Monday, 18 February 2013

The price of popularity

Everything has its price, and popularity obeys this rule. I've had a taste of what an increased readership can bring, and I've turned my back on it. 

About six weeks ago, the number of daily pageviews on this blog (a measure of readership, even if the typical visitor actually reads only a few words before clicking away) was commonly over 600, and the monthly total was 18,000 and getting higher. Not stratospheric figures, but remarkable when you consider that this remains chiefly a trans blog, and therefore of marginal interest to most of the people who access the Internet and have the time and inclination to look at blogs. And away from the Internet, in ordinary face-to-face life, there would be no chance at all to get read by so many people in a month, perhaps not even in a lifetime, unless one wrote for a national daily paper, or a magazine, or contributed articles to a weekend supplement. Which puts things into some kind of perspective.

In one respect a readership building up to 20,000 a month and beyond was very gratifying, even exciting. Ah, I said to myself, my choice of topics is making me more popular! How nice to be appreciated! And another thought: well, I might never come up with a best-selling novel, but I can make it in the blogosphere!

However, a moment's reflection took me to a darker way of thinking. First, I'd recently strayed into areas that included feminist, political or religious territory. I was trying to get away from purely trans stuff, but having firmly established my 'credentials' as a trans person, I should have realised that any experiments in unfamliar areas were fraught with risk - as I soon found out.

Not everyone who might read me was going to accept my self-image or take my sincerity for granted. And what I thought was a positive strength - that the blog was clearly written by an actual person with a definite geographical location, who had a recorded life and a personality that anyone could assess for its worth - might on reflection be a dangerous weakness. I was believable and genuine, yes: but I was also very much exposed to those who might merely want to pull me down, and trample on my corpse in triumph.

One friend feared that one day, out of the blue, I would be accosted in the street by one of this army of new readers, and physically attacked. Simply because they didn't like my face, or my attitudes, or my beliefs, or because I'd started to cover subjects that were not my business to write about.

Out of the blue, with perhaps no warning. They would track me down and harm me - and anyone who happened to be with me. And I wouldn't know who they were, because the kind of person who might do this blogged or commented under a pseudonym, and was effectively anonymous and faceless.

If it were a man, then I'd be at a grave disadvantage. A crazy man with a mission to inflict punishment (knife, acid, a beating, whatever) was not what I wished to encounter one evening in Brighton or anywhere else. The idea was very scary. I didn't think that my danger was imminent or severe, but while any of these malignant readers continued to visit my blog there was the possibility of grief.

So as my monthly pageviews grew larger, I had mixed feelings. Yes, it seemed to be a sign of success. But I did not think that this doubling of the readership indicated a new wave of friendly trans readers. I suspected that the eyes of the radfems and their allies were on me, watching for anything they could use as fodder for their own blogs. Or, much worse, and horrifying really, that an army of unsavoury men who fancied people like me were paying attention - and there were one or two strange emails, and requests to chat, to lend some colour to this disturbing notion. I blocked them or binned them.

So instead of popularity tasting sweet, I felt threatened. The price of success.

The solution was to shift away from all but occasional posts on political matters, and leave the feminist arena at once. So since the start of January you'll have noticed posts of absolutely no interest to radfems, bomb-throwing politicos and male perverts. My pageview total has shrunk to its old level of 9,000 a month. I honestly do not mind. It means that whoever used to read me (and seemed to like what they saw) is still with me, but that I've put the 'dangerous crowd' to sleep, or else bored them off my doorstep. I intend to keep it that way.

There is also one other effect of running a popular blog, also unwelcome. Websites such as Alexa provide pageview information and analyses for businesses who wish to advertise. Once your pageview total reaches a certain point, it becomes worthwhile for a business to 'comment' on a post - but that 'comment' is really an advertisement for their services, with of course a link to their own website. I've lately been getting several of these 'comments' from businesses in India. I've immediately deleted them on detection, but it's annoying that they make these attempts to steal free advertising.

I imagine that if I ever drove again for increased readership, this slight nuisance would become a plague. It's one thing to create such a big readership that you can sell advertising space to world-class businesses (apparently possible once the monthly pageview total exceeds 100,000), and thereby generate a small extra income for yourself (although remember that it's taxable!); but quite another to let tinpot firms in Rhinoland or wherever use your blog to promote their stuff without asking, and without paying you for the privilege. Grrrr.


  1. Maybe all your readers do actually read the whole post Lucy, you've no way of proving that though unless they all make comments! You are probably right about the subject matter. I see you have T central on your favourites list, that alone must attract many folk for one reason or another when writing about trans matters. Of your 74 'followers' of which I am one, how many of them are trans for instance? I don't know about you but I always check out the profile of those who 'follow' me or write a comment for the first time and I also check those who 'like' a post without making a comment and thank them. Currently I have 146 'followers' but I don't get many comments even so and way below what you get in the number of visits. My average is around 1700 to 2000 a month, not a lot really but they come from all around the world. It is unfortunate that there are perverts and bad people who might be reading our pages but as long as you minimise what personal information you post you should have nothing to worry about. It takes a brave soul not to give a damn and a reckless one at that. As for those businesses looking for free advertising well I get them too but all newcomers to my blog have their comments placed in the waiting for moderation box or have already been clocked as spam by the automatic filter. If any do get through, which is almost never, I delete the comment. I wish I had more readers but I've been saying that from the beginning about four years ago I think and I got my wish. The readership is increasing but oh so slowly! I don't mind in the least one way or another as long as those who do stumble on to my pages will think it worthwhile and get something out of it. A core block of devoted followers I think is far better than limitless hoards just making up the numbers don't you think? Unless you actually want to reach more people but then you should be getting something out of it for yourself financially for your efforts, yes? Looking at your writing skills I'm sure you could do something like that.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. I think I'd prefer a devoted band of followers any day! I don't want to argue with somebody who violently disagrees with me, or what I stand for.

    Another thing about readership statistics is that you can clearly become a slave to ratings. I learned at one point that my blog was rated 9,000,000th in the world. Out of 30,000,000 odd blogs. So I was just about in the top third. A different kind of person would do whatever it took to get into the top 1,000. I'm sure it could have been done, but at what cost?

    I am not competitive, and do not want to submit to commercial pressures or inducements.


  3. I'm a first time reader, having found you on T-Central (where my blog also appears.)

    Having read this piece, I went back to some of your previous pieces as well. I know why you have fans. Yes, some may be pervs, some may be bomb throwers, but the fact is this...

    You can write!

    You've gained a fan who admires the stance you've taken in this entry.

    Best of luck in the future! I'll be reading! :)

  4. Thank you, Sophie Lynne! I can see from your own blog that you also like to draw on your life experiences for writing material. 'Personal history' is an underrated and often ignored topic on trans blogs, perhaps because many want to conceal their past with future stealth in mind. I think that's a mistake, to pretend that parts of one's life are dead and buried. The influence, good or bad, prevails forever and how you reconcile it with what you really want to do 'after transition' makes for interesting reading. That and discovering the realities of existence as a quite different person.

    Your therapist had it right in saying that being trans was the ultimate social solvent. But it's also a time of maximum personal opportunity, depending on one's attitude and willingness to try new things.

    I think you write well too, and I'd be very pleased to learn that blogs like yours and mine console/comfort/inspire other people just like us who would rather read than publish.



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Lucy Melford