Wednesday, November 19, 2008

State of the Blog -- Year 4

Each November I write a “state of the blog” post to reflect on the previous year’s blogging; this year it is a day or so early. Today, Nov. 19th the blog is four years old. That is a long time for a hobby.

The presidential election overshadowed things this year, since Pennsylvania played a more significant role than anyone really expected. None of the suburban congressional races were really competitive and the election results there brought few surprises. There were some interesting candidates and campaigns in the regional state senate and house races. Over the past few years there has been a marked trend away from communicating directly with candidates and campaigns and toward being contacted by pr firms, organizations, and parties. Another blogger has theorized that this represents a shift in the view of blogs as media outlets as opposed to some form of campaign volunteer. Someone smarter than me will have to figure it all out.

Over the year I kept up standard features such as the list of articles on Pennsylvania published in the Wall Street Journal, rough notes from live and televised events and interviews. I have stopped writing the synopses of House and Senate Journals, primarily because it is tedious and the House Journals run six months behind so it is hardly relevant by the time they appear. The quarterly FEC roundups of congressional campaign finance became a standard feature.

Once again, I paid to attend all fundraising events. From time to time people will write and offer me a free copy of a book or other product. All these offers have been declined. The Inquirer did invite me to blog about some of their Big Canvas events and there was a monetary payment for that. One firm approached me about placing ad on my blog; it made a positive statement so I ran it in exchange for a small online gift card. The ad only brought in a handful of clickthroughs. Unrelated to the ad agreement I posted a note about the event, with an acknowledgment of the ad, and there were more clickthroughs from the blog post. So, for blogs of this size, sponsored blog posts might be more effective than an ad. It was a one time experiment for me and no other paid ads and no sponsored blog posts have run.

In keeping with previous years, let me provide some information on usage. There are three ways to track blog usage. A number of users either come directly to the blog or find it via search engines, looking for information on candidates, bills, and related topics, as well as those who come across it while searching for something entirely different, and are probably disappointed when they get here. Then there are those who are referred here from other sites, aggregators like Phillyfuture.org, or other blogs like Capitol Ideas. I appreciate those people including this blog on their blogroll or in their blog roundups.

These users are represented in the chart below from sitemeter. Along the year I had thought usage was down but looking at the numbers overall sitemeter visits were up. Last year only two months usage (visits and page views) were over 8,000; this year usage for four months topped that number. The most popular posts this year were the post written in April 2007 on the Foodstamp Challenge, referenced by Rebecca’s Pocket and other bloggers, and a post this year commenting on a list of household rules that appeared on CNN.com. It is interesting that neither post had anything to do with politics. The most popular political post was the interview with Betsy Meyers of Obama for America.





Again this year I received about $100 from Newstex which markets a number of blogs to commercial databases like Lexis / Nexis. The number of hits increased around the primaries but as the reports run 60 or more days behind I don’t have a good sense of how the fall election season affected usage.

Feedburner, another free tracking service, monitors rss subscriptions and also hits, views, and clickthroughs. The number of subscribers varies from day to day. It started in Nov. 2007 in the 130’s, only dipped below 100 once over the year, and bounced around, with a top number of around 180 and at the end of October 2008 was 157. The number of hits bounced around also but tended to be over 1000 daily after April. The top number was around 7,500 but I think that was one of the times someone came along and basically downloaded the entire blog for their own purposes. I can find no pattern to the views and clickthroughs numbers. It varies from 5 to over 600 per day.

The coverage of state and regional politics by the traditional media is shifting as well, and not in a good way. The Inquirer continues to lose good reporters with years and sometimes decades of experience. Few reporters means less coverage. That is a loss for us all. Hobbyist bloggers might complement traditional coverage, especially in the smaller races that might escape the larger media outlets, but cannot replace a robust press.

Next year there are some district attorney races and the 2010 senate and house races might start to rumble. For those who stopped in to read and comment this year, thank you for doing so. I have enjoyed the conversations, both public and private.

5 comments:

Austin in PA said...

Jane,
Happy anniversary! It's a perfect time to let you know just how much you're appreciated. I check in a few times a week, and really, there's no possible way I could keep up on state and regional issues without you.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! The time you give to this blog really does make a difference.

AboveAvgJane said...

Austin,

Thank you very much for the comment and the compliments. It made my day.

Anonymous said...

I concur with Austin in PA, Jane! You are the best! -Paul Lang

AboveAvgJane said...

Thank you, Paul!! It is very nice of you to take the time to write.

John said...

Happy anniversary and keep up the good work!

There is a real gap in both the blogosphere and traditional media that you fill nicely.