Pageviews are Easy, Readerships are Hard

The other day I wrote a short, single paragraph post titled Christmas Break. The gist of the very short article was to say that it’s okay to take a break from working, that your holiday break shouldn’t necessarily be spent catching up on overdue work; taking a break is not a bad thing, and in the grand scheme of things is unlikely to negatively impact your future success. I released the article early in the afternoon of Christmas Eve without any expectation that it would attract any meaningful traffic, but nevertheless submitted it to Hacker News. When I happened to check my stats the next morning, I was surprised to find that it had attracted nearly 220 pageviews over eleven hours. Christmas Day saw another forty visits, totaling to around 260 within the first two days.

Of those 260 visitors though, not even 2% were people who had been to my website before, people that were coming back to read that article. Not even 2%. This got my thinking, and eventually prompted me to write this short observation: attracting visitors is no longer difficult. The advent of sites like Hacker News, Reddit, Digg, and other aggregators make exposing good work to a wide audience very easy, and the prevalence of the linkblog format has made it very easy for relatively obscure writers to have their work thrust into the glow cast off a passing fireball — a daring fireball, to be exact — or shrouded in the shadow of a wily beard as the case may be. Rather, it is in developing a consistent readership that the enormous challenge facing fledgling internet writers lies, and it is in pursuit of this goal that so many fledgling writers become discouraged and, eventually, forsake the writer’s craft. Since starting this website almost a month ago I have managed to turn nearly 8% of my traffic into returning readers; some will have much greater success than this, and some will experience much less. As for me, that’s a number I can live with for now; in the future I hope to gradually increase the number of digits, but for now, I am satisfied with my results.

So keep in mind, when you scroll through your site’s analytics, that those model writers — the ones you follow every day and strive to emulate both in success and in ability — have been doing this much longer than you. Jim Dalrymple has been writing for longer than I have been alive. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will a consistent readership be built over the same period. Keep that in mind, and get back to writing.