“Wealth is now defined, at least in part, by the ability to be offline whenever you want” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
December 30, 2011

A Year Of Blogging Highlights

For the first time since 2006, I’m ending a year feeling good about the state of this blog. My blogging goals for 2011 were simple; double the average daily traffic and put up at least 150 posts (this is the 172nd post of the year). I figured, in the most basic of ways, that more […]

Writing Space
My Favourite writing space in Singapore. I'm expecting to do a lot of writing here in 2012.

For the first time since 2006, I’m ending a year feeling good about the state of this blog. My blogging goals for 2011 were simple; double the average daily traffic and put up at least 150 posts (this is the 172nd post of the year). I figured, in the most basic of ways, that more posts, with better quality, would attract more readers.

I was right.

What I Learnt

Looking over this blog’s statistics for the year, I’ve learnt a few things. Perhaps more than anything, I’ve learnt that I’m still not good at predicting what kind of posts will attract attention. I spent a lot of time writing The Rule Of Halves (what I consider to be the best thing I’ve written on photography), Changing Lanes When There Are No Lanes (a slightly messy reflection on the state of creativity today) and My Favourite 25 Songs Of 2011 (the best music review post I’ve written in years. However, none of those posts really got much traffic.

On The Positive Side

I did learn that readers respond to helpful and upbeat posts, and also connect with stuff about genuine everyday struggles. Readers appreciate good formatting, either through lists or headings and are not put off by long posts (almost all the 25 most read posts of the year are over 600 words). Readers especially engage when you share the unique experiences and lessons from those who move and inspire you.

Two of the most read posts of the year were exactly this kind of wisdom, The Freedom Of Failure & Life, According To Steve Jobs. Both posts were links to YouTube videos and transcripts, from Conan O’Brien and Steve Jobs. Another Steve Jobs related post, my personal obituary-comment was the third most read post of the year.

The Top Two Posts

I’m glad that my Interview With Piet Van den Eynde was the second most read post of the year. Piet is a great photographer and teacher, as well as being a good friend. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some great up and coming photographers in the past two years and I’d love to share more of their work and motivation with you in the future.

7 Kinds Of People You Need In Your Creative Universe was the most read and most widely shared post of the year. I’ve struggled for well over three years to articulate the ideas in that piece; it really does sum up lessons I wish I had learnt twenty years ago. So it means a lot to mean that the words resonated with so many readers.

The Who And How Of Reading

The readership of this blog is mostly from the US, UK, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada. In the last two months I’ve started picking up a lot of readers from Singapore, which is fascinating; it took nearly four years for me to attract any kind of decent following in Hong Kong.

I was expecting a dramatic rise in people reading the blog on smart phones and mobile devices but that hasn’t happened, with the percentages staying about the same as 2010. However, I was surprised to see that 9% of incoming links throughout the year came from Facebook, given that I have no presence there.

It used to be the case (five or six years ago) that almost all the incoming traffic came from other blogs, while subscribers and regular readers accounted for most of a blog’s audience. Now that really isn’t the case.

Not that links from other blogs don’t matter. My piece on Flickr & 500px kept drawing traffic all year, having been picked up on a number of blogs, especially The Next Web.

The About Me Thing

But, most of this blog’s traffic comes from Twitter, Facebook and the like, as well as from online searches.

Perhaps that’s why the fourth most read page on this site was the “about me” section. Clearly people who are new to a blog want to check out why it exists and who is behind it. That’s certainly got me thinking how to make the about me page more compelling for readers that want to explore the blog further.

The Importance Of Blogging

Looking forward, I’m inspired by what Matt Mullenweg founder of WordPress had to say in this piece, Open Web FTW,

“One of the beautiful things about the WordPress community is that it’s a lot of original content creation rather than just a few things being regurgitated over and over again, which is a fair criticism of what happens on social networks. I think of blogging as a craft. It’s something that you think about, that you try to do your best at. It’s part of your identity.”

For 2012

Vision and Voice 2 is a recent ebook from David duChemin. It’s basically the best writing from his last year of blogging, along with some new pieces and, as always, great photos.

It’s not the idea of turning blog content into an ebook that appeals to me. Rather, I would like to think that in a year of blogging there would be enough content that could, justifiably, be turned into a book, pdf or whatever.

In some ways that why I started this blog. But, along the way I lost that goal. This is the first year in some time that I could identify a number of posts that warrant republication. My hope is that come this time next year I will have written enough new material to give me reason to offer you something, beyond just words on a screen.

Till then, thank you again for your time during 2011. I hope you have a wonderful New Year celebration and wish you all the best for 2012.

Responses
Diane Lee 9 years ago

Excellent post, Fernando. This sort of analysis is useful: sometimes what we are most proud of as writers is not necessarily most popular, and I’ve certainly found that on my blog. I’m like you in many respects: trying to build readership with quality writing. Your blog is fab, by the way.

    Fernando Gros 9 years ago

    Hey Diane – thanks. If I chased an audience by writing the kinds of posts that get the most readers, I would end up with a very different blog and probably be very unsatisfied.

Toni 9 years ago

An interesting overview Fern. I feel somewhat guilty of not responding to your ‘rule of halves’ post, which had obviously taken a lot of effort to create, and was at least partly for my benefit. Thank you for taking the time.

The character of your blog has changed over the last few years too, becoming much more professional and with the strengths and weaknesses that brings. I am sure its readership will continue to grow as a result, and you’re already seeing that change in the way people arrive here.

I wish you and your family the very best for 2012 – it’s been great to ‘know’ you over the years.

    Fernando Gros 9 years ago

    Toni – thanks. You’ve really got me thinking with the professional comment. I’m in two minds about that. I think the blog is more focussed, but in a lot of ways, that reflects where I am in life as well. But my goals, as a blogger are not professional. I’m still here on the blog/transperancy/honesty/truth gig.

    The element that is really missing here lately is actually the stuff I’ve written for the newspaper in Hong Kong. Those articles are each like 2-3 blogposts and very personal, about parenting, personal identity and the like. It wasn’t a conscious choice to drop that kind of stuff from the blog in 2011. It was just that with the effort those articles take, I didn’t have the inspiration to write on similar subjects here.

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