That suggests the blog has passed its peak, but the graph above paints an even more depressing picture. It shows the total all-time views per post, with the posts arranged in chronological order. Clearly the posts that are getting most of the views all came from the first 18 months! Of course there’s going to be a bias towards older posts, because they’ve been around longer, but the effect is a lot more dramatic than that. I suspect there is also a positive feedback loop involved – the more people click on a particular Google search result, the higher it appears in subsequent search listings, hence getting even more clicks.
Another trend, which I’ve suspected for some time but only just confirmed, is that there is a strong anti-correlation between the posts that I personally like best and the ones that get most clicks. In broad terms, the post topics can be divided into the following six categories:
- “Retro-Forteana” – i.e. nostalgic posts about Fortean-related books and comics from the second half of the 20th century.
- “Original Content” – generally plugs for my own books and other writings, plus creative efforts such as stories, drawings, videos and puzzles.
- “Places Visited” – posts based on places I’ve visited recently, or things I’ve seen in museums (this category also includes a number of posts I did on behalf of Paul Jackson, before he started his Random Encounters blog in June 2012)
- “Science” – offbeat aspects of real science (not pseudoscience)
- “Historical” – oddities from the first half of the 20th century or earlier (unless they fall in the “Places Visited” category)
- “Contemporary” – i.e. Fortean subjects of current popularity, such as Roswell, Bigfoot and Conspiracy Theories (and not much else).
As you can see from the first graph below, the posts which reflect a personal perspective (the first two categories, and to a lesser degree the third and fourth) are systematically less popular than the ones “anyone could write”. The second graph shows that, over time, I’ve tended to do progressively more of the posts I enjoy writing and fewer of the ones people seem to want to read.
In a way, this is symptomatic of something I noticed a couple of years ago. When I started writing, I carefully read various pieces of advice for new writers. One sentiment that cropped up again and again ran along the lines of “be original”, “say something new” or “find your own voice”. That sounds sensible enough – and it’s pleasantly reassuring, because it’s what most “amateur” writers instinctively want to do – but the truth is that it’s the worst possible advice. What most readers, publishers and booksellers are looking for is familiarity, not originality. If you want to be a professional writer with a large and stable audience, that’s the advice you need to follow. As for amateur writers, who are determined to be original and “speak in their own voice”, there’s only one piece of advice worth listening to: Don’t give up the day job.