Slate saw their traffic from Facebook drop by 87% in a year after changes in how FB prioritises news and personal messages in your timeline. Talking Points Memo reflects on it and doing so formulates a few things I find of interest.

TPM writes:
Facebook is a highly unreliable company. We’ve seen this pattern repeat itself a number of times over the course of company’s history: its scale allows it to create whole industries around it depending on its latest plan or product or gambit. But again and again, with little warning it abandons and destroys those businesses.” …”Google operates very, very differently.”..”Yet TPM gets a mid-low 5-figure check from Google every month for the ads we run on TPM through their advertising services. We get nothing from Facebook.”..”Despite being one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world Facebook still has a lot of the personality of a college student run operation, with short attention spans, erratic course corrections and an almost total indifference to the externalities of its behavior.

This first point I think is very much about networks and ecosystems, do you see others as part of your ecosystem or merely as a temporary leg-up until you can ditch them or dump externalities on.

The second point TPM makes is about visitors versus ‘true audience’.
“we are also seeing a shift from a digital media age of scale to one based on audience. As with most things in life, bigger is, all things being equal, better. But the size of a publication has no necessary connection to its profitability or viability.” It’s a path to get to a monopoly that works for tech (like FB) but not for media, the author Josh Marshall says. “…the audience era is vastly better for us than the scale era”

Audience, or ‘true audience’ as TPM has it, are the people who have a long time connection to you, who return regularly to read articles. The ones you’re building a connection with, for which TPM, or any newsy site, is an important node in their network. Scaling there isn’t about the numbers, although numbers still help, but the quality of those numbers and the quality of what flows through the connections between you and readers. The invisible hand of networks more than trying to get ever more eye-balls.

Scale thinking would make blogging like I do useless, network thinking makes it valuable, even if there are just 3 readers, myself included. It’s ‘small b’ blogging as Tom Critchlow wrote a few months ago. “Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network“. Or as I usually describe it: thinking out loud, and having distributed conversations around it. Big B blogging, Tom writes, in contrast “is written for large audiences. Too much content on the web is designed for scale” and pageviews, where individual bloggers seem to mimick mass media companies. Because that is the only example they encounter.

Back in April I wrote how my blogging had changed since I reduced my Facebook activity last fall. I needed to create more space again to think and write, and FB was eroding my capacity to do so. Since my break with FB I wrote more than since a long time, and the average weekly activity was higher than ever in the past 16 years. In april I wondered how that would keep up in the second quarter of this year so here are the numbers of the first half of 2018.

First, the number of postings was 203 this first half of 2018, or an average of 7 to 8 per week. Both as total number and as weekly average this is more than I have ever blogged since 2002 on even a yearly basis. (see the graphs in my previous posting Back to the Blog, the Numbers).

Mid April I added a stream of micro-postings to this blog, and that helps explain part of the large jump in number of postings in the first graph below. What microblogging helps do however is get the small bits, references and random thoughts out of my head, leaving more space to write posts with more content. I’ve written 84 ‘proper’ blog posts the last 6 months, of which 50 since adding the microblog mid April, so it has pushed up all my writing.

Blogposts 2018 per month. It shows July as week 26 ends July 1st, which had 2 postings

Blogposts 2018 per week, the micro blog started week 15

Let’s look at how that compares to previous months and years.

Number of posts per month since 2016. Leaving FB in October 2017 started a strong uptick.

I feel I have found back a writing rhythm. So tracking the number of postings moving forward is likely mostly of interest in terms of ‘proper’ postings and the topics covered, and less to see if I blog at all. My steps away from FB have paid off, and reconfiguring my information strategies for more quality is the next phase.

Some links I thought worth reading the past few days

In recent months I’ve referred several times to the notion that I was blogging more than I’ve done since a long time. The actual volume of writing isn’t really important. The actual readership isn’t either (when writing my imagined reading audience is about 3 people, which includes myself). Of importance is that writing is having an impact on my attention, and on retaking the initiative in my information strategies, something I felt I lost through Facebook and other silos. For the first time since a long time I feel a genuine need to write on my blog. Yet, having said that, I was curious to see if the numbers reflect the change. So I pulled some stats together.

Let’s start with the yearly number of postings I posted since I started some 15 years ago in November 2002.

Apparent is that from the start my blogging frequency had a downwards trend. This I feel might be correlated with writing increasingly longer posts, and a reduction of short posts to simply bookmark a link or something as additional tools (such as Delicious or others) became available. In 2011 I blogged the least, followed by the years I blogged least in the entire 15 year period. Those years, at least 2013-2017, coincide with my increased FB usage (2006-2012 I hardly used it at all), but likely more importantly coincides with a reduction of blogging by those bloggers I was a regular reader of as they spent more time on FB and other platforms. In 2014 there is a small bump, which coincides with visiting a few conferences in the spring. A clear break in the trend line is 2018, which already surpasses 2006, even as it is only mid April.

Looking at the average number of postings per week provides a clearer picture of that trend line.

Over the first 7 years the average blogging frequency approaches once per week, which I interpret as my ‘less often, but longer’ blogging. Then a number of years where blogging drops below the once a week threshold, during which years I felt I really should be blogging more. The renewed interest I took in my blog from the last quarter of last year clearly causes a spike. It’s still an open question if that increased frequency proves sustainable. I am at least aware of the pitfall of wanting to write long exposes only, and how to blog more informally and indiscriminately.

The sharp change in the trend line is most apparent when zooming in on individual months. I sharply reduced my engagement with FB starting in October last year, and it is clearly visible how that impacted my urge to blog.

Ironically my renewed blogging fervour mimicks the first year(s) of blogging in the sense that I’ve been writing a number of these postings about blogging itself. Meta-blogging like it’s 2002. So after this self-indulging dive into the statistics of my blog, let me express my intention to focus more on actual topics. 🙂