This site had a huge weekend. There were 144 visits in two days, all from one article on Techcrunch. At first I was ecstatic—a flood of new visitors in a short span can do that to you—that people were actually looking at what I write. No more days of five or ten visits, half of them from me. Sure, I had the occasional spike from time to time, up to twenty-five or (gasp!) thirty visits. But nothing had compared to this; I should be happy, right?
No, not at all.
What I discovered while digging into the analytics was that people weren’t staying on the site for very long. 1 Heck, I’m not even sure they spent enough time to read the post that they were looking for in the first place. They were almost all just passerbys at a party, just dropping in to show their faces and leaving immediately after.
I felt a little disheartened that only a fraction of the people who visited actually took the time to look around and size the place up. They didn’t even give my content the chance to impress them. It made me think about why I write, and who actually cares about what I produce—the kind of readers that I want for the content that I love to make.
There are many kinds of readers, but I only want to highlight two here:
- People Who Read: They don’t read like a scanner on a piece of paper. They extract and understand the ideas I try to convey in my words, while genuinely enjoying the experience of listening to what I have to say.
- People Who Look: Sure, they may read the post, but it’s superficial. They don’t look deeper, the meat of the posts goes over their heads, the satiric and sarcastic jokes mean nothing, and the style of my writing is lost, destined to be seen, but ignored and tossed away.
The former is the type of reader I want. They care about the content and can see what I’m trying to say. No quick glances of my material, just a deep and pensive experience.
The latter includes most of the Techcrunch readers. Like I said, most of them didn’t give enough time to read anything: they looked for a few seconds, closed the tab, then went off to do something else. These people don’t hunger for great content that they can sit down with for for more than five minutes. These people skim.
Numbers and Figures
I wish I had started blogging before it was popular and before you could make money doing it. I also wish that for the first six months of writing my first blog I hadn’t read anyone else’s site, so I could have discovered my own voice, my own rhythm and my own niche.
Instead I read every how to out there, and studied all the popular blogs. They all told me to publish easily scannable posts. To use the right keywords and create outstanding post titles. That may be fine for them, but to me that’s not writing. And I want to write.
If there’s something I want to voice that’s interesting to me, then I’ll publish it.
This might not be the best way to gain traffic or recognition. It might be why I’m still a fledgling writer, with a few measly visits a day. But I don’t care.
I don’t want statistics and numbers to dictate what I make. Quality and meaning, rather than quantity and ‘traffic-attractiveness’ take precedence in what I produce. I’m not selling my soul for glazed-over eyeballs looking for how-to articles.
Like Gruber, I write for myself:
I wanted to write a site for someone it’s meant for. That reader I write for is a second version of me. I’m writing for him. He’s interested in the exact same things I’m interested in; he reads the exact same websites I read. I want him to like this website so much that he reads it from the top to the bottom, and he reads everything. Every single word. The copyright statement, what software I use, he’s read it all.
The best products are made for your own use and enjoyment, much like writing.3 I can’t make something that everybody will like—I only know what excites and makes me happy.
This site is almost something more for myself than for anyone else. I see it as a chronicle of things that I saw in a particular day and thought were interesting enough to save. The ability for others to read it is an extra feature, not the primary reason for its existence.
But if people do want to read it, they can. Not all of it is accessible for everyone: what I like won’t always be something that they do. Because of this, readers have to be like me. And I like to get everything out of a post, every little detail and intricacy—the valuable readers, the ones that I want, value this as much as I do.
Why I Want People Who Care
Being linked to a site like Techcrunch is like having a product plastered on a billboard over I-85: lots of people will see, but almost none of them are going to take the time to learn about it, let alone buy it.
I have a passion for technology, design, and the intersection of these two loves. Similarly, I want people who have the same passions I do, who are excited by a beautiful design or a innovative technology, to read my opinions.
There is more joy in being part of a meaningful experience with people like myself, than there is with seeing the statistics of people who visit but don’t care what I write.
It’s about knowing that you made something that you love, but also that other people as passionate as you enjoyed it as well.
That, not stats or traffic, is all that matters.
- They only stayed on average for one second on Sunday. Saturday was much better at about a gracious (hah!) twelve seconds per visit. ↩
- I’m not dismissing any of these kind of blogs. It’s just that their format and readership don’t skew towards making great content. There are exceptions to this, so it’s not an absolute. ↩
- Apple has been reported to repeatedly say that they only make products that they themselves want to use. Maybe it’s more like what Steve wants to use, however. ↩