An Observation: Content/Controversy

Last year I admit to pondering why I was blogging.  It seemed to me that at that time the experience had lost some of its initial attraction.  Aside from reacting to certain events, I was not sure whether blogging had any other concrete purpose for me.  Those considerations contributed to my decision to leave Civil Warriors (and yes, folks, I’m no longer there, regardless of what I still read … some people need to update their information), although I must confess that I did not anticipate what would happen next with Crossroads.

As I was pondering these issues, I read several blog entries on issues related to the experience of blogging from the blogger’s point of view.  Robert Moore offered some interesting questions about what sustains a blogger’s activity and interest beyond the initial euphoric experience of blogging.  After announcing my decision to leave Civil Warriors, I encountered Daniel Sauerwein’s post on how one might go about ending a blog.

I had more cause to reflect upon these things once I started to manage my own blog.  There’s a surprising amount of information available to a blogger about the blog’s audience.  I was but vaguely aware of this (most of what I knew concerned the fact that commenters who sought to be anonymous were not always so anonymous), but there are all sorts of ways to measure and assess blog traffic, some of which can become quite mesemerzing for a time.  I also had some conversation about this with other bloggers, including some exchanges about content versus controversy (not that the two are mutually exclusive).  However, I do know that some topics, because of their hot button nature, drive more traffic here, in part, I suspect, because people come back multiple times to examine the comments or add something else themselves; one also experiences more links due to controversies.  If you look back at the lifespan of this blog, it should not be hard for people to guess as to which week was the busiest or which topics draw the most traffic.

It’s fun to keep track of hits and the like (sometimes as if you’re rooting for the sake of rooting that some threashold is reached or surpassed), but I can’t say that’s driven my blogging.  It has had an impact on it, but only in that sometimes I place a post that contains information I believe deserves attention next to a post that I know will get attention.  A string of content-driven posts on past topics without a hook to present controversies drives traffic down.  As one might expect, traffic on this blog has trended upwards, and one of the challenges facing a blog such as this one is to capture viewers who may be drawn to the blog because of controversy, but will stay due to content.

That said, having read what Robert and Daniel has to say, I also wanted to flip things around and look at blogging from the perspective of the audience(s).  Oh, I believe that a blogger should not sacrifice good content for controversy, but it’s a fact that controversey creates traffic, while simple content in itself can be difficult to sustain.  Moreover, once one discusses an aspect of a certain topic (say Dr. Steiner’s observations about blacks in the Confederate ranks at Frederick), one probably isn’t going back to it very often.  I have discovered, on the other hand, that some of the content I originally posted on Civil Warriors enjoys renewed life (and different readers) here.

As I said when I started this blog, I saw it as a learning experience.  That it has been.  It’s also been an enjoyable one, refreshing my earlier enthusiasm that had flagged.  Now I would like to know what topics you would be interested in reading that transcend the one-shot wonder of some blogging.  I’m not saying I’ll post on every issue, but such feedback will help me as I choose topics that that meet at the crossroads of what I want to write and what you want to read.

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “An Observation: Content/Controversy

  1. Robert Moore February 20, 2011 / 7:42 am

    It can also be interesting to watch where the surge in readership hails from, depending on the controversial content, and if a pattern can be identified.

  2. Mark February 20, 2011 / 10:26 am

    Well, if you are asking what historical subjects I’d like the smart people to blog about, it would be the reaction from1866-1876 or so, in the South, from the people who had so ardently and tenaciously insisted that God ordained slavery, and the spread of slavery.

    What was their reaction, in private letters, in sermons?
    I’d give anything to somehow be set down in 1870, in the middle of Tallahasee or Memphis, to hear sermons in white churches, and then ask people and the pastor about it aftwards.

    We hear a lot about Reconstruction, and all the problems with that. But aside from that, there had to be a major rethinking, about this religious underpinning of slavery. I just wonder what they said to each other at the time about it.

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