Monday, January 12, 2009


Every now and then Google likes to remind me that there are tools available for measuring the appeal of my blog. I think I know the appeal: I have two Followers, one of whom is my wife, and I hardly ever get comments. Am I supposed to have a wider appeal? Dare I dream of an audience on the Internet?

Really, the blog is a vanity toy I use to document my attempts at youthful vigor or sketch a random thought. Everybody has one. I don't care who reads it, and I certainly don't expect to make a living at it. If I tried, I imagine I'd wind up in front of the publishing world equivalent of Randy, Paula, and Simon, having my ass handed to me for some heinous literary faux-pas.

My wife's blog though, that's another story. She can get thousands of unique hits a day depending on what group of Jesus freaks or Dr. Phil wannabe's she rankles. In real terms, that's enough traffic to sell the kind of advertising that pays bills. Even on a slow day her page rate is in the hundreds, because lets face it, there is a far wider audience of family voyeurs and moms comparing notes than there is of those who care anything about my take on local cycling.

Still, Google tools are simple to use, I was curious, and after a few months I had some pretty charts and reports to look at. The charts and reports tell me interesting things, like, that I have a semi-regular readership of eight; and that I have a "bounce rate" of about 80%. My most popular posts are about my submarine days, dealing with traffic, and the election (I always thought this one was my best post, but it certainly isn't the most popular). The Masi post gets the most referrals from Google searches.

Of my daily readers, most:
- use Internet Exploder;
- buy their internet access from a cable provider;
- spend an average of a minute-and-a-half on the site;
- wear spandex (I don't know how Google knows this).
I've had readers from nearly every state and a handful of foreign countries.

Sometimes, like yesterday, I get a spike in the number of readers. Normally the chart bumps along between four and eight readers a day. Suddenly it will jump to twenty or thirty readers then settle back down. This can happen once or twice a month. Google doesn't easily tell me what the extra readers are looking at or where they come from. I have to really dig to correlate page views to events. Most of the time I can't be bothered, but every now and then I'd like to know what's so interesting.

In Google's terms I'm pretty boring. Looking over my front page its not hard to see why: I publish a collection of gym workouts and ruminations about my rides around town, punctuated by the occasional commentary. To make it a bit more interesting I add maps of my rides, and links to sites published by riders who live around here - keeping the local flavor, if you will. No flashy graphics or formatting, just stuff by a hired hand at one of the local cube farms. So if I wanted to improve my readership, what would it take? What makes a great cycling blog?

Whenever I surf cycling, I notice the same three sites linked from the front page: BKW, Fat Cyclist, and BSNYC. They're even linked from my front page. Why? They seemed to be The Standard when I was putting my blog together and I jumped on the band wagon. To wit:

BKW is published by a pair of bike industry fixtures, Padraig and Radio Freddy, who I think sleep with their bicycles. They are so enamored of the sport and the lifestyle they feel the need to use the slang of the noun "professional" as a nominative verb, capitalizing the letters as if to shout it at you. "PRO is go!" Or, "that's PRO!" The diction is such that they belong to an exclusive club, with its own mores and customs that we casual riders ignore at our peril - kind of like we submariners did after we earned our dolphins (but I don't run around calling people NON-QUAL anymore). Over time I've come to appreciate BKW for the interviews, the clips of the various classic races, and the great insights from guys who take cycling very seriously.

Fat Cyclist is a truly funny journal. The blog is published by a fellow in Utah who calls himself Fatty. Fatty, of course, is something of a misnomer. Fatty isn't fat, he's a middle aged hobby rider with kids like me, but with a brilliant sense of humor. What's more, his wife is suffering with cancer and he's managed not only to maintain his sense of humor, but refine it. He also has his own line of cycling apparel that is continuously sold out. My Spring line will be debuting soon, and I'm hoping for his endorsement.

BSNYC is an amalgamation of BKW and Fat Cyclist. You get the wit of Fatty with the insight of Radio Freddy. When I read BSNYC, I dub over the commentary with the accent of the Brooklyn transplant who sits next to me at work. It's like having the cycling world related to me by Joe Pesci or Tony Sirico. The style is gritty and to the point, no mincing words or mixing metaphores. I mean, its New York City, for crissakes. The place where you can get laid just by doing a track stand in an alley (scroll down to the picture of a girls back). For contrast, let's see what's going on in St. Louis:
- Ewers smudged his carpet riding the rollers;
- Unit is busy defining embrocation, and still hasn't bought new shorts after his crash in the fall;
- James has the flu;
- some loony at Bugmans office shot herself in a porta-let (why Bugmans employer can't afford indoor plumbing is another matter).

As you can see, I have a long way to go before I have the kind of high-traffic, well respected, online journal that sell loads of pricey ads. I don't have the Phil Donahue/Montel Williams thing going for me, so I can't take that angle (or can I?). I'm not an cycling "insider" so I don't have the street cred thing going for me either. Maybe if I got a tatoo? Certainly I need to post more often than twice a week; and I need to make the posts - if not something funny or worth reading - at least snarky. My own line of clothing wouldn't hurt. Maybe I can have contest. Or take a few polls. Maybe I could buy Rock Racing. I'm open to suggestions....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You cater to a specialized segment of a local readership. Your stories are interesting only to those that love cycling and know either you or the places and the people you talk about. That gives you a starting pool of maybe a hundred people, only a small minority of which prefer talented writing over snarky gossip. No matter how much effort you put into your writings and how many stops you pull on your (considerable) talent, as long as you speak kindly and intelligently to this demographic the numbers won't grow.

I target the same audience, and my numbers are also modest - never exceeding more than a few dozen on a good day. Compare that to my other blog, updated with only slightly higher frequency but covering an entirely different subject and potential audience (national/international, science-minded, knowledge-seeking) - it has quadruple the readership (and still climbing), despite starting a year and a half after my first blog. I accept the demographic limitations on my first blog, and write accordingly - almost with a sense of liberation at not having to evaluate whether my posts pass a minimum of muster. My real efforts go into the other blog where talent does impact success.

If you want to succeed with this demographic, you need to become snarkier, less cerebral, speak from some position within the industry (street cred), and have the guts (or stupidity) to talk in unflattering ways about people your audience knows. Either that, or implode spectacularly and document it in shameless detail!