Saturday, April 17, 2004

Print Media Vs. Online Blogging

Bill over at HobbOnline has two great posts about the changing media landscape. (See here and here.) Hobbs talks about some experiences he's had with "old media" types who really don't seem clued in to the reach and speed of Internet blogging. Both pieces are short and well worth the read.

One of Bill's points was about getting referrals. "Dead tree" media -- i.e. newspapers and magazines -- commentators don't frequently refer to each other, nearly as though they operate in a vacuum. Newspapers run each other's stories, but like to pretend they are the only paper in the game. Bloggers live by cross-connection and cross-commentary. It's how we sharpen ideas and refine thinking. What emerges is a wealth of commentary and some very effective ideas. The print process will do the same, but far more slowly, and access to the process is strictly limited.

I have had the fortune to be mentioned in Memphis' two major newspapers recently. The first was an interview for a blogging feature in the Memphis Flyer's Annual Manual. (Thanks Chris!) I was one of three bloggers interviewed. That mention, which excited me no end I'll admit, only garnered a few hits more than usual traffic. Maybe 10 or 20 altogether. Maybe my right-leaning libertarian politics don't appeal to Flyer readers....

I got a nod in Jon Sparks' C.A. Eye feature one Friday, the "Onward through the blog" bit. (Thanks Jon!) I was really excited by this, as I'd hit the Big Time. Half-Bakered was in the daily paper! Well, I was ready for the deluge of hits to come that weekend.... Except it didn't. I saw maybe 20 to 50 hits more than usual traffic over the next few days.

This week, I'm again in the Memphis Flyer! They saw Carol's Wallop Page and used a few of the images in "Fly on the Wall," with some hilarious "art criticism" added. (Thanks again Chris!) It's hard to tell how much this one generated in traffic, as I've got some other things going, but I feel comfortable in saying it was about 150 or 200 hits to Carol's page so far (traffic is steady over there) and maybe a few from there to Half-Bakered! Whoo!

So, all told, my mentions in the local "big time" paper media came to around 200 to mayb 250 hits to Half-Bakered and its satellites.

Yesterday evening, Instapundit made a joke about some Republican morphing John Kerry onto Harry Potter's Voldemort. I took up the challenge and whipped up a graphic, then emailed Glenn to let him know it was up. Emailing Instapundit is purely a "luck of the draw" thing. Whether he'll use your tip or not depends on a lot of things, and if you're a small-time blog like me, it likely won't happen, unless you're pertinent to the stories of the day.

Well, I lucked out. To that post above, he added just this:
UPDATE: Boy, that didn't take long.
There was an embedded link to the Kerry Mockery Page where the image sits, but that was it.

It went up around 7:30PM Friday evening and by the time I logged on this morning, I had 2500 hits to the page. By the end of twenty-four hours, I expect around four or five thousand hits. Given that a lot of folks only surf from work, I expect a renewal of hits Monday morning.

Astonishing. In twenty-four hours, one link from a well-known blogger gave me twenty times more hits than several months of newspaper mentions. That's been an eye-opener. I've really wondered at how few hits getting a mention in both papers (which both boast circulations of half-a-million) generates. Do people not care? Do they forget right after they read the paper? Are most paper readers not Internet aware? (Yeah, I doubt that one too. But if you listen to a radio show like Jim Montgomery's Computer Connection you'll see just how ignorant computer users can be.) Do people not read their papers near a computer and so making the jump is more trouble than it's worth? What is the break between papers and the Internet? Does it have some deeper explanation in how people receive newspaper information versus having to search it out on the Web? Are Internet readers much more willing to go after news and information than most paper readers? In my case, I'd say that's most likely.

As blogs go, Half-Bakered is small fry. I get about 50 to 70 hits a day, when I'm blogging regularly, as opposed to 30 or so during extended breaks. But I have some high-quality readers, no question there! I've attracted the attention and notice of some of the very people I'd always hoped to speak to. But there's always room to grow. I'd love to have around 100 to 200 daily readers. That's my next goal. And a lot more regular commenters. I'd love to have folks email me tips, or to offer ideas.

I've started watching my referrer logs. For months, my two biggest sources of hits were search engines (folks looking for something that's mentioned on the blog) and a DVD review that's linked on a British Asian-movie site. That accounted for around half of my traffic. After that came "unknown referrer," whatever that means, then links from the Rocky Top Brigade or other bloggers.

In the past few weeks, that mix has radically changed. I've started seeing "half-bakered" in the search engine hits. That tells me that folks have heard who I am and are searching for the blog. I'm arriving, as they say. That's a real morale booster, let me tell you. It says that I'm finally doing something right. At least I hope so.

The Kerry Mockery and Carol's Wallop pages are drawing in readers too. Folks are landing there and then coming here. Wonderful. I was hoping for that. Give the people "teh funney" and they will come back. I can do funny.

I'm not seeing links direct from other bloggers and that bothers me. I probably could do a better job there of mentioning other bloggers' stuff, especially RTBers. It probably doesn't help that I've put more focus of late on local stuff and stayed away from national issues. I think it's a good move for me, as I'm still one of a very few voices doing what I do; nationally, I would be one in tens of thousands and there are many people who can analyse and write far better than me. Plus, I'm not lightning-quick with the commentary, which is bad news in blogging. Johnny-come-late and he gets a seat in the back.

You see the kinds of things I think about when it comes to Half-Bakered. It's all about profile, connection and content. I'm pretty satisfied with the direction of the blog now and the slowly rising regular readership. I hope I can keep it and build on it. I hope y'all enjoy what I'm doing. Please let me know. And, I hope the depression doesn't strike again soon.

Back to where we started: Newspapers are facing a huge sea change, not unlike the one that struck the music industry. In this case, it's not about price but about giving people what they want. Blogs and online news are prospering because they do just that. Newspapers are floundering because they are using old business and service models in a new technology environment. Information, as the saying goes, wants to be free. The Internet is enabling that. People want customisation; browsers and blogging allow that. People want to see points of view similar to their own; papers resisted that, focusing on giving people what the papers wanted them to know.

The world is changing. The future is always coming.

No comments: