Saturday, January 14, 2012

“Well . . . I’m Big in Brazil”: 15 Years of Online Writing

Firstly, allow me to apologize for boring many of you with the following piece, but many other Internet writers and self-publishers also write year-end summaries of their achievements, providing statistics to illustrate. Those of you walking a similar path may find my experiences, thoughts, and perspectives in this matter useful. I hope you do.

You may have a good idea of your own share, too. Please do!

To compensate the rest of my loyal non-writing readers on Blogger and at the Red Room, I will provide links to entertaining videos throughout, such as the following promoting the upcoming Film Noir Festival, featuring Eddie Muller:


In the Year of Our Lord 2011, I posted 49 essays on a variety of topics. posting each essay on three separate websites: Blogger, the Red Room, and, beginning in mid-March, Scrib’d, the most in any year since I returned to online writing around 2007.

Based on the stats I keep in a separate Excel sheet, I had a grand total of 26,292 page views over all three pages for the year.

Why three sites? My sense is that an unknown writer like me needs to wave his flag in as many places on the Internet as is comfortable without muddying his footprint or spreading himself too thin.

Despite efforts to drive everyone to my official “A Curious Man” Blogger page, the Red Room had far and away the most views: 15,318. My Blogger page had not even half that: 7,017; my Scrib’d home page came in a further distant third at 3,897 (though it’s probably more for reasons I’ll explain later.

In fact, all these statistics contain some margin of error. I could, if I were obsessive enough, capture every tiny click, but then I'd be an object of pity: “Doesn’t get outside much, does he?”

I received an average of 2,191 views per month or about 505 per week, or about 72 a day. The highest monthly total was in December (2,680). The highest weekly total was 894 for the week of December 10, the week I happened to plant a link to a column on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire series in a Slate magazine comments section.

During the first part of the year, online page views ranged from 300 to 500 per week. Toward the end of the year, they rose from 600 to 800.

Now for an episode of "Simon's Cat":


What were the most popular pieces? It varied among at least two of the pages.

On Blogger, my essay on character actor Lee Van Cleef’s film noir roles far outpaced everything else I posted there in the 2011 (328). Two other pieces from 2011 that were popular were my critique of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire (184) and my annual promise to not watch the Oscars (112) (which received a large number of thumbs down when I posted the link in the comments on the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate—what d'ya say we do that again!?)

All the other top-ten Blogger articles were ones I wrote from 2007 through 2010, including my initial page promoting my novel Dragon’s Ark. Also popular were travel articles on hiking Mt. Tamalpais; an article on e-books; another on self-publishing; a review of a beer house in Emeryville; and a nostalgic look at the 1990s retro swing scene in San Francisco.

Most oddly, a 2007 piece where I praise The Sopranos, character “Paulie Walnuts” Gualitieri and mention his “silver hair,” was popular. (For those who entered “Paulie Walnuts hair,” the second-most popular SEO, in search of sound consumer advice on hair products for older men, I profoundly apologize. It wasn’t that good an article by any stretch, either.)

Comments left by readers average two per article.

Two qualifications: 

1) The statistics above are probably on the low side, as they don’t count the eyeballs that only rolled over the main page.

2) While Blogger stats provide numbers for the day, month and week, they don’t provide them for calendar years, only for the total time period since Blogger introduced their new stat system in May 2009 (which otherwise is not a bad system for my current needs).

Also: of all the articles that made viewers’ top ten, I would pick none of them as my best-ever favorites. This means either a) best does not mean “popular” or b) Burchfield’s a poor critic of his own work.

As for traffic sources, most visits came via Google (many of them from my small e-mail distribution list); in distant second were the good folks who hang out on Ramsey Campbell’s discussion page hosted by where I weekly place links.

Then comes Slate (thanks to that previously mentioned link); Twitter; JoelFriedlander’s “Book Designer”; then Google UK; Facebook;; the mysterious; and the even-more mystifying (but I’ll take ‘em where I can get ‘em).

Takeaway: As much as has been made of Facebook and Twitter as great tools for driving traffic, that doesn’t seem to be quite my experience; I think this only goes to show the sponginess of the Internet and may also relate to the material I’m providing.

