Friday, January 23, 2009

Stats...Do You Care?

A couple of weeks ago, Brody Harper confessed that he is indeed a stat whore. Then he justified it by saying that his job revolves around knowing what works on blogs to get an audience. In order to feed his kids, he needs to know how to get those stats.

I've been thinking about that post, because I think that most bloggers, to some extent, are stat whores.

I'll be honest and tell you I care about my stats. I actually spend a lot of time on this blog and it's like a nice little pat on the back to know people are visiting. The number I care about most is my subscriber number...I see my subscribers as the readership...the base. But I also enjoy seeing how many unique visitors I get and most of all, I love comments.

I could justify this all by saying that I am actively trying to promote things near and dear to my heart...a culture of literacy, social justice, and other artistic endeavors. And that's true. But really isn't there an ego issue with all bloggers? Obviously, we think we have something to say that someone somewhere might want to read.

I was thinking about this even more when Karen Harrington of Scobberlotch posted this little q&a with John Irving. To sum it up, John Irving basically said that only people who have written a novel can even begin to be qualified to critique a novel (this is actually a conversation for another day). In short, I understood him to say he didn't really care about reviews other than reviews from other novelists. So I said...I understand his point, but who is he writing for? Karen answered that writers write for themselves. To which I replied, well who is he publishing for?

After all, bloggers will often say they write for themselves. And while this is true on the most basic level, I think if we're honest, we can confess that we hope that people are reading our blogs. If we were only writing for ourselves, than we wouldn't send our thoughts, hopes, and fears out into cyberspace and hope that when we check again, there's a comment. :) So yes, we are writing for ourselves, but we have an audience in mind. And we tweak thing on our blog, because we want more people to read what we're writing.

If you're a blogger that claims to not care at all about your stats, then I'd love to hear from you. Why do you blog? Why not just journal?

If you're a blogger that does care about stats...well this is a safe place. I won't judge you. :)



Amy

30 comments:

Meghan said...

I will say that I don't care much about stats. I did when I first started - it was a big deal to me just how many were coming out to read this blog of mine. After I temporarily fell off blogging in December, I somehow stopped caring. I like to know people are reading, definitely, but I can tell by comments more than anything else, and for those I don't need an external counter.

I guess I just like to talk about books! I know there wouldn't be a huge internet void if I dropped off blogging, but I try not to worry how many people are reading and just do my best to keep everything interesting. Does that make sense?

I also tend to find stats more depressing than not - they go up very gradually (sometimes not), probably because I haven't done anything all that exciting in a few months - so I normally check once a week or so rather than the obsessive multiple times a day that I did before.

Hagelrat said...

I am addicted to sitemeter.

ANovelMenagerie said...

You said this was a safe place... John Irving can suck an egg! There are MANY authors out there who find TREMENDOUS value in the blogging community. Bloggers are what many consider to be the future most effective advertising & word of mouth media. Bloggers' reviews are getting recognition from authors and our quotes are starting to be added to their marketing material.

In addition, bloggers have... in some instances... created the success of a book in which there probably may not have been as much buzz had that not happened.

ALSO... I am currently reading a book in which the author RECOMMENDS that people visit blogs to enhance their lives... for the sake of INTELLEGENCE! That's right! Blogs are listed as a great source of daily information that add to your overall well-roundedness & education levels.

I'm still irritated at John Irving. Wonder how the egg sucking is going for him.

On the stats... of course we care! There was one day when I had this ridiculous amount of hits. I did the snoopy dance all day. I'd compare it to getting an "A" on a book report at school. I've watched my readership grow from 20 hits a day to 200 hits a day and it makes me very proud to see the growth. And, I do care about my readers and what they think and what they'd like. I'm starting to see that some of them just like me for me. And, that's a gift from God in my eyes... Amy. It truly is.

Last (gosh I'm verbose today)... I've made friends via this venture. Had I not grown and cared about my readers, I would have never met them. Writing with them in mind is a gift that I cannot be thankful enough for.

