Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 19 February 2013

The Numbers Game...

Or, as I’m calling it, right now, ‘The Pistorius Effect’.

You may remember that yesterday I wrote a blog about the defence that Oscar Pistorius might offer for his killing of Reeva Steenkamp. I was trying to put myself in the shoes of his legal team to come up with a plausible explanation for him firing four bullets into his girlfriend’s head and chest that wouldn’t make him look like a homicidal maniac. To some extent, I suppose I was commenting on the terrible state of affairs in South Africa, and, I was also commenting on the continued power of the old, white, patriarchal society anywhere in the first world to protect its own.

Either way, that was yesterday and this is today, and the reason that I haven’t called today’s blog, ‘The Pistorius Effect’ is because I’m not actually cynical when it comes to the numbers game, the popularity contest that exists out there on the web when it comes to blogging.

I don’t write this blog to attract the casual reader and to be able to claim that vast numbers of people are passing through. I don’t choose titles for my posts that will pull in casual readers who might never return. It is not my intention to be salacious... That’s what The Sun is for. When news broke that Oscar Pistorius had shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp, the national newspapers wanted pictures to illustrate the story for their front pages; of course they did. Those pictures included shots of Pistorius winning races, and shots of Pistorius being arrested; they also included pictures of Pistorius and Steenkamp in public together during their relationship. The Sun went with a full page shot of Reeva Steenkamp in a bikini. It sold thousands of extra copies that day to idiots who wanted to look at a murdered girl wearing almost nothing. Those same people probably won’t buy a newspaper tomorrow... not even The Sun. They have no interest in anything approximating an opinion, and they have no loyalty to anything.

I write about the things that interest me and I hope that they interest other people too. When they do, I’m thrilled, and if they don’t, that’s fine too. Generally, just getting a snark off my chest, or airing an idea, or simply sharing some news is good enough for me. I put my stuff out into the ether, and there it is... Gone.

In fact, I’m always rather surprised when a comment comes in, and I’m positively shocked when someone takes the trouble to tell me that they’ve read, and possibly even enjoyed something I’ve written about here.

I’m hugely flattered that I’m reaching a readership of a couple of hundred people a day. It’s lovely.

Yesterday, I called my blog, “The Oscar Pistorius Defence”. The reason why today I decided not to call my blog, “The Oscar Pistorius Effect”, even though that would have been my choice, is because of yesterday’s numbers.

As a general rule I get around a hundred hits before lunch and around a hundred hits after lunch. Yesterday... and I can only think it was because of the title of the blog... Yesterday I was averaging a hundred hits an hour on my blog during the peak reading time of the day. By the middle of the afternoon, I was seriously beginning to wonder how many hits I was going to get, and, honestly, it was beginning to worry me a bit.

I knew nothing about Oscar Pistorius or his case, except what I’d picked up in the Sunday papers. My knowledge wasn’t even current as new information was streaming in all the time, and yet a chunk of the World was clearly grabbing everything and anything that was out there, by anyone that had a moment to write something about Pistorius and Steenkamp and what might have happened in that house in Pretoria. 

The numbers did begin to tail off when the USA went on-line. Their news agencies generally cover less international news and are less interested in it. Ordinarily, I’d say that was a bad thing. Ordinarily, I’d suggest that made them insular, isolationist, or just plain ill-informed, or misled by a controlling media... I don’t know. Today, I’m not sure what to think.

I hope that my readership will grow by word of mouth and because those who happen upon my blog because they’ve hit upon a keyword in one of my titles or labels like what I’ve done and come back for more.

I’m not sure about titles, though. I’m not sure whether I might be a little more careful in future when bandying about the names of the famous and/or notorious. There’s a little minx on my shoulder suggesting that I might just want to experiment, that I might just want to save my Monday blog to comment on the biggest story of the week from the weekend papers, and give the post a title to draw in the crowds. Who knows, maybe it’s time to do something topical... On the other hand...

Go on, comment, you know you want to.


