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Jan 05 2012

About Those Pageviews

D.J. Grothe keeps mentioning pageviews in this discussion and suggesting they have some sort of causal effect on unnecessary dramatics and controversy. It’s not a new charge, of course. This is the internet, the land of the hyperactive meme. So let’s take a look at the idea, shall we?

There are three parts to this. The last part is that dramatics and controversy can be avoided. This is the sort of thing that has to be decided on an issue-by-issue basis. That means there’s not much to say about the general case here except that if you’re talking about Greta or me, you’re talking about people with a reputation for fairness in cases of disagreement. That case won’t be made for you on the basis of our histories.

The second idea is that controversy generates pageviews. It does an okay job of it, better than my Saturday short fiction feature or (I’m guessing) Greta’s Friday fashion feature. However, if I really wanted lots of pageviews, I would post tech news or celebrity gossip or cute anthropomorphic animals or more Betty Page bondage photos. And I would post a lot more often than once or twice a day.

Have a nice kitteh facepalm video:

See? Instant pageviews. Or it would be if I were building a reputation for that kind of thing. Which I’m not.

Controversy is only so-so at generating pageviews. Controversy that occurs within a fairly small community is going to be even worse at it. And controversy that goes on for any length of time wears people out. Just ask all the people who have said, “Stop talking about Elevatorgate!” in the last six months. Worn out people don’t make for pageviews.

Controversy also comes with costs, both in pageviews–people who disagree with you strongly enough may never come back–and clout. People who actually do sensationalize all their topics lose credibility. That doesn’t come back easily, so the pageviews had really better be worth it.

That, of course, is the third part of the argument. Pageviews have such intrinsic value that people would do anything for them. But what is the value in pageviews?

Well, it’s not the money. I do get paid for blogging here, but the pageviews on the post about D.J. will buy me a little more than a mocha to prop me up after the sleep I lost writing it. They will not buy me two. I can afford mochas. I need sleep.

Also, the pageviews on that post are just about done. If I were in it for the money, it would be simpler to write another reference post deflating rape myths that will get both highly index on search engines and picked up and used over and over in the endless arguing that goes on about that topic. Posts that have staying power bring in money without more work from me. Posts about the controversy du jour do not.

It can’t be the exposure as a writer, because blowing clout for exposure is a losing equation. Being exposed as a writer without credibility wouldn’t do me damn bit of good. Nor is writing about a local controversy going to convince people to give me the kinds of writing gigs that pay. In order to get those, I have to demonstrate broader appeal than that.

Similarly, it can’t be for exposure for the rest of my ideas. If I’m writing something that is costing me credibility, it simply will not help anything else that I write.

There could be an argument for doing anything to get pageviews for the egoboo, but relying on internet traffic for one’s sense of self-worth is a terrible proposition, for me more than for some, but insane all around nonetheless.

So, no, I’m not coming up with any good reason to argue with someone in public for pageviews–unless I’m looking for exposure for something I actually believe. Maybe you guys can come up with a better rationale for pageviews for pageviews sake?

19 comments

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  1. 1
    screechy monkey

    Hmm. There goes my foolproof plan for getting rich:

    1. Write post about how I cornered Rebecca Watson in an elevator and invited her for coffee, then didn’t tip the barrista because he wasn’t an atheist, but that’s ok because evolutionary psychology has led us to resist tipping and to prefer cats like the cute one in this video, who hasn’t been declawed because that’s just as cruel as male circumcision, which is just as bad as female genital mutilation, as surely as 0.999999… = 1.

    2. ????

    3. PROFIT!!!!

  2. 2
    Kevin

    Good grief. Will someone please, please, pretty please send DJ the rules about holes?

    Especially the first?

  3. 3
    Celeste

    Yup. I just clicked this link on my FB feed because I saw a kitty picture. SO CUTE! :D

  4. 4
    Greg Laden

    Well, I’ve been blogging a long time and in a number of different contexts from solitary, small group(QM), large institution (Smithsonian), large group (SB), other larger group (FTB), medium size group (10KB), etc. etc. and this is exactly spot on.

    Controversy as in blogsopheric mudslinging and so on does not generate an increase in page views that comes close to justifying the trouble, or for that matter, the potential long term falloff because people get tired of the controversy.

    Elections, if you write about them, will generate sustained increases up to the election being over, and it’s better than bloggy mudslinging, and still modest. Regularly following some topic of interest and blogging well on it will generate a steady flow and a steady increase. Page view spikes are entirely random and one never knows what will cause them but I’ve never once had a controversy generating post about Elevatorgate, or Rape, or GLBT issues, or race, or PZ Myers Beard, or MRA’s or Fukushima cause a spike like the one Jason just got on his Santorum post or the spikes I’ve had on totally stupid stuff like a funny cartoon or something.

    In fact, I’ve spent considerable time examining the spikes generated over several years at Scienceblogs.com and I’ve even tried to replicate them and I’ve never come close. They are like nuclear decay. We know every one of the damn radio isotopes will decay eventually, but looking at any single one of them and we can’t say when. No clue.

    I take the accusation that page views are the reason for my own engagement in controversial topic as a) wrong b) an attempt to shut me up c) a stupid thing to say and d) something that causes me to lose respect for the person saying it.

