Tomorrow morning, I’ll post my annual last minute Christmas gift for all Archaeology of the Mediterranean World fans: the sixth volume in my annual installment of the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Archive. (For those feeling impatient and nostalgic, copies of Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5 are still available.
It’ll represent some 200+ individual blog posts and weigh in at around 165,000 words (words, that my colleagues will remind me, could have been committed to more personally and professionally profitable undertakings). More importantly that the profits produced by the words that I wrote, however, is what I’ve learned this year from running my little bloggy-blog:
1. Social Media and Blogs. If I don’t push a post via social media, I lose around 25% of my readers. When I started blogging, we had RSS readers and we liked it! But now, most of readers appear to use the hive mind of social media to filter the internet for their reading pleasure. For better or for worse, this involves me having to be active on social media. Most of the time, it is a pleasure to troll gently my friends and colleagues, but every now and then the outrage machine that is my Facebook feed pushes me toward the edge of rational behavior. I do realize that if we don’t post and comment on the most recent campus outrage from the local paper that the terrorists, racist, or other horrible people win. And yes, I know that it would be very bad if Trump was elected President. Finally, I know the they are putting chemicals in our drinking water, plotting to block out the sun and charge us for sun light, and, soon, very soon, only foreigners (mostly refugees) will be legally allowed to vote in the U.S. I am, as always, very, very afraid and hope that someone will swoop in and save me with lower taxes, more freedom, less freedom, better guns, fewer guns, more bombs, fewer bombs, more socialism, fewer chemicals, better drugs, and that.
Having to keep an active social media presence in our current age is excruciating. In fact, I’ve periodically stopped pushing my blog posts to social media to avoid their association with the internet outrage machine, racists and frankly malicious dreck, and political drivel. This results in fewer people seeing my blog and reading my words, which is a bummer.
2. My Mini Media Empire. Over the the past 12 months, Richard Rothaus and I have managed to sustain two full seasons of the Caraheard podcast with the last few episodes being the best yet. Most of our posts have been listened to at least 50 times and a few have been used in classrooms and other settings. If you haven’t listened to our most recent podcast which is a conversation with Ömür Harmanşah, do it now!
I’ve worked closely with some amazing folks at North Dakota Quarterly, to learn the rhythms of work with a quarterly literary journal and the challenges of negotiating the tensions between a century of traditional approaches to media and the risks and opportunities of the digital world. The power of the North Dakota Quarterly brand has simply amazed me as its website regularly draws a couple of hundred views a day without new content and twice that with every new post.
In 2015, the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota continues to grow up with two new books and a reprint in collaboration with NDQ. Next year, I feel confident in asserting that the Press will produce its most important works and forge some new regional and national partnerships and continue to mature. We might even branch out into some new directions that take the idea of “The Digital,” in “The Digital Press” a bit more broadly.
The blog sits astride the intersection of these interests and, as Andrew Reinhard and I argued in Internet Archaeology, was the impetus (not just in my case, but I’d contend, in a larger context) for the resurgence of small scale publishing. My own experiments with serialized publishing of longer works (for example, my Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch which I published over at Medium has yielded over 2000 views this year) has demonstrated the continued vitality of blog-like environments as a platform for both short and long form publishing.
3. Old Content and New Content. One of the most interesting things about my blog is that only three posts that I wrote this past year ranked in the most viewed posts for the year. They were not posts from the beginning of the year; so this was not a factor of length of time being visible. Archaeology of Care was posted on September 10th and the open access teaser to the War with the Sioux appeared in September 1. Only the post announcing Visions of Substance appeared in the first half of this past year. The rest of the posts in the top 10 are from previous years and most are associated with posts that would ultimately become contributions to Visions of Substance (with the exception of two Punk Archaeology posts and the 200+ downloads of the book this year).
I assume this result is as much the product of the way that search engines work as the inherent appeal of particular posts. For example, a post with the with the word syllabus in it will likely attract more sustained attention than one with a more (or is it less?) generic title. At the same time, I was a bit bummed that some of my better posts didn’t get more attention. I know, it is vane and naive to think that what I regard as good work will somehow get more attention on the internet, and maybe this is one of the best reasons for anyone to start a blog. You can see in immediate and graphic terms what the internet thinks (and sees in) your work.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for the annual publication of the Archive!