Playboy & the Older Editor
John Israel

On Blogging and the Audience

I'm trying to find my comfort zone in negotiating what I have to say with what this blog's audience wants to hear about. There are a number of conflicting forces. Within my own interests, there is the competition between keeping up on issues I've been following; writing about what leaps out at me in the morning news cycle; and writing about whatever strikes my fancy and generally expressing my interiority.

€ James Taranto at the WSJ points out the NYT implies that journalists are being targeted by coalition troops.
€ Also from the WSJ, an Abu Ghairib translator, Adel Nakhla, working for Titan has been "terminated." How about arrested? Can we go for charged?
€ And from the Guardian, Nick Berg's father's op-ed piece.

Complicating this, I have an increasing sense of an audience out there. Some of you who follow this blog daily, I know personally and may even have known for decades. Some of you follow this blog daily for the sf stuff, the political commentary, or because you like my narrative voice.

But unlike print media, the day-to-day audience that shows up to read what I write is also mediated by search engines. By what I consider a fluke, Google has sent over 8,000 visitors my way looking for information on the beheading of Nicholas Berg. Mine was a fairly tepid, tentative post, written only because the Berg thing had taken over another thread. And this is not the first time such thing has happened.

I am not sure what I owe these sudden, unexpected audiences who come to rant, or emote, or calmly discuss, but who mostly come only to read that one page and then vanish. I do feel I ought to encourage them to stay, to read a few other pages, to visit other blogs, and maybe to buy my books. But because they come in out of the blue and most of them leave just as quickly, I'm not sure how to do this or even whether it's worth doing. Many, I suspect, were looking for something I didn't provide (a link to the video) and left disappointed.

The general answer, I think, is to continue to cultivate the narrative voice and the accompanying interests that have made this blog what it is now, but I admit, I do find this audience question a bit bewildering.

As bloggers, how do you deal with the matter of audience? As blog readers, what hospitality do you expect of blogs?

One answer would be to just write for myself, but a few decades of taking the needs and expectations of reading audiences into account makes it unlikely that I would be able to sincerely follow that path. The other extreme would be to shamelessly pander to the whims of Google, but I'm not paid to do this, and even with ads, my hourly wage would be in pennies if I thought that way. I'm looking for my comfort zone.

The accomodation I seem to be heading toward is to try to keep score of what I kind of thing I write: what was written solely because the spirit moved me; what is part of an ongoing exploration with a consituuency; etc., throwing in recipes, bits on how to make a fountain or an outdoor play area, or whatever I think someone out there somewhere would be interested in; and then when I've done too much of one thing, trying to do more of another. But I'm still thinking about it.

Share with me your experiences and opinions.

Finally, a technical question: I'm experimenting with tools that give me more information about traffic on my site, partly because I've needed realtime information when I've had problems and haven't had it and instead have had to wait until the next day; partly because I feel like I ought to know more about my real traffic now that I'm selling ads. So I'm testing out Site Meter and Urchin. Urchin shows roughly twice the traffic Site Meter does (and I do have Site Meter code on every page). Do any of you techies know why this might be? Is Urchin counting my CSS style sheet as a pageview maybe? Or is Site Meter skipping something real that Urchin sees?