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Sunday, June 15, 2008

How to create value by blogging

He's so cute when he's angry! by rockygirl05 from flickr (CC-NC)

I'm hardly blogging these days, so I though I'd at least open a Twitter account - and here it is, and some stuff I've done recently like London Barcamp 4 and getting OLPC XO-1 laptop weren't blogged at all, just twitted. This is all caused by a certain problem with blogging - people really like to read long blog posts. Just look at the "Popular posts" sidebar - it's long post after another. People even like insanely long blog posts like those by Steve Yegge. But long posts take too much time and energy, so most of the posts written by me and other bloggers are pretty short. So I somehow thought that writing stort blog posts isn't really worthwhile, and tweeted instead.

Today I thought maybe it's time to verify it, so for some hard data I collected statistics from Google Analytics (unique page views) and (number of bookmarks except of mine), and divided my 202 blog posts into ten buckets depending on their plain text size.

And indeed - it seems that almost nobody cares about the short blog posts and the longer the post is the more people read it. The difference is even more pronounced when counting bookmarks. I feel that the number of bookmarks is a much better indicator of post's "value" than page views, as page view is generated before the reader even seen the post, while bookmark is generated only after it was read and decided to be valuable. Search good vs experience good.

BucketPostsAverage sizeAverage page viewsAverage bookmarksAverage page views per kBAverage bookmarks per kB

This confirms my beliefs and disproves the commonly held ADHD theory of blog readers which states that most blog readers have very short attention spans and would much rather look at the kittens. It seems that to the contrary, reader really love long posts. At least my readers. You'll still be getting kittens of course, my blog would look quite empty without them.

On the other hand a completely different picture arises when page views per kB and bookmarks per kB are measured. Bookmarks per kB is pretty flat, while page views per kB is going down fast. So if kBs of text are a good measure of blogger's effort then the best way of generating value is writing tons of stort posts.

I'm so undecided. Is it better to write fewer long posts, many of which would be big hits (relative to the blog popularity of course, this isn't I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER), or rather many posts which would generate less value per post but more value overall. I'm kinda writing for myself, but I still think if the post would be valuable to the average reader or not before posting it. I should probably simply keep posting instead of thinking too much.


Anonymous said...

That is actually a rather valuable analysis. By the way, can you show us how you collected the data? I'd love to run that kind of analysis myself.

taw said...

I could do that easily because I always bookmark my posts on tagged "taw" and "blog".

So I logged into, fetched this and this pages, and extracted "saved by 42 other people" texts from HTML using Hpricot. You won't get "saved by 42 other people" unless you're logged in, probably for performance reasons.

If you don't bookmark all your posts it is probably a lot more difficult.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how relevant this may be to your specific analysis but I tend to just read short blog posts in my feed reader, whereas for longer posts I'll actually open up the original page. If this is a common usage pattern it could bias these sorts of stats to favor bigger posts (at least for page views)

taw said...

Anonymous: I know the analysis is not perfect. I have no idea how many people read this blog via RSS, or via RSS aggregators like Ruby Planet, so part of my readership escapes me.

Anonymous said...

About bookmarks: I believe that many people bookmark long articles for future read. Like, "It looks interesting, but I've no time right now, so let's bookmark it and read later." That's what I do sometimes. Maybe average time spent on article is another good metric, because it shows how many people have actually read long article in its full.