Petros provides a recap of the progress of isaacbrocksociety.com at 30,000 views. Warning: While last week’s status report felt like a high school prep talk, this one reads like a business meeting.
We were at 15,000 when I reported to you last Sunday after 4 weeks. At 30,000 views, isaacbrocksociety.com has doubled its total traffic in a single week. Yesterday was our record day of 2556 views. Now, I want to disabuse people of the notion that this meant that 2556 people visited our site. It means that an unknown number of people clicked on that many different pages. The top page is of course the home page with 10,440 views (as I write) and the top post is about Santa Claus’s arrest at 600, while “The Export Forum has banned me” is a close second at 588.
We are experiencing some growth pains. For one, this blog has a fairly active readership who make a lot of comments, which is wonderful. Some who are used to forum software may find the WordPress format cumbersome. Another has complained, that more important resources, article-quality work that we have available here, are buried under all the discussion–a blessing that comes with a curse. For the discussion and trafffic has taken us out of the realm of irrelevance. The perennial conundrum in blogger philosophy is, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to read your posts … ” But I digress. The sheer volume of comments has created management issues.
I invite readers to compare isaacbrocksociety.com to other successful blogs before being too critical of what we have here. Take for instance the americanthinker.com or zerohedge.com. The American Thinker consists of major articles in the main section and a blog on the right hand. The articles editor is Thomas Lifson and the blog editor is Rick Moran. Zero Hedge is an extremely successful anonymous blog under the pseudonym Tyler Durden. It features blog posts and articles, both by Tyler Durden and by guests, in a single main section (with featured items at the top). These sites are very successful and aim at presenting news from a particularly editorial position, as opposed to creating interaction between members, which is the goal of a forum.
When we first decided to go with a WordPress blog, I enumerated the strengths and weaknesses over against forum software. The main strengths were that it was (1) cheap ($25 for hosting and domain name, per annum); (2) as a WordPress blogger, I knew how to use it; (3) you can comment without signing up for a WordPress ID just by leaving a unique alias (my requirement) and an email address. The disadvantages of WordPress were: (1) there is no way that members can send private messages to other members; (2) with WordPress, archiving is not done very well (cf. the archive at American Thinker which is much better); (3) As geeeez suggested, the comment stream is not as clean (though we can create single column comments with no reply button which is causing some confusion).
Forums also have disadvantages. Perhaps the most obvious is that there is no editorial control and that affects the quality of the original posts and the comments. Here at Isaac Brock, I think that I’ve exercised a light hand, though I have made a point to invite bloggers that I thought could contribute, and so far I’ve been pleased. Yet editorial control is exactly where the Expat Forum went awry. But then, this blog is not a forum, that is, some who are attracted to this blog have told me that they were not interested in participating at the Expat Forum at all–the format itself turned them off. Forums may also attract more traffic, but I would strive for influence through quality rather than mere traffic. Zerohedge has the eye of the financial world; we want the world to be focussed on the Isaac Brock Society when it comes to issues like renunciation and US expat taxes. Forums have traffic and they may even get Google’s attention. But to my knowledge, they don’t carry the weight of a carefully thought-out blog.
What sort of posts do we have? Perhaps I can list categorize them as follows:
Aggregator–posts which link to external sites and news stories, covering the field.
Human interest–personal stories
Resources articles–dealing with international law, tax code, constitutional issues, human rights, constitutional rights, and strategies for dealing with these laws.
Press releases–for wide dissemination to media sources to inform them of our stance on issues affecting our people.
Ask your questions about … : Posts soliciting questions from people looking for peer-to-peer advice.
Here are some possibilities (not necessarily exclusive of one another):
- To offer the forum that geeeez has set up (at his own cost) for private messages and open discussion. If we use the forum would we dilute what we have here? Or does it really matter if we dilute this blog if everyone is getting their needs met?–Well it does, because heavy traffic on a blog promotes better results from search engines. Hits beget more hits. But for private messaging and other discussions it may work well. People who want to get in touch with each other could say, “Let’s meet in the forum.”
- To create a monthly front-page which calls attention to featured articles daily , while having the blog on the side (cf. American Thinker). That way, we can open up blogging to everyone who wants to start a post (i.e., continue with current policy), but maintain editorial control over featured articles. This will help us with archiving as well, since the most important articles will be featured and archived as we go. Actually, I like this idea and I would suggest that we go with it soon, because it can be done for no extra charge. To understand how frontpage would work, take a look at hodgen.com as an example of a site that has a blog on the side. So I envisage something similar to American Thinker, with the most recent blog posts and comments on the side bar, but with featured articles in the main section. Those who wish to go straight to the blog may bookmark the blog page.
- To leave WordPress.com and use wordpress.org to create a website hosted on third party hosting service. This would give us the ability to integrate the blog and forum at one site. This will cost us money. We could do this on a hosting service outside the United States, but apparently, this is not going to be more secure.
- To commercialize this site. If we decide to leave WordPress (see 3), one possible solution to keep me from becoming a collector of donations is putting the blog on a site owned by my company Petros Research Inc. which would then sells advertisements to cover the costs of hosting and admin. With our current level of traffic, we could probably fetch about $100 or more in advertising per month. I am not sure how people feel about that, and I wonder to what degree our advertisers could limit or restrict our product. If they could, I refuse resolutely to commercialize this site. I paid the $25; but I don’t want to be a collector of regular contributions–for that I think that we would need to create a non-profit with a board of directors. Who would advertise? We could go with something like google ads, or perhaps fixed ads from people, like our friend Roy A. Berg, who have professional services related to the content of our blog.
So there we are. Things are going great. But there are growing pains. So I’d love to hear from people before making any decisions.