Reviewing 2009 on my blog (mostly for my own information, but I share it because that’s what bloggers do):
My most popular post by far (more than twice as many views as anything else) was my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, posted April 27. I proposed a detailed new business model for community news organizations. It received more links from other blogs and more tweets than anything else I’ve written this year. And interest in C3 remains strong. (After traffic on that post declined from June through September, it increased in October and November. December didn’t quite match November, but exceeded August, September and October). C3 gets more attention in a slow month than my average post gets total.
Everyone wants a blog post to go viral, but I’m glad I didn’t write something quirky that went off the charts. C3 was one of the most important things I’ve written this year (or in my career), so I’m pleased that it received more attention than any other post. I’ve been invited to make presentations dealing with C3 in Florida, Nevada, California, Texas, Siberia and Canada. I hope in 2010 to be writing about how Gazette Communications