Friday, September 01, 2006

Summertime Blues: Bloggers Get No Vacation

Some of the web's most elite bloggers struggle with the decision to take a vacation, according to yesterday's Wall Street Journal article, "No Day at the Beach: Bloggers Struggle With What to Do About Vacation":

A banner stripped across the top of the Daily Dish declares that the popular Web log's host, Andrew Sullivan, has "gone fishing." Mr. Sullivan declared a two-week vacation and opted to leave his political blog behind.

Several thousand of his readers have done the same.

Despite the efforts of three verbose guest bloggers, replacements handpicked by Mr. Sullivan, the site's visitor tally has fallen. The Daily Dish, now part of Time magazine, usually garners around 90,000 unique visitors, or individual readers, each day. At the start of the first workweek without him, Mr. Sullivan's blog received about 67,000 hits, according to Site Meter. This week, traffic has hovered around 57,000.

"The frequency of emails of 'Bring back Andrew' and 'This is stupid. Bring back Andrew' is definitely higher than anything I've ever written," says David Weigel, a 24-year-old assistant editor at Reason magazine, who is one of Mr. Sullivan's guest bloggers and has filled in at other sites in the past.

In the height of summer-holiday season, bloggers face the inevitable question: to blog on break or put the blog on a break? Fearing a decline in readership, some writers opt not to take vacations. Others keep posting while on location, to the chagrin of their families. Those brave enough to detach themselves from their keyboards for a few days must choose between leaving the site dormant or having someone blog-sit.

To be sure, most bloggers don't agonize over this decision. Of the 12 million bloggers on the Internet, only about 13% post daily, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Even fewer -- 10% -- spend 10 or more hours a week on their blogs.

Yet for the sliver of people whose livelihood depends on the blog -- whether they are conservative, liberal or don't care -- stepping away from the keyboard can be difficult. Unlike other jobs, where co-workers can fill in for an absent employee, blogs are usually a one-person show. A blogger's personality carries the site. When the host isn't there, readers tend to stray. August is a slow time for all blogs, but having an absent host makes the problem worse. Lose enough readers, and advertisers are sure to join the exodus.
Read the whole thing. Apparently Glenn Reynolds didn't worry too much before handing-over his blog,
InstaPundit, to a trio of guest posters (one of whom, Ann Althouse, is a favorite of mine) before heading out for a week's vacation.

Certainly, though, any blogger interested in building and keeping readers will have this problem, though it's not an acute crisis for most less-well-known blog publishers. I mean, geez, it must be a luxury to have the option of having some of the blogosphere's most well-known names substitute for a few posts.

I didn't really want to take a break from blogging in July, when I went on my family vacation. My compromise was to put up a post on building traffic, "
Blog Earthquake: Create a Traffic Temblor that Rocks Your Sitemeter to its Foundations," an entry that proved to be fairly popular, and helped build my referral list, especially at Blog Soldiers.

Note, by the way, how the online version of this story does not include hyperlinks to all the blogs discussed, perhaps an indication -- as top bloggers point out frequently when discussing the mainstream press -- that the big newspapers see a threat from blog journalism.

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