Blog Subscribers, Commenters, Lurkers & Passers-By

Bill CammackI had a conversation a few days ago with a friend who asked me what I thought about blogging / podcasting / creating video content, specifically as it pertains to viewership and even more specifically as it pertains to NUMBERS of viewers for content we post to the internet.

There’s a lot of talk amongst the social media set about numbers and views and influence and what makes content “worth” creating.

Unfortunately, all that talk about numbers assumes that people are equals, when we most clearly are not. o_O

Authorities & Audiences

Let’s say, for instance, that you have 100 Facebook Friends and they’re all people that you’ve grown up with or met IRL (in real life) that share no particular concentration in any industry. Let’s also say that *I* have 2,434 Facebook Friends and you and I happen not to share very many mutual friends… Logically, if I post something, it’s more likely to receive responses, hits, views, whatever, because my listening audience is immensely larger than yours.

Let’s take that same scenario and change how you created and cultivated your audience of 100 FB Friends… Let’s say that you were an expert in a particular field and the people you reached out to and also accepted FB friend invites from were all involved in or interested in your chosen profession. Let’s say you had conversations with this specialized audience and they recognized you as an authority.. Someone who was known to have interesting, important & relevant things to say and similarly useful links to share.

NOW.. If you and I post about the same information at the same time, except it happens to be along the lines that you and your friends normally kick it about, my larger population is trumped by your way smaller one because your readers are PASSIONATE about your content and mine are not.

On top of that.. All this numbers-talk only takes into account first-tier connections. If my Twitter fanbase is 10 people, except one of those 10 people following me has 60,000 followers, I might not directly have a large audience, but someone following me might. Similarly.. If I have 10 and one of my ten followers has 10 and one of her ten followers has 10 and one of his ten followers has 1,000,000… You get the picture, so there’s no actual telling who’s going to receive wider distribution when they output content.

So.. Unless your ability to pay rent depends on how many readers/viewers you have, don’t worry about it. The number is entirely irrelevant unless you can make money by serving ads to those people. You might ask yourself what the point is of creating content if there aren’t going to be very many people watching…

Content For Whom?

First of all, you want to create content FOR YOURSELF.

Back in the day, when I was trying to decide what I wanted to blog about, my friend Penelope Trunk told me (paraphrasing) “You should blog about what you’re passionate about… or else you’re going to stop doing it”. That had to be THE most important thing I’ve ever heard about blogging and it’s absolutely true. I’m writing this post right this very second because I FEEL LIKE IT, and for no other reason. I’m enjoying thinking about it. I’m enjoying writing it. I’m going to enjoy posting it and receiving feedback about it. πŸ˜€

Second, you want to create content for your Passionate Viewers.

Again, back in the day… I was discussing the creation and production of web shows with my friend Drew Olanoff and he told me his opinions about views vs viewERs. Basically, my experience up until that point had been with the technical side of creating videos and I had had little-to-no interaction with end-users, viewers that weren’t my personal friends, and certainly not entire communities of people who interact with each other based on a common love of or respect for a show.

Paraphrasing Drew’s point.. He felt that it was better to focus on your small amount of Passionate Viewers than to attempt to cater to a potentially way larger number of people that might drop by your show, watch an episode or two and bounce.

At the time, I didn’t understand why that would be, but I was willing to consider the theory. I eventually agreed entirely when my own shows & blogs gained an expanded audience and I got to experience the differences between the groups firsthand.

My stats have pretty consistently looked like this for the past few years.

93% Passers-By and 7% Regulars… Except the Regulars make up 17% of my visits.

I would certainly rather keep my current percentage of Regulars than increase my numbers of Passers-By at the expense of some of my Passionate Readers/Viewers.

While it would be nice to keep the current Regulars and convert some of the Passers-By into still more Regulars, I like to think about blogging relative to real life instead of relative to other, immensely more popular blogs.

Subscribers, Commenters, Lurkers & Passers-By

I currently have 118 people who subscribe to BillCammack.com by email. If you think about that… When was the last time that you gathered 118 people somewhere so they could listen to something you said? o_O … Probably “Never”, because I know that’s the answer for me.

So, each one of y’all 118 people, I appreciate you for tuning in. πŸ™‚ Thank You, and I try to keep things interesting around here. πŸ˜‰

My actual subscriber number currently reads 244, because they add in people who subscribe via RSS and receive my blog articles in their feed readers. I’m sure a number of those are “bots” (robots, automated computer processes), but for those of y’all that are real people, Thanks for subscribing! πŸ˜€

Even amongst subscribers, you have Lurkers, who read the articles but don’t comment directly on my blog. That doesn’t mean they aren’t sharing my posts with other people and discussing my ideas on other social networking sites & forums. I’m happy about that as well, because I don’t blog so people can come to my site. I blog because I feel like it and if someone else gets something out of it, that’s icing on the cake. If someone finds what I write to be entertaining, educational or useful, even better! πŸ˜€

Then, You have the behind-the-scenes commenters.. The people that strike up conversations with me about my content when we run into each other at parties. The people that email or DM me to let me know what’s going on with them or that they enjoyed a particular post. It’s always gratifying to hear that someone got something out of an article I didn’t even have to write. It’s like when I happen to walk down a street or get into a particular subway car and tourists ask me for directions. I just happened to be there to point them in the right direction, and that’s always a good feeling.

The top level is the online commenters! πŸ˜€ .. I shouted out many of them 10 months ago in my last post of 2009: billcammack.com/2009/12/31/world-in-my-eyes-happy-new-year.

It’s the commenters that make my blog a community instead of a bunch of speeches by Bill Cammack. Lots of times, readers get more out of what the commenters share than what I initially posted!… I learn stuff from them also and I’m open to changing directions if someone has a convincing argument that things are actually different than I currently believe them to be.

So.. Thanks again, commenters! πŸ˜€ .. We almost have another full year together under our belts! πŸ˜€

How Many Do You Need?

The way I see it, from my personal experience with online communities between 2006 and 2010, the only people you should be concerned with if you’re thinking about starting a blog or podcast or web series are 1) YOURSELF, and 2) the people who are genuinely interested in what you’re talking about and are willing to read, listen, watch and maybe even join in the conversation.

If that’s 100,000 people?… Fine… However, it’s ALSO fine if it’s 10 people.. five of whom are related to you. πŸ™‚

If you feel like you NEED a bunch of people to consistently watch your show and click on your advertisements or else you’re not going to be able to MAKE your show, you have the wrong business model. Do it cheaper. Use fewer graphics. Spend fewer hours creating it. Edit it less. Use a webcam instead of a video camera. Output once a week instead of once a day. Output once a month instead of once a week. If you have something you want to express, just figure out how to do it within your budget & time constraints and make it happen!

In fact.. Sometimes, I’ll write an entire blog post or make a video just so ONE PERSON can see it (or maybe a specific, small set of people). In those cases, if 1,000 people watch the video and the person/people I made it for didn’t, I wasn’t successful in communicating my expression to them.

OTOH.. If 10 people watch a video and I know that the three people I made it for saw it?… Mission Accomplished! πŸ˜€

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