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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, January 01, 2006

the old man and the infant

Argh, it's the Janus time of the year...time to look forward and to look back.

Looking back, I can say I'm proud of the writing I did last year and honored and grateful that so many of you read it.

That body of work includes a great deal of writing I did outside of k/o: essays on Liberal Street Fighter...front page posts on dailykos...diaries at MyDD, Booman Tribune and, from time to time, dkos too. 2005 also meant some 300 posts here on k/o. I did stuff here...personal essays, book reviews, musical profiles, extended form essays like the one on Iraq, coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Fitzgerald investigation...stuff that I'm proud of, stuff that's part of a bigger whole...stuff I hope you liked.

My goal has always been to write essays that had immediate impact...but my goal has also been to make pieces that have a lasting value and relevance: to make a body of work that added up to my personal document of the times. That's the project behind k/o.

I learned a powerful "blog lesson" in 2006, however: the practical side.

A healthy blog...one that aspires to be sustainable...should have growing traffic, growing returning readers, a healthy community of comment makers and a sustainable model for delivering content to readers.

Of course, none of that is happening. This blog has a shrinking readership. shrinking returning readers, a reduced community of comment makers (some names have dissappeared entirely), and, personally, k/o has had an unsustainable model for delivering content...especially if the measurement is the daily, "bite-sized" nuggets that most blogs deliver.

Simply put, some part of that has to change going forward. I won't and can't do this blog in that context.

Straight up, I can't write full out essays every day...how could I?....nor can or should I write more typical blog nuggets...surveys of "what's out there" or "what's news." Some of the pieces I've done have taken much more effort than perhaps I should have put into them.

(There's a reason you don't see many bloggers doing full-on book reviews or analytic pieces like I did with Joshua Grossman. Pieces like that don't drive traffic, and they are a huge time sink. The only reason to do them is...well...because somebody should...and bloggers I admire do.)

Truth be told, online writers are regular people who live by all the normal rules. Pride, ego, committment, wanting to see results. I'm a part of that. If I spend forty hours on a piece, like I did on that Iraq analysis or Joshua Grossman's district analysis, there should be some pay off for that. Increased readers. A good discussion. Referrals. Impact. A feeling of making a difference, albeit in a small way. A chance to make a bigger splash. That's alot of what motivates people to write online elsewhere.

To be straight up, my content, short or long does not seem to boost traffic. In particular, traffic here has not been helped by long, hard-written pieces. In fact, it's been hurt. Traffic is now 25% of what if was when I was blogging in the more typical daily and "news oriented" way two months ago. Every week since late October has seen fewer readers on k/o. In that time I've put HUGE amounts of work here. Readership is now lower than it's ever been.

A friend told me that's because people want relevance and news. A blog that's merely "interesting" is competing with so many other "interesting" things in so many other places. People come online for what's new and immediate and relevant to them. I think he's right. Another friend said that the only way to have a successful blog on politics is to do the "outrage of the day." There's a kernal of truth in that, too. Personally, I'm tempted to put a word limit on my pieces....and just make everything 500-750 words long...my guess is that people don't want to reel they HAVE TO read pieces longer than that. It works against this blog; and to be frank, long pieces look like shit on blogger without a fold.

However, there's another reality. When I've posted some these long, difficult k/o essays on dKos or MyDD, they've been been recommended by twice as many readers who actually read them here. Those recommends and comments, however, indicate to me that people, on some level, do want this content. They respect the work. (Hell, maybe people recommend on dkos simply to say..."whew, that took effort"...I don't know.) At any rate both book reviews...Critical Condition and Collapse...were highly recommended on dkos. That says something.

When I started writing in October of 2003 on dailykos...I could write two or three pieces a week...as time permitted, sometimes more, sometimes less. That was a good pace. I've made a decision to go back to that pace here on my own blog and, despite all I've said above, to make no bones about doing so. To be a "non daily" blogger with my eyes open as to what that means.

For 2006 I've decided that k/o will simply be a place where I write essays the way I used to on dkos. That's what I can do. The reality is that k/o will have to establish itself with that vibe going forward. All current indications are, however, grim for my prospects of growing readership this way. I'm usually not a pessimist...but you can count me as a pessimist on this one.

Looking back on 2005 and the start up of this blog I'd like to say a huge thanks to every last one of you reading today. I appreciate that if you've read this piece...you're likely someone who has come back despite the slower pace and the content. I appreciate that deeply.