As for my Blogger audience, most came from the U.S. Surprisingly, Germany takes second (Danke schön, Judith!). The UK is third; then Russia, Canada, Netherlands, France, Malaysia, Brazil, and Denmark.

Now, here’s the Drifters singing their 1964 hit “Up on The Roof.”


I only started placing my articles on Scrib’d in mid-March 2011, so those stats cover a shorter time period. The results here have been notably different than on Blogger.

The top four spots were held by advertisements and promotions for Dragon’s Ark (649, including a sample chapter from the novel), Whackers preview sample (349); and a promotional piece for a reading I gave at the California Writers Club in April with author Matt Stewart (The French Revolution), who’s more famous than I.

The also-rans: a serious think-piece on Osama bin Laden’s death; a pleasing feuilleton on World War II movies; two Dragon’s Ark-related essays on Dracula in the movies; a meditation on the Fukushima tragedy and my review of Nabokov’s The Gift. No overlap with Blogger in this top-ten list. My Scrib’d readers like different things.

No comments have been left on any of the articles. As for my audience, the stats here don’t seem to be very clear. The U.S. is at the top, of course. India is also a top view-getter.

I am also listed as having 24 “followers,” but these are all Facebook friends and I suspect were automatically connected by Facebook without any of us asking. (Ahem, Mr. Zuckerberg & Co., I'll create my own redundancies, thank you.)

Naturally, my page views on Scrib’d started out on the low side for the first several months. Some days showed no views at all. I considered moving on, but as the numbers have risen a little, I’ll stick around for now.

Scrib’d’s site statistics claim to drill down to a much finer detail than Blogger’s and Red Room’s, capturing numbers such as “Embed Reads,” “Readcasts” (a form of sharing ala Facebook) and “Engagement” (measuring the time readers spend with an article.

Except for “Readcasts,” I’m unsure how reliable these figures are. (The “Engagement” time stands at practically zero seconds; I can’t be that boring, can I?) The program has bugs—occasionally, it fails to include views of specific articles in their daily overall totals. I complain. It gets fixed. Then the hamsters stumble again.

In this episode of “Simon’s Cat,” the cat plays with a box!


Though clearly the most-visited of my three pages, the Red Room provides the least statistical information of all. Their stats cover strictly overall page views and specific sub-page visits (how many visit my profile; how many view my blog page; how many view my advertising, etc.). I also seem able to go back only six months to mid-2011.

I have no idea which articles received the most views. As the Red Room village is populated by highly literate and thoughtful people, I’d guess my book reviews are the most interesting. I also suspect a higher percentage actually read my postings, as Red Room members are truly purpose driven in the best sense.

So: I cannot complain. The Red Room remains a good  neighborhood, even after my efforts to drive traffic to my “Official Site.” After all, I’ve received over 15,000 page views, won three Red Room Creative Challenges and have been featured once on their front page.

So, thank you Red Room!

And now, The Vogues with their 1965 hit "Five O'Clock World"!


The main purpose behind the burst of essays in 2011 was to promote my book Dragon’sArk. The circus might serve as a useful metaphor: I’m not only the owner and  ringmaster, I’m also the barker hollering outside the tent, handing out these essays as free samples to get passersby inside to lay real money down for the main attraction—the novel—and a couple of inexpensive fun little sideshows—the screenplays Whackers and the upcoming The Uglies.

How’s that working? Not too well, so far. Sales of Dragon’s Ark stand at around 40 or 50. Sales of Whackers are at one.

What can I do to sell more books? I think I’m taking a decent-enough road, but it’s not enough. I’ll have to take other, further steps in the coming year. One of these will be buying advertising space, which I’ve already experimented with some mild and surprising success on Goodreads.

But, as you’re all clawing  the screen for another episode of “Simon’s Cat,” I’ll take up that discussion later.

Text copyrighted 2012 by Thomas Burchfield

Thomas Burchfield has recently completed his 1920s gangster thriller Butchertown. He can be friended on Facebook, followed on Twitter, and read at Goodreads. You can also join his e-mail list via tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Elizabeth.

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