Friday, 13 June 2014

Passing the 1.5 million mark
and still blogging all this time

Local newspapers are like old friends … they made me the writer I am (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

The number of individual hits or readers on this blog reached the milestone of 1.5 million earlier this evening [13 June 2014].

The time-span for reaching this figure is interesting. I started blogging on 10 November 2007, but there were only 13 postings that year. By 2008, it was 183, 272 in 2009, 322 in 2010, 449 in 2011, 498 in 2012, 547 last year (2013), and 228 this year with this posting.

But this blog did not reach the figure of half a million readers until 14 July 2012, there were three quarters of a million by 23 February 2013, and it reached a million by 28 September 2013. So the climb to 1.5 million readers in less than nine months has been a steep one indeed.

Part of this in recent months is explained by the number of attacks on this site since 21 November 2013, when the number of hits on this blog passed the 2,000 mark, with 2,004 page-views that day. This also happened to be the day I was the guest speaker at a debate in the ‘Phil’ in Trinity College Dublin, speaking out for Edward Snowden, for freedom of information and for freedom of the media.

Of course, those speaking against my team tried to assure all present that those of us who have done nothing wrong have no need to fear the snoopers.

But 2,004 pageviews on that one day?

Even I did not believe – yet – that I could attract or am deserving of such sudden popularity. But the traffic was furtive, and in one 12-hour period there were more than 40 anonymous efforts to post comments to my postings that appear to be meaningless but also appear to carry malicious viruses with them.

I cannot imagine how any person or organisation has the time or the staff to post so many anonymous comments on a blog posting from April 2012 on music in a south Dublin parish. Once yes, but 20 times? None of the comments was relevant, but all appeared to have malware or bots.

Malware is malicious software used to disrupt computer operations, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems.

Bots involve the co-ordination and operation of automated attacks, spamming large amounts of content on the Internet, usually adding advertising links.

None of the seeming advertising that was being posted to my blog could have had any imaginable interest to my readers.

I opened none of the links, thankfully. But while Google and Blogger have blocked all these attempts, I still receive email notices for every effort, with the links that failed to get through. Since last November they have totalled almost 1,100 attacks on this site.

Monitoring the climb in readers since 2007

The number of potential attacks was reflected in the statistics for the climb in hits:

September 2013: 27,872;
October 2013: 26,836;
November 2013: 37,216;
December 2013: 48,116;
January 2014: 56,872;
February 2014: 66,980;
March 2014: 90,946;
April 2014: 80,141;
May 2014: 66,205.

The figures are beginning to level out again. But because I am anxious to protect true readers of this blog, I pay careful attention each day to posted comments and delete any that have links to advertising that seems dangerous, malicious, distasteful, or that link to sites that run counter to the values I want to promote and encourage. Where others are offensive, I am happy to be ruthless.

I am delighted that this blog attracts more readers, but only if they are real readers.

The numbers are falling back to between 60,000 to 62,000 readers a month or about 15,000 a week. This is still a figure that is higher than many of the provincial or local newspapers that I have worked for.

The majority of local newspapers for which the industry’s official circulation auditor, ABC, provides data have circulation figures at or below 10,000 copies.

The latest available figures show the Limerick Leader is Ireland’s highest-selling local newspaper with 13,420 weekly sales. Just two others broke 10,000 weekly sales, while the average is just 7,600 copies. One analyst says that if current circulation trends – roughly 5 per cent declines per year – continue, local weeklies have about a decade left before they will become extinct. It is difficult to see how any newspaper could survive once sales fall below 5,000 copies weekly.

However, Ireland’s leading newspaper publisher, Independent News & Media, has withdrew 12 of its regional titles from the ABC auditing process, and their latest audited figures date from as far back as January-June 2011. Those figures show:

Bray People, 3,944;
Enniscorthy Guardian, 7,277;
New Ross Standard, 5,781;
Wexford People, 10,868;
Wicklow People, 10,050.

This represents a total circulation figure for the group of 37,920 in the first half of 2011. Three years later, according to the group’s own figures, the total circulation had dropped to 33,800. Although this figure is not audited, it shows a decline of at least 10 per cent in three years. So this blog has more hits in a week than the sales figures for any title in the provincial newspaper group I once worked for.

The circulation figures for other local newspapers in Ireland and England I have written for include:

Kilkenny People, 11,594;
Lichfield Mercury, 33,992;
Tamworth Herald, 16,844.

Again, this site has more weekly hits than two of these titles. The figures for the Lichfield Mercury are more complex and so defy comparison. The figure for the Mercury includes all four editions serving Lichfield, Burntwood, Cannock, Rugeley and surrounding villages. The figure of 33,992 is the ABC total for 1 July 2013 to 29 December 2013, but 97.6 per cent of these are free newspapers, and only 2.4 per cent are counter sales, so it is impossible to know how many people would buy the Mercury by choice. Perhaps the figure for the Tamworth Herald provides a good starting point when it comes to guessing.

I still have a deep-seated affection for each and every one of these titles. I was happy working with them, and they helped me to become the journalist and writer that I was … and that I still am. I sincerely hope that we are not seeing the decline of the local newspaper, for the local newspaper is like the cement or mortar that holds together the bricks that build up local communities, allowing each constituent part of a local community to relate to the others.

Meanwhile, the ten most popular postings on this blog are:

1, The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons and Orthodox spirituality (7 April 2010), 22,506;

2, All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well (5 September 2008), 13,289;

3, Raising money at the book stall and walking the beaches of Portrane (1 August 2011), 9,254;

4, Readings in Spirituality: the novelist as a writer in spirituality and theology (26 November 2009), 9,162;

5, Poems for Easter (2): ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert (9 April 2012), 8,860;

6, Saturday in Holy Week, Easter Eve (3 April 2010), 8,698;

7, The grave of Lazarus (3 April 2010), 5,817;

8, Success or failure? Church of Ireland Overseas Missions (3 March 2008), 4,680;

9, Anglican Studies (8.1): The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the emergence of an Anglican Covenant (15 March 2012), 4,152;

10, Victorian delights in Dún Laoghaire (18 February 2012), 3,780.

1 comment:

Timothy Belmont said...

Congratulations! I started my blog in December, 2007; and I, too, have generated a similar number of "hits".

Heaven knows why (!).

Tim.