Thanks for letting me share... your post got me a little emotional tonight.

debnance said...

I'm a new-ish blogger. I'm elated when someone comments on my blog. I have no idea how many "hits" (if any) my blog has. I don't want to know. I just hope to think aloud about books and see if anyone else wants to chime in.

Michelle said...

When I first started blogging I was obsessed with my stats because they were virtually non-existant. Now that I get a steady stream of comments in I don't mind what my daily hits are at all. I hardly check them because I'm getting my ego-boost from my commenters.

bermudaonion said...

When I started my blog, I really thought the only people who would read it would be family and friends. I sent everyone my URL and lo and behold, only a few of them were evenly remotely interested. I kept plugging away and when I discovered other people were reading what I had to say, I became totally addicted. I used to watch my stats more closely than I do now, but I check them every day.

Chris said...

I do care about stats to some extent. I check Google Analytics (which I just discovered) everyday to see how my posts are doing. I'm hoping to come up with a way to make some $$ with my blog so stats would help me figure out if it's worth doing.

Maybe Irving doesn't care about our opinions but we are readers and our opinion matters when it comes to whether or not we pay $$ for his book.

Jen said...

Believe it or not, I don't consider myself a stat whore. I was when I first started out but I really don't check to see how many hits I get that often, maybe just once or twice a week. I do like to see my subscriber number going up though and LOVE comments. But I guess I really am not that worried about hits and visits and that is what I typically think of when I think of stats.

Lezlie said...

I'm a singer, so I'm very closely aquainted with my personal ego, and I try to keep it in check. :-) I like watching the visitor meter *a lot* and I check Google Analytics a couple times a week, mostly because I'm fascinated by seeing which countries my visitors are from. I had visits from Egypt and Iraq!! Cool!! :-) Like most bloggers, I *love* comments, and I try hard to respond to each and every one. But I know there are a lot of lurkers, so the stat nearest to my heart is subscribers. It's nice to feel like there is a regular group of folks who like to see what you have to say.

As I'm giving serious consideration to going back to school for that English degree that I'm so covetous of, my blog may take a different turn in the future. I hope people will stick around for the ride!

Lezlie

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I like to see my stats because it is fun to see where people are coming from and what links they click on. If I know the majority of the people who visit my blog like a certain topic, I also do get excited when I reach a certain number in a given day, but I don't obsess about it.

Scobberlotcher said...

Hello,

Just to set the John Irving ideas in context (since that piece orginated from my blog) he was talking about not caring about critics and reviewers, saying he valued the opinion/review of a fellow novelist over that of a critic.

Amy made some terrific points from the perspective of a reader/blog reviewer that got me to thinking. I replied that I think most novelists write for themselves - which I meant to convey that we must be the best inner critic of a work and not worry about how a piece will be perceived. We must trust our own instinct. Of course, all writers want to share, convey, touch and move as many readers as possible. The Irving-esque attitude is born out of needing to be impervious to bad reviews in order to keep on writing. IF you let those in too much, you wouldn't have the courage to keep writing. (Believe me. I know of where I speak. :)

All that said, I'm a novelist AND a blogger and I enjoy writing both and think a blog is a writer's best friend. It helps a writer hone her craft, ever so subtley and it is an extension to perspective readers and friends - which is so wonderful since writing is very often solitary.

Whoo. Didn't mean to write a whole blog within a blog....

K. Harrington

Marta said...

This was great and gave me something to think about...I had a publisher ask what my stats were and I really had no idea. Thought I'd missed something along the way...opened up a whole new obsession! lol

Kay said...

My stats are not very high and I took a long break from blogging in the fall when my father's health failed. I missed blogging though and came back recently. I don't worry about the stats, although I have noticed that publishers and marketing people want to know about them. I guess that is understandable and will be more so in the future as things tighten up all over. But, like someone said above, I just like to talk about books.

