The ups and downs of skeptical blogging

I’ve had this blog since December 2006. It took a while to get it to a place where it received more than a few dozen regular daily visitors. During this run, I noticed a few things that I thought might be worthwhile to share.

Publicize. Sending links to aggregators helped. Facebooking and Tweeting helped. Having popular friends who Facebooked and Tweeted links helped EVEN MORE. One day, when Phil Plait tweeted a link, several hundred people popped in for a visit. But most didn’t stick around.

My posts got some eyeballs but not enough. These days, as a long-established site, I get more traffic from people who access my archive content or static pages (on Paranormal TV shows). I also get hits from Google search on certain topics, like Bigfoot.

Photos. I have extremely limited time. It takes sometimes days for me to write a blog post that I’m pleased with. For all that work, I want as many people as possible to see it and for it to not be forgotten and buried. But, I soon noticed that many people found my posts because of the interesting images I used. They liked the pictures, not the story. That’s a little disappointing but I guess it can be seen as an advantage if you work it the right way.

Specialize. It took a while, but I finally focused the website into a rather narrow band of topics around fake science, pretend science and paranormal science wannabes –their methods displayed what I called “scientificity” and their actions were “sham inquiry”. I’m pleased with that focus but I realize I’m appealing to a small crowd. I attempted to attract some of the pro-paranormal viewers but they never hang around long enough to comment. More on that in a bit.

Contributing elsewhere. In Tim Farley’s excellent, common sense presentation, Please Don’t Start another Blog or Podcast, he gives a list of things you could do to contribute to the cause you feel is important. One that is not explicitly mentioned on the list is to contribute to existing podcast or blogs. Tim has mentioned this in other places because he has done it – contributing content to the JREF’s Swift blog and to the Skepticality podcast.

A little while back, I posted stories and interviews to SheThought.com. Due to the larger audience there, I got more hits on those posts than if I had put them on my own blog. The same happened with my pieces on Skeptoid.com blog . Even more hits were obtained on the WhoForted Blog when one of the posts got picked up by a “discovery engine”. That particular blog site, which is heavy on graphics, humorous and attracts both skeptical and paranormal viewers, featured my two posts with lots of photos and even an “original” image.

A huge number of clicks were displayed for a piece I co-wrote on the JREF’s Swift blog on a Norwegian psychic family. I’m not sure how accurate that is and I can’t be at all certain where the traffic came from but it read over 11,000 hits. I suspect the large hits may be because no one else on the internet wrote about this aspect of a worldwide news story. Got lucky on that one, perhaps.

As Tim says in another post, “Effective skepticism is about communication, and skeptical outreach demands we communicate with as many people as possible. Even the finest investigation report or essay…does no good if they’re never read by anyone”.

So, I have made a change for now. I’ve decided to make my website fairly static and concentrate on some research projects, print articles and blog posts in places that get the clicks. I also completed some print pieces that hopefully will be published soon. I’m interested to see what happens with them. Unlike blog posts, they seem more real, more permanent (regardless of “the internet is forever” business). Printed stories appear to be more special than a blog you can type out in an hour to add to the endless stream.

Finally, ignore all I just said, because I did something silly – I started a new blog. To be fair, it’s something that I felt was needed, it’s still in the trial mode and I have help with it. It’s a news blog with paranormal, pseudoscience and general skeptically themed story links. I did it because I was posting stories to Twitter days before they became hot items in the mainstream. I decided to create a “scoop” site. Within a week, it surpassed the visitors to my own established blog. I’m happy about that but it has nowhere near the traffic I would like. Spread the word if you can.

Oh, yeah, one more thing… I’m available for paid gigs, panels, events and a new career. Feel free to email offers. Thanks for reading.

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news. Doubtfulnews.com SpookyGeology.com

0 thoughts on “The ups and downs of skeptical blogging

  1. Thanks for this post, Sharon ! I started blogging at the start of this year, and have already lucked into some of the tips you have put up here, and I am glad to see that I am at least doing some things in an effective way.

    I’ve been enjoying the news feed as well…I hope it’s working out generally, cos I think it works well on Twitter and I’d love it to continue 🙂

  2. I found your blog just after I met you…which is years after you started it. These are my layperson, non-blogger but consumer of blogs thoughts. You’re your own best promoter, but it’s also good to be willing to promote in other venues; sometimes tooting your own horn works, even if it might make the humble blogger slightly uncomfortable. I’d give extra stars to the fact that people love photos…picture worth a thousand words? Heck, that times ten. I’m glad you’ve started your new blog because it’s an easily accessible rundown of a lot of skeptic-related news that most wouldn’t have the time to discover for themselves…that’s why I also like Skepchick quickies posts. Specializing can be difficult, but if you’re not just looking at page-view numbers, but are interested in having an impact on those folks, specialization has the ability to bring more subtle issues to the foreground, and be able to back up your opinions on those issues. Great post.

  3. i noticed you posted on the appalling awful “bigfoot evidence.” while that guy is unapologetically hostile to skepticism and fun to troll, his traffic is mercifully low. i’d like to suggest a blog where you might more profitably reach the audience you want: “ghost theory.” despite describing themselves as skeptical, this amateurish group barely qualifies, and seems to have a policy of banning visitors who make the mistake of being skeptical of the bible. it’s a weird and disatisfying place.

  4. ps–they do not specialize in ghosts, title notwithstanding, so i’m sure there’s something for every budding skeptic. be sure to read the bios.

  5. pps–somebody please step up to the plate and submit something to the huffington post in defence of vaccnation. the wrong kind of skeptics enjoy almost free rein there. it’s truly frightening. the bachmann hpv saga currently has them all fired up about the CDC and big pharma conspiracies, but the true glory days were when jenny mccarthy and jim carrey were still an item. the exposure should be enormous, and hopefully ongoing.

  6. Uncanny. I started my blog about 2 months ago. I get around 40-70 hits on an average day, but, just as Sharon said, I got 900+ when Phil Plait linked to my article about Republican candidates and their views on science (shameless advertising, I know, but here’s the link: http://goo.gl/Y20Zp). And, just as Sharon says, they didn’t hang around.

    I find Tweeting gives inconsistent results – some days no one comes at all, other times 8-9 hits (I have about 180 followers at present). Guessing what the Tweet fans will like is difficult. I also put up RSS, Twitter and Facebook buttons on the site. It’s like no one knows that they’re for. Is my blog that unrecommendable? And it’s just like Sharon says: takes days to prepare good content. Hard to feel it’s worth it sometimes.

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