  1. do you think this will make you more wary about how you label the blogs? I guess sometimes it's easy to forget how "open" the net is and how easy it is for people "surf" into places they wouldn't normally go, thanks to a few words in certain places.

    I imagine these days with hashtags, and labels, it's easy for these kinda things to quickly get indexed by specific key words or topics.

    still, you could get creative (read cheeky). find the most topical story online and somehow weave words into the blog or blog title that might lure complete YAHOO! 's in heh. maybe if you were paid for hits through advertising or just to mess with people in general.

    that's awareness for ya. getting there is one thing, but getting back is not so easy, and should you get back (i.e. forget) you probably won't notice for a while (not that you'd probably want to anyway!)

    1. 2 of my top 3 most read blogs ever are titled, 'When all I Wanted was a Pair of Knickers' and includes '50 Shades of Grey' in the labels, and 'When Writing is like Making a Porn Movie', so I'm guessing that, yes, titles do attract readers. Those people don't stick around for long, and I'd hate any of my lovely regulars to think that I was cynical enough to court that kind of popularity. So, I stopped writing titles like that.

      On the other hand, when I am interested in something, I don't want my choice of titles to be compromised as it was today, somewhat. I also like the idea of devoting one day a week to a big topical story, and writing an opinion on it. After all, I'm nothing if not opinionated. Smiles.

      I do think it's important for titles to be fairly transparent when it comes to blogs. The reader really ought to have some idea of what they're getting when they step on. The internet is a big place and blogging can be quite a competitive sport for those who take it seriously enough to want to make it part of the newsfeed or who want to earn money doing it. I take it seriously, because I've sort of made it part of my presence in the world, but it's still really only about me and my thoughts, and I have no will to compete, per se, in this arena.

    2. it's funny how these things go. as a somewhat strange example, someone I follow was messaged today to remove a question he was asked on formspring, because the question then appeared on the first page of google (let's just say it was a rather crude question). needless to say the person wasn't too happy about it appearing in google.

      which made me think. I mean it's all very well trying not to attract unwanted attention, but there's clearly a bunch of rules involved (with search engines) and it's not like they really explain what they are. maybe it's worth googling your own name every now and then just to see what the first couple of pages of results have to say.

    3. I just did that, with some trepidation (having never googled myself before) and, probably because I'm the only person on the planet with my name, everything listed on the first ten pages was, in one way or another, generated by me.

      On the whole, I guess that's a good thing. Of course, if the World ever takes an interest in me, I'll be changing my name to Jane Smith.

    4. luckily for me, my name has significant pre-existing representation that will happily (read hopefully) obscure anything I might get myself into ...

      still, I can somewhat imagine a future (or present) where people pay off search engines so they don't bring you up heh.

  2. I guess I only have myself to blame. I just googled, "The Oscar Pistorius Defence", and, bearing in mind that I wrote this blog yesterday morning, and my search garnered almost 50 million results, my blog still appears on page 8 of those results. Crikey!

  3. Trend setting through, even BBC NEWS 24 are using the line "The Oscar Pistorius Defence" during the story (joke). To be honest through, then you talk on a current story or item of interest you'll always gain an influx for a short time. I did it a few years ago and got over a thousand individual hits on my blog (before I accidentally nuked the content during a back-up). Can't remember what I wrote but it didn't get me any new readers for long.

    At least you can hold up your head through, you said your bit and were honest about your opinions on the subject, unlike some blogs that have been cracking jokes about the incident.

  4. I think in a way it is a good idea. Because sometimes intelligent people will stumble across things like this and stick around and read a bit more and become interested. However as you say you don't want to 'court that type of popularity'. However even if you do use (I nearly said sensationalist, shame on me!) 'topical' titles, i.e. titles that reference current popular events, perhaps with names or labels of things that are popular, you will gain extra readers, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. If they stick around, evidently they connect with the blog and therefore you would assume they are intelligent, thoughtful people who enjoy your intelligent, thought-provoking blogs, Nik. :)

  5. Personally I prefer the blog title "The Iron Snakes Effect', but hey, thats just me.

    Just one more thing, you should start writing some Columbo scripts.

    Tom in Norwich