When the internet came into being over 10 years ago, I found a book site and starting commenting on a reader forum with threads (remember those?). Some of us realized that we were commenting to each other and then took our conversation to Yahoogroups for a long while. Blogs were just kind of the next thing. Some of the ladies that I started conversations with over 10 years ago are still my friends. Some have blogs. Some don't. We still email each other though. Again, it comes back to the fact that we just like to talk about books and what we've read. Stats, schmats. I love books and I love comments!

Deborah said...

like hagelrat i too am addicted to sitemeter. i do care about my stats, and i love it when people visit my blog. however i write my blog more for myself so i don't get too worried that my stats aren't in the huge numbers. i don't really advertise my blog, i do share links, i'll post in board when i have a giveaway or such. but i really care more about having readers than visitors. honestly i'd rather have 2 people visit my blog and spend 2 hours reading all my posts than 100 Visitors who spend 0:00 and click on nothing. it's all about the quality not quantity.

that's why i don't do contests to get my visitor count up. to me it doesn't really do anything other than i can say to to a publisher/author "oh i have 40000 people visit my blog". well, sure you can have that # but in reality out of 40000 only 5000 actually took the time to read your blog.

S. Krishna said...

I definitely care about stats, but I didn't for awhile there. It was only when I started being offered review copies that I began to care because I felt like I had to have a minimum readership level in order to be okay accepting any books for review. Now I've become addicted :-)

Wendy said...

*raises hand shamelessly* I'm addicted to stats and I have no problem admitting it :) I love getting my weekly states from sitemeter...I like seeing where people "found" my blog and where they live and so forth. But, that said, I would probably write my blog even without the numbers because I love to write and my blog is an outlet for that...

Glad the John Irving comment was clarified...he is one of my favorite authors and I felt a big, heavy lump in my heart thinking he thought only novelists capable of reviewing a novel.

As far as who novelists write for...that probably has as many answers as there are novelists. I'm a novelist - unpublished (so far!), but I've written 4 novels. I wrote them primarily because I had a story I wanted to tell and the characters wouldn't leave me alone until I gave them their voices. There is only one of the four I think is worth working on and possibly marketing...would I like others to read it? Yes...and No. The "no" comes from the doubt and fear which I think plague all writers - will someone hate it? Will it be proven to be schlock? Etc...

Anyway, I ramble...thanks for the post, Amy...as usual a great conversation starter!

trish said...

I'm definitely obsessed with my stats. One of the things I try hard not to do, though, is compare myself to other blogs. As long as I see the monthly stats are on the rise, I'm happy.

BUT, I recently read an article about how not to let blogging take over your life, and obsessing about stats was one of the things the article said you shouldn't do. Not because stats aren't interesting, but because blogging can take as much time as you want to give it. If you have five hours a day for your blog, your blog will take five hours a day. And checking your stats 10 times a day DOES take time, and that's all the article was saying. It says go ahead and check them once a day, but don't check them every hour on the hour. So after reading that article, I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to not pay as much attention to my stats.

Serena said...

I guess I care about stats but am unable to care enough to look at them. I care if people are reading and enjoying the posts, but if they don't comment, that's ok too. I think a blog is a great way to connect with others...whether I do or not is the will of the cyber universe. Writers do write for themselves, but publishing is a whole other story.

Toni said...

I am a mondo stat whore. Not just for my blog but for book reviews, movie reviews, how much money movies make, top 40, stock exchange (I have no money invested), best song of all time, friends blogs... I just like to read it... I am just a "statty" girl. :)

John Irving comment...hummmm yeah.. another day. But if he feels that way, then so be it.

Dar said...

I'll admit it. I like to see my subscriber list grow. I work hard at my blog and I really want people to read it and enjoy it. I don't just want people coming for giveaways either-I want people who are reading what I'm writing. I love comments-who doesn't.

