As I begin to compose this post, my Blogger pageview total - the number of times people have looked at the blog - has reached 421,220. But over on Flickr, the number of viewings of my photos (which is a comparable statistic) is now 422,145. So for the first time, Flickr has edged ahead. And I expect it to increase that lead, certainly beating Blogger to the 500,000-viewings stage. Flickr will get the Gold Lucy award. Blogger will have to make do with the Plastic Lucy for Best Runner-Up.
Of course these figures, which may seem impressive, have to be put in perspective. They aren't so noteworthy when you remember that in both cases they are cumulative, and simply measure the times that an unknown number of persons clicked to see what the latest post or batch of pictures looked like, spread over the five years that I've been publishing. It doesn't mean '421,220 persons' or '422,415 persons'. Or even (since I have reason to believe that those who like my posts are not the same bunch as those who like my photos) '800,000+' persons. It might just be 100 persons who are die-hard regulars, plus an unknown number of casual visitors who look once, then turn away bored, puzzled, disgusted or outraged, never to come back for more.
I do think that a sense of reality is needed. Viewing totals are some evidence of popularity, but are not an end in themselves, certainly not the reason why one hammers away on the keyboard, or selects a few sunset shots from one's photo collection. I don't churn out words and pictures merely to edge these totals up and up, as if some contest were going on. Although naturally, when they exceed 500,000, or 1,000,000, or some landmark figure like that, I will feel pleased, as if I've achieved something, and who wouldn't? But it's no measure of excellence.
I will remark that the viewing rate has accelerated in the last two years. The Blogger total was only 115,000 in July 2012, two years ago. And it was only 90,000 for Flickr at that point. So both my jottings and my camera snaps have attracted more attention in recent times.
Why, God knows. I mean, I've kept to the same old formula - my interests, my life experiences, and what I see when out and about or when on holiday. It's all a bit personal. Whatever the post title, I am the real subject, every time; it's an unabashed ego trip. At best, a kind of diary. The blog hasn't become a serious platform for social change, or political reform, or a focus for new ideas, or even a spot where you can read about fashion and beauty. You won't tap into the Zeitgeist. It's only me, sounding off. That's not, I would have thought, a winning recipe.
But evidently I'm mistaken. Well, if the blog readership, and the photo enthusiasts, want more and more of the same old stuff, then I will carry on obliging! I like doing it, anyway, for its own sake. It's an outlet for my creative energies, such as they are.
When I last 'sounded off' about the perils of popularity, I mentioned the pest of advertising agencies wanting to use likely blogs to place ads of their choice. Even my blog, once the pageview total had grown a bit. There would be a deal, and the reward for the blogger would be a small amount of cash. Some of these agencies offered 'advice' on how to whip up a wider readership. Of course they would. They'd want your popular blog to become even more popular, so that the ads they promoted could reach more potential customers. This all smacked of artistic interference to me. In any case, I felt that a blog that had been 'monetized' (even in a low-key way, by Google themselves) was a blog disfigured and compromised. The ads were an irritating intrusion, a commercial presence that was especially inappropriate whenever the latest post happened to deal with some personal crisis.
That was just my opinion, of course. But I wasn't going to succumb to any blandishments from an advertising agency unless the deal were so incredibly good that nobody could blame me for selling out. I was talking about a regular income of thousands of pounds here. But of course, it wouldn't be offered.
A more recent annoyance is the 'ghost writer'. I've been approached several times by such people.
Now in the past, I vaguely understood that a ghost writer was someone who would write a book or article for you. Done typically, I suppose, where the person named as the 'author' couldn't string a grammatical sentence together if their life depended on it, but nevertheless had a publishable tale to tell. A ghost writer would be engaged to take notes, and turn those into a hot and racy autobiography, or a serialised Sunday-paper confession story. Readers, hoping for a juicy tale well-told, would be surprised but delighted that the author was such a talented writer. The 'author' would get a fee for their salacious story. The unnamed ghost writer would also get a fee for the work carried out. And the publisher would make a lot of money. Happiness all round.
One or two of the approaches made to me have been on these lines. Basically: I (the ghost writer) can do it better, and you (Lucy) can take the credit. That's insulting. No thanks.
Then more recently I have had approaches from people wanting to introduce their own work into my blog. It wasn't quite clear how this would be done. But supposing it was a travel piece on The Mysterious Maya of Mexico. It couldn't be passed off in my name, because (a) people who knew me would realise that the experiences being described couldn't be mine, as I'd never been to Mexico; and (b) some of them would understand that I couldn't possibly risk visiting a Latin-American country, in case I were horribly murdered by a macho man. So I suppose it would be a case of my openly sponsoring the actual writer, much as T-Central introduces its Guest Bloggers and their work. I'd write an introductory paragraph or two, and then let my 'guest' have publishing space. For a fee, I would hope. But maybe the deal would actually be: my amazing piece will increase the appeal of your blog, Lucy, and that's your reward.
In which case, no thanks. I can do my own travel-writing well enough. Even if it's only about Welsh coastal towns.
So whether it's advertisers, or aspiring writers wanting to piggy-back on your own success, it's got to be 'no'. It's my blog, my unsullied and individual creation. Leave it alone.