Advice for bloggers, part one: Reader stats

I started blogging in November to discuss online journalism, journalism education and other related topics.

Since mid-January, I’ve also been using the blog to fulfill an online journalism class requirement because everyone in class is required to maintain a blog.

Professor Sam Terilli, who spoke to my class Thursday about law and the Internet (see related video), brought up a point that one of my classmates, Josh Newman, mentioned on his blog Friday:

“[Terilli asked] the question that, I think, made most of my classmates (including myself, excluding Greg Linch) squirm a little. ‘How many people read your blogs?’ …Silence.”

Josh goes on to mention Google Analytics. This is a great service, but it’s only one way to measure how many readers you have.

I subscribe to all of my classmates’ blogs via Google Reader and would recommend that they utilize FeedBurner, an earlier suggestion (How to…use FeedBurner) that the class has been using, to keep track of their subscribers.

FeedBurner is great for adding an e-mail subscription widget, something our professor required, but that should only be a preliminary step.

Explore the different tabs in FeedBurner, specifically “Publicize” and “Analyze” — the latter of which shows you how many RSS subscribers you have. The number of subscribers is also available on the “My Feeds” page.

There’s a lot that can be said about the question of increasing blog traffic and readers, so I decided to divide my thoughts into shorter posts.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE, March 23: I clarified above that not all journalism students are required to blog — only the ones in the CNJ 442 Online Journalism class.

Other School of Communication students have their on personal blogs and may blog through the SoC’s Web site.

Also, I should have mentioned SiteMeter as another option for blog/site analytics.

3 thoughts on “Advice for bloggers, part one: Reader stats”

  1. Should bloggers focus on writing stories that will provoke an increase in readership or should a blogger write mainly for his purposes?

    The reason I ask is because I find the reality of allowing “numbers of clicks” dictate what bloggers should write too systemic.

    Should there be a balance — a trade-off between the writer as gatekeeper and readers as consumers of news?

    Wasn’t this how crime wave reporting got started in the first place, by equating majority readership to news relevance?

    Are newspapers and bloggers like little children who pride themselves, generally speaking, of having more readers/clicks than the other because that has also been equated to revenues/credibility/popularity?

  2. @john: I don’t think the number of clicks should dictate what bloggers write, but I don’t think you can ignore what posts are read the most.

    There should be a balance.

    Beyond that, I’d say you need to look at the purpose of the blog. For instance, is it news or personal? There are also blogs that offer both.

    A news blog should balance gatekeeper and reader interest like a newspaper, whereas a personal blog is more like a column — you can report, opine suggest, etc. using your judgment.

    With either type, posts should be relevant to the purpose of the blog. I could write about Britney Spears and probably get more hits, but that’s not the purpose of my blog. My blog is about online journalism, so most of my readers are probably journalists and they expect to read about journalism.

    I keep this audience in mind, of course, and try to start a conversation with my posts.

    Because mine is a personal blog, I won’t kill an idea solely because I don’t think people will read it. I would kill an idea if I thought it was irrelevant or didn’t contribute to the conversation on a subject — be it starting or continuing.

    In response to the last paragraph, I think some people care more than others, for whichever of the reasons — or all — that you state. Everyone has an ego and wants more hits, or else he or she most likely would not be writing a blog.

    My purpose in writing this post, and eventually the rest of the series, is to help bloggers (such as students, particularly my class) get more out of their blogs.

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