Year in Review: 2015
The Future of This Blog
Happy New Year, everyone!
I wanted to take some time to share a few reflections about the site. Over the past year, I’ve worked hard to bring you articles that I’m proud of, and watching the site grow has led me to some insights that I look forward to acting on in 2016.
1. Traffic Grew by 800% Versus Last Year, Thanks Mostly to Longform Articles
It seems that reports of dying attention spans were somewhat exaggerated, at least when it comes to reviews.
My Kindle vs. Kobo exploration got 4 times more traffic than the next most popular post, which itself was a deep dive into the relative merits of iA Writer vs. Ulysses. Hot on their heels were the Fuji camera reviews.
Contrary to popular belief, it turns out that you don’t need listicles and fluff pieces to engage people, at least not the wonderful kinds of people who frequent this blog. Seeing this overwhelming preference for solid content makes me happy, and I’m excited about the line-up of similar pieces I have coming in 2016.
Productivity, cameras, writing, and living in balance with technology are the most popular topics around here, so I’ll make sure to explore each in more depth in 2016.
2. No One Cares About the Meta Stuff
As the blog continues to grow, I’ve had to take a hard look at the financial situation and figure out what kind of site this is going to be.
I gave it a lot of thought, came up with what I considered a solid game plan, and wrote about it several months ago. Perhaps not surprisingly, the response was absolute silence. As a monetization strategy, the idea of giving people options for supporting the site turned out to be a bad one. Too complicated, and I think for most people it just doesn’t seem worth it.
I mean…it’s free—why pay?
I take three main lessons away from this:
- Content is much less valuable than I like to think it is
- It’s impossible to make a blog self-sustaining if you don’t want to resort to the usual monetization tactics of memberships and sponsored posts.
- Almost every detail pertaining to the site’s operation is of zero interest to anyone but me—and that’s okay.
With that in mind, here’s what’s happening in 2016: no more meta posts. The most interesting blog-related material has to do with the technical and productive aspects of how it’s made: the platform it runs on, and the tools I use to work on it. That stays—everything else goes.
Part two is that the homepage is now serving ads. For now they’re AdSense ads, hopefully I’ll be able to switch them out for prettier ads from The Deck or another boutique ad provider at some point, but in the meantime I’ll do my best to whitelist only relevant topics. Similarly, articles that mention apps that I use and love will begin to contain iTunes affiliate links. These are a super easy way for readers to get where they need to go while also providing a small kick-back to this blog.
As much as I’m willing to pay for everything out of pocket to keep this place going (and the raw operating costs are super modest), my inner business person isn’t happy with the fact that the blog doesn’t even cover its own expenses.
I’m not a fan of ads, but honestly I prefer them to memberships or sponsored posts. This way the advertising is obviously advertising, they’re only on the homepage so your actual article reading experience isn’t impacted, and you can block them if you feel like it.
With any luck they’ll bring in just enough money to let me break even as far as the hosting and upkeep costs of the blog. Problem solved!
3. Exploration is Good
The final and most obvious insight I came to is that exploring different post lengths, different layout and design ideas, and different topics always leads to interesting outcomes.
As much as I love those longform articles, they take a lot of time to research and write, and I’d love to be able to post content more frequently. In 2016 I’m going to try a few new ideas that should help keep the posts coming more frequently without each one having to be a big reading commitment.
There’s no need to say in 5,000 words what I can say in 500.
On a parting note, I just want to thank you for reading, asking questions, sharing links, and hanging out with me online.
2016 is going to be a great year, and I look forward to spending lots of it right here, exploring technology and sharing my findings with you!