What I didn't know and from reading this post there are a lot of sites to go see about readers from other countries and such. I may need to look into that. lol. So far I just keep track of my followers on my blog and in google reader.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Oh yes. I care about my stats a lot! When I first started blogging I checked them daily. I now only check them once a week. I'm busy and blogging takes a lot of time. If nobody read what I wrote, then I'd be wasting my time. So yes, I like to see that people are reading my blog. I use Google Analytics, Technorati, and Alexa to see how I am doing and in relation to other bloggers. It's not a competition but it's comforting to know that something is working or if something is not working to try to figure out ways to fix it.

Florinda said...

I definitely care about stats. Like you, Amy, I'm most interested in the subscriber number - and mine is bothering me right now. Feedburner is making some sort of transition over to Google, and I had them migrate my account a couple of days ago; my count has dropped by almost 70(!) since then! I REALLY hope it's THEIR problem...

Many of my posts aren't big comment generators, so I focus on the subscribers and check in on my visitor stats a few times a day.

Elizabeth said...

I care about stats both for the personal validation and for the hope of eventually getting my blog to be able to pay out a little something.

Krista said...

I think everyone cares a little bit, it's the human ego. That said, while I would sometimes like to be famous (popular?) I write for the memories and for my family. This is a way to chronicle life with a small child - before we forget everything!

Kailana said...

hm, the John Irving reference is interesting. My friend started a blog about CDs and my boyfriend was saying that she is really not fit to be a music critic because she doesn't play an instrument, at which point I asked if that applied to me. Can I critic a book if I am not an author... It lead to an interesting discussion.

As to the stat thing. I love getting comments, but I don't really pay attention to anything else... I used to, but now as long as people comment, I know people are reading. So, my blog isn't a complete waste...

Sheri said...

AMY: I gave you an award... here you go!

http://anovelmenagerie.com/ghost/2009/01/24/daily-visit/

Memory said...

I'll admit it: I love my stats. I have a blast seeing where all my visitors are from and which posts they're reading. I don't have a huge readership, (according to sitemeter, I average 31 visits a day - and at least two of those are probably just me, posting new content and replying to comments), so checking to see which posts are getting the most hits doesn't take too much time out of my day.

I only recently learned how to check my subscriber numbers, and was gratified to see a HUGE spike over the past week. It made me feel all warm and squishy. I'm still pretty obscure, but I'm a lot less obscure than I was last Saturday. :)

Jena said...

Well, I do care, but I don't.

I like seeing what posts people are reading and where my recent readers are clicking in from, but according to my google analytics, very few people stick around for long.

And I don't do the things that bring people back to a blog regularly--I don't post regularly (just when I've finished a book) and I've got a very generic blog design (which I hope to change soon, because I'm getting tired of it). And I don't do giveaways that encourage people to leave comments and blog about it on their blogs so their readers will come check it out.

Lindsey said...

I say to myself that I don't care if someone reads my blog... but that's not entirely true. I love comments and the fact that someone took the time to read and comment on what I took the time to put together. It's when I DON'T get any comments that I tell myself I do it for myself. And I'm contented enough to not let myself feel that tinge of disappointment - lol. I really do enjoy blogging and the blogging community. :-)

Amy said...

Wow! We care! :) I don't think I can respond to each of these comments in depth, but thanks to everyone for weighing in.

I'm hearing that comments matter the most to you. I agree, comments are wonderful, but I still think subscribers are the best tool to measure how many people are reading. I wonder if there's been a study of the ratio of comments to subscribers or unique visits.

And to clarify, I don't actually check my stats everyday either. But I do check them. :)

And Florinda, I'm pretty sure that they said there would be a drop-off in subscribers initially when the migration took place. They've promised us a more accurate count for the future though, and I'm holding them to that!

Karen, thanks for the clarification on John Irving quote.

For the record, I don't think anyone should ever compromise themselves for the sake of stats. But I also think it's okay to be honest about it. ;)

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