I intend to keep writing...and look forward to doing so here...but sustainability has to be a part of that. It's only common sense.

I've put a ton of work into writing online. My job is to write pieces that a broad audience finds valuable, and to do so in a way that works for me. I'm not an idiot, nor are any of you. k/o will only last if it thrives. That is the only sustainable conclusion for this blog going forward.

To be honest, I feel like I'm stepping off the treadmill and starting over again here. That's good...and awkward at the same time.

Ah, New Years.

7 Comments:

  • Looking back on 2005 and the start up of this blog I'd like to say a huge thanks to every last one of you reading today.

    You're welcome, Kid. I enjoy your writing and hope the sitemeter thingy documents my interest accordingly.

    I'm still not in much of a position to be linking to anyone--and the unsustainable, hobbyist attitude I have toward blogging means I'll never have much traffic to redirect (oh well)... but in just a few more weeks I'll emerge from my cave as a real-live scientist. And I'm itching to fire the old site back up. I'll do my best to send my minuscule readership your way.

    If I'd been in a less foul mood the other day (when you posted "On a clear day"), I'd have tried to put together something about the place where I lived in Vladivostok. It was a dormitory up on one of the hills that prompts some (few) to call Vladivostok "The San Francisco of Russia." On a clear day, I could watch the sun rise over the Sea of Japan (and the island with the not-so-secret naval installation) from my window. And on many a clear day, I would tromp down from my 9th floor apartment, climb the rest of the way back up the hill, park my butt on a nice rock or abandoned auto body, and just soak it all in. No airplanes above. The once-secret city below. All the crazy stuff that went down (sometimes literally) in that ocean out there. Etc.

    It was always felt weird to know Japan was due east, China due west, and that I was north of North Korea.

    (And, naturally, someone in the internet has a photo taken about 50 feet down the hill from the spot I'm talking about--looking southwest. On a reasonably clear day, no less.

    Aw, hell. Looks like "my" spot has become a major tourist destination. This guy is standing right on it. There goes the neighborhood.)

    By Blogger &y, at 8:16 PM  

  • I have to wonder how much of this is driven by the low adoption rate of ATOM. Its easy to check a site every day, but boring if you don't find something at least most of the time. If, instead, you're using an email-like interface, it becomes much easier to read a blog with irregular postings.

    By Anonymous silence, at 11:24 AM  

  • Ah, that is exactly spot on.

    Basically, most bloggers do a "daily dose" formula for that reason. Put SOMETHING up so that the act of "clicking" or "checking" is rewarded.

    We're all human and we like to see outcomes for our efforts.

    Of course, if people subscribed, there would be the satisfaction of knowing you won't ever miss something new. It's the next step.

    I think that insight is laser spot on.

    (Fwiw, subscription, not on ATOM, but inside of dkos, is part of what drives the high level of recommends I get at dailykos. ie. even as my diaries sink...subscribers notice and if they like, they recommend. It's a built in advantage of having been there a long time...and written a few good pieces.)

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 11:49 AM  

  • KO,

    I'm glad you've decided to continue with the experiment. I don't get to your site as often as I'd like, but I appreciate your voice and the clarity you bring to issues that are often blurred by the mainstream noise machine.

    By Blogger rhetoretician, at 12:13 PM  

  • k/o: Your confirmation of my suspicion makes me wonder if it might be effective to more prominently feature an ATOM or RSS feed, along with instructions for its use, on your front page.

    By Anonymous silence, at 2:35 PM  

  • rhetoretician said it better than I could. I agree and check in with you each and every day.

    By Blogger Brenda, at 2:30 AM  

  • kid,
    I liked your stuff on dKos. I'm an erratic blogger. My blog is Praxis for Progressives. I don't have thousands of entries on the rage of the day, but I have a few. I have some essays, and some meditations on things that are important to me that I hope might be of interest to others, but have zero traffic. Oh well. I write because I want to not becaued anyone will read it.

    My interests are way too esoteric for most; e.g. exploring the In Between where the human and divine relate; exploring the incredible arrogance of ignorance that exists in the current war of opinion that occurs in the blogsphere and tv land and in the media in general. There is no longer a search for truth, just a battle of dogmas.

    Keep writing. I write on dKos as sww92498 and as phronesis here and booman.

    By Blogger Phronesis, at 9:37 AM  

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