number of deleted sockpuppet comments.

    I know baiting him must be fun, but you don’t even need to say his name three times before he shows up…

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