Some Thoughts On LISNews Topics And Readership

I sent an email to the super secret and exciting Authors-Only list this morning and I thought it might make a somewhat interesting blog post as well. I've been told several times over the years LISNews is great because you never know what you'll see next. That's why I like it so much as well. If this was Blake Carver's LISNews I would've gotten bored years ago.

LISNews is a bit of an oddity because of the way it's run and what it runs on. We're a collaborative blog where everyone is welcome, so you never know what you're going to get. Most blogs are one person shows. We have user blogs, we have tons of subjects and many feeds. To make matters worse we've been doing this for over 8 years and we're currently on our 4th content management system. Which means we have legacy feeds going back years that are still used. I was looking at the stats ( this morning when I should've been doing something more productive and got to thinking about how people are reading the site. Based on the current Pages Viewed numbers, most people are viewing LISNews through a feed reader.

Out of the top 20 most viewed pages, 12 are feeds and are viewed about twice as much as the other 8 pages in the top 20. The main feed is viewed more than twice as much as the normal homepage. I won't get into the pros and cons of web statistics and what a pageview means in terms of readership, especially when it comes to feeds. Let's just say they numbers are far from perfect, but they're all we have to go on. The most popular feeds are the main feed (in all it's many versions), followed by the Tech feed, the academic feed, the features feed, the feed for TWiL, and the feed for public libraries. We're not talking giant numbers in any case, the main feeds got hit about 5,400 times a day this month, while the public libraries feed got hit about 300 times a day. The other feeds are all somewhere in between.

These numbers show me that it's important to think about the topics each story gets if I want it to be read by the people who might find it interesting (This also got me thinking about how I pick stories, but that'll be a different post). Say for example I post a story about Kindle, it would no doubt get an "epubs" topic assigned, but it might also make sense to give it a "technology" topic because most folks subscribed to that feed would probably want to read about Kindles as well. The topics also help keep things organized, and make all the many things we post get found.

Drupal is neat because it allows me to post stories into the feeds and topic pages without flooding the homepage with stories that might not be of interest to all that many readers. Though I must admin, even after posting tens of thousands of stories over the past 8 years, I can still almost never guess if a story will be popular, well read, or generate any discussions. The internet is too random for any consistency. A great example from last month: I posted a story about a new library opening in Africa. That got linked to by what is apparently a super popular blog in Africa. The story I thought no one would care about or read got read by more people than any other story posted in months.

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