Monday, December 22, 2008

Second Anniversary of My Blog

Today is the second anniversary of my blog, and, as has become my custom, it’s a time for self-appraisal and a look at its progress. According to my first hit counter, Amazing Counters, I have had a total of 93, 806 page views as of 7:00 AM, but this is a gross view of who my readers are and what they’re interested in. A free program called Google Analytics provides a good deal more useful information. But first, I’d like to take a look at what’s happened here.

Back in December of 2006, after thinking about blogging for some time but not knowing whether I had anything to say to a larger world, I thought that the interest in bluegrass music we had developed over the past four years and my long-standing wide reading were two elements of my interests that I’d like to put out for others. My first posts were a review of a couple of books I’d just finished reading and an exploration of why and how we had become interested in bluegrass. In the ensuing two years, I’ve posted 269 times, or roughly 2.5 times a week. I’ve posted 210 times about bluegrass, written 35 brook reviews, and 22 items I labeled as brainstorms. Brainstorms can overlap into other categories, but I generally consider them to be pieces in which I’ve tried to analyse some particular phenomenon. Looking over what I wrote under this rubric, I find a lot of it having to do with my thoughts on bluegrass, With one exception, I’ve generally stayed away from politics, and I’ve made one foray into popular culture, writing about the TV program, Extreme Makeover. As my blog has progressed, it has increasingly become a site where I post my photographs to complement my writing. Since my readers seem to like the pictures, there have been more and more of them, although I like to think of myself as a writer who takes pictures, rather than a photographer who writes commentary. I hope to maintain a good balance between the two.

During the past year, Google Analytics tells me I’ve had. According to Analytics, I’ve had 44,640 visits generating 70,295 page views from 24,340 unique visitors in the last year, an increase of 255 percent from the previous year, and my average visitor spent one minute and thirty-two seconds on the site. I’m told that an average visitor spends roughly ten seconda at a site before clicking away. The visits came from 102 countries and territories as well as from every state in the United States. The numbers, however, tell only part of the story. I’ve been surprised and pleased at the number of people who approach me at festivals and ask, “Are you Ted Lehmann. I read your blog all the time.” I’m also gratified by the number of people who comment on my posts, either in the comments section on the blog or in the forums where I post announcements. Incidentally, only one site has explicitly complained about my posting pointers to my blog on their site. Mandolin Café has asked me to include increased amounts of mandolin content in my posts to their site. I’ve complied with their requests, but they seem to have downgraded my work nevertheless. I’m sorry they chose to do this, since they used to represent about 5% of my hits in any given week.

The largest number of hits came from a variety of direct hit sources. Either people had bookmarked my blog, or they clicked on links to it placed in a variety of forums. The leaders were Banjo Hangout, Google, Bluegrass Rules, Mandolin Café, The Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum, and the Bluegrass Blog. Festival Dirt, the unofficial Merlefest site was also a big contributer. People who came looking for my site spent an average of 2:54 there. Two or more visitors came from 390 sources. Merlefest drew by far the greatest number of visitors, followed by IBMA, the ETA Bluegrass Cruise, and the Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival. Two albums I reviewed made it into the top fifteen searches, Through the Windows of a Train by Blue Highway and The Infamous Stringdusters’ self-titled second album. Nevertheless, the largest number of hits came from direct hits or searches made in a search engine. The largest clusters of visitors came during Merlefest and IBMA, when I was photo blogging. Look for an improvement in pictures this year since I have a new camera and lens combination.

While the statistics are interesting, at least to me, and gratifying, they’re not the real story. The real story lies in me and you. For me, actually US, because Irene is a crucial part of this enterprise and will be taking a more important one with a camera in her hand, our involvement in bluegrass music and with bluegrass music serves as an endless fascination. We’ve come to know and care for hundreds of people through our associations with the fans, musicians, promoters, and other s associated with the music. We never expected this to happen and the response of the bluegrass community to us and the blog has been wonderful. You are the people who read my blog and include us in the variety of activities we’ve been privileged to attend and to comment upon. Thanks to all of you.