    In the case of DJ I won’t assume those things. I’ll assume he’s not familiar with the whole blogging thing, being more of a podcast guy.

  5. 5
    Stephanie Zvan

    Right. Crap. Was totally going to mention AGW as a pageview generator. Still not worth the side effects, though.

  6. 6
    Karen

    After “Elevatorgate”, I was so exhausted and disheartened by all the regurgitating and blog linking of my favourtie bloggers, coupled with all the nastiness in the comments and the “us” vs. “them” division, that I took the blogs out of my Google reader. I stopped reading them. It was just in the last couple of weeks that I put them back in my reader to follow…and now there is the Penn Jilette friend controversy, more Rebecca Watson hate and the DJ/Greta thing. I think I give up altogether on the atheist/skeptical/freethought community and will pretty much continue retreating from the whole scene, too much drama. Kitty videos seem more my speed.

  7. 7
    Ben Zvan

    Kevin@2,

    The rule of holes? That’s the one where you keep digging until nobody can see you, right?

  8. 8
    Greg Laden

    Right. I get more emails from angry AGW denialists than I get hits from them.

    One thing that is not understood (by those making this claim) is the very very loose association (as in almost non existent) between variation in comment frequency and hits per page within a given blog. These controversial posts with a zillion comments do not generate as many page views as one might suggest.

    Here, look: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/01/hits_vs_comments.php

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    Karen: it is sad that you’ve burned out on those fights. Imagine how they must feel from the perspective of the person around whom all the fights seem to cluster!

  10. 10
    Physicalist

    Don’t mind me. I’m just here to see the kitty.

  11. 11
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    What is especially infuriating is that those accusations come at a time when female bloggers have highlighted the price they pay for even mentioning those issues over the last months.
    Do people like Grothe think that those women enjoy the rape threats they’re getting (sometimes with detailed information about their personal lives)?
    Or has he simply been hiding under a stone with his fingers in his ears, then come up in the middle of all this, didn’t bother to read and then started explaining the world to us?
    Oh, wait, that might be the point…

  12. 12
    jamessweet

    Controversy that occurs within a fairly small community is going to be even worse at it. And controversy that goes on for any length of time wears people out. Just ask all the people who have said, “Stop talking about Elevatorgate!” in the last six months. Worn out people don’t make for pageviews.

    Yep. I must regretfully admit that in the past week or two, I finally hit my limit and have started to turn tail and run whenever the sexism-in-the-skeptic-movement discussion rears its head. It’s not that I don’t feel that it’s a worthwhile discussion; it’s terribly important of course. I just don’t have the energy for it anymore.

  13. 13
    you_monster

    I’ll assume he’s not familiar with the whole blogging thing, being more of a podcast guy.

    DJ foments controversies on his podcast just to increase the number of downloads. That’s what I heard.

  14. 14
    Pteryxx

    I must regretfully admit that in the past week or two, I finally hit my limit and have started to turn tail and run whenever the sexism-in-the-skeptic-movement discussion rears its head. It’s not that I don’t feel that it’s a worthwhile discussion; it’s terribly important of course. I just don’t have the energy for it anymore.

    *nod* That’s why we need a lot of voices – because nobody can be expected to keep fighting the sexist BS constantly. And the sexist BS keeps HAPPENING constantly. Just withdrawing from it doesn’t give the *victims* a break.

    So yeah… I try and speak out as much as I can, because the fighters need me.

  15. 15
    Greta Christina

    screechy monkey wins the Internet!

    Oh — and yes. Stephanie hit the nail on the head.

  16. 16
    Kammy

    @screechy monkey If you could figure out a way to add in how breastfeeding in public is gross and should be outlawed, and then say that crochet is better than knitting, and both are better than scrapbooking you’d profit much faster. Actually, I wouldn’t mess with the crafters if I were you, that sort of thing can get you shanked in a dark alley with a rusty knitting needle. :P

  17. 17
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Kitties!

    Naaah, I read for the content, stay for the community.

  18. 18
    qbsmd

    Where are the graphs? I was expecting graphs. You can’t just talk about numbers of page-views over time on different posts about different topics without visual aids. And regression analysis; what’s the correlation coefficient between internet drama related topics and page views? Every question needs to be answered with colorful diagrams and sophisticated analyses. Dammit, Nate Silver ruined the internet for me.

  19. 19
    jnorris

    Ignorance Alert! What is a pageview? How can I increase your total pageviews? Does my reading this individual blog generate revenue for you? Does my clicking the link to your newer or older blog generate revenue?

    About using controversial topics to get more readers (pageviews?), Do the people complaining about it abhor retailers who display merchandise in their shop windows?

  1. 20
    Are universal statements always a problem? | Lousy Canuck

    [...] parts viz every new conflagration, from our recent conversation with Mallorie Nasrallah, to the statement by DJ Grothe that we only blog about controversial topics for hits, to the pushback against a Rebecca Watson blog title as though it meant she hates all atheists, is [...]

  2. 21
    Two Questions for DJ Grothe | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] has already done an excellent job of dismantling this misconception in her post About Those Pageviews. She’s pointed out that posts about internal controversies and other “insider [...]

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