Meta: Secrets of Soaring Readership

Life as a blogger on the TypePad platform includes a daily confrontation with this:

Ht outpt

That big bold number is the daily pageviews, since midnight GMT.  (It has not occurred to TypePad that perhaps a rolling total of the last 24 hour period might be more useful.  Instead, I experience the daily crash to zero at 10 AM Sydney time and then a long, slow climb to some unknown summit.)

But then there’s the line graph.  HT has been stable for months now, between 2000 and 3000 pageviews a day except for a weekly trough corresponding to the North American weekend.  This regular weekly low is my best signal that many of you are reading this at work.

But yesterday, clearly, some kind of breakthrough!  A sudden jump to nearly 4000 pageviews.  Was this the well-deserved long-term payoff of weeks of diligent reporting on Frequent Network mapping, and occasional think pieces on big ideas like the perils of average success?  Is it about my forays into urban planning topics like pedestrian malls?  Does it arise from the long investment this blog has made in trying to clarify technology debates?  Does it show the impact of a link from Andrew Sullivan?  Does it even have anything to do with my recent US speaking tour and related videos?

No, it was post about new transit-themed toys by Lego, a post that took me less than 10 minutes to prepare as it was mostly a friend’s email.

Am I focusing on the wrong things in life?

16 Responses to Meta: Secrets of Soaring Readership

  1. John September 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    I don’t think you’re focusing on the wrong things in life, but clearly there is a selection bias in this psuedo-stated preference survey 🙂
    In all seriousness though, I get annoyed when my favorite blogs get so popular that they attract too many comments to peruse in a short time (e.g., Urbanophile). This one attracts a healthy and intelligent debate without being overwhelmingly voluminous.
    It’s perfect. Keep up the good work.

  2. J September 16, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    Perhaps a weekly lego feature is in order

  3. sabre23t September 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    One of the things I learned while using Mark Forster’s DWM/AF [1], is that you need to make sure there’s enough “fun” stuff in my DWM task lists. Else, I would have a tough time keeping myself “doing” the tasks on the list.
    Perhaps, it’s the same for readers of your blog posts.
    That Lego Transit post prompts me to look out for it next I browse Toys R Us for my grandson (and get one for me too). TQ. ;-}

  4. Yuri Artibise September 16, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    ‘Link bait’ is useful every once in a while, especially when it is still ‘on topic’ like the Lego piece. it brings new people to your site for the first time and even if most never come back, chance are you’ll gain a few new fans who;ll stick around for the more serious stuff.

  5. Alon Levy September 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    It happened to my blog, once, too – I got linked on Daily Kos, and got a huge traffic bump for a day. But it subsided later, as my postings were not what the readers were looking for. The painstaking posts may not generate immediate benefits, but the readership increases they create last.

  6. Nwali September 17, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    You in the right track buddy.

  7. SpyOne September 17, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    1) Try to think of it as a brief post about a tangential topic with broader appeal (legos) serving to lure in people who, hopefully, stay for the greater message.
    2) I think you are mis-evaluating the meaning of your figures. I am sure many of us visit this site from work, although I don’t, but I am also sure that many other readers have noticed a trend that I have noticed: you almost never post anything during the weekend. As A result, I rarely check your site during the weekend, as if I checked it Friday there won’t be anything new.
    I am not sure you can fight that tide on your own: even if you started posting new stuff 7 days a week, other related sites like Transport Politic or Infrastructurist don’t post on the weekend, so a reader who tends to visit all his favorite transit-themed sites at once will not visit on saturday or sunday, and will have a lot of reading to do on monday’s visit.
    Bot mostly I think that saying that a significant drop in page views over the weekend means your readers are reading from work is a bit like if you were doing a comic 3 days a week and noticed a drop in page views on tuesday and thursday and decided that was because your readers visit from work and only work part time: is the more logical explanation not that people only tend to visit when they expect to find something new?

  8. scott September 17, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    your blog was also linked to Transit Talent and the frequent network posts.

  9. Alon Levy September 17, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    @SpyOne: readership drops off over the weekend, regardless of whether there’s new content. I kept posting on my blog through weekends, and still had a dropoff. So do other bloggers I talked to.

  10. Paul C September 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Well I have to be honest and say I never did read your Lego article. 🙂
    But since I’m using the rss feed. Unless there is something new in that feed. I won’t check out the blog. One thing I’m wondering is I can read most of an article in my rss reader without having to go to the actual website. Does that show up as a page view or by only going to the website does it show up as a page view?

  11. Aaron M. Renn September 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    Obviously the more accessible/interesting the work to the general public, the higher your page views will be. I would guess that you are seeking the right kind of readership, not just page views to drive ad traffic. Doing fun posts (e.g., link bait) are great from time to time, but I think your quality of analysis is right on and is reaching the right audiences. I believe your traffic is also one of the best amongst independent urbanist sites.

  12. Brisbane September 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Ha ha.
    Perhaps you should do a post about Trainz and City Bus virtual games which allow you to build your own transit system and play in them!

  13. Jarrett September 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    @Brisbane. I have a full time job and a book to write, so I am not touching computer games. Feel free to draft a guest post, though!

  14. Alon Levy September 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    Book to write? Hmmm… When is it out? Is it geared for a technical or a general audience?

  15. Jarrett at September 18, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    @Alon.  It's out about 6 months after I finish a draft.  It's for a general audience, maybe even more general than HT's!

  16. Alon Levy September 18, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    I’m really happy to hear that your ideas will be getting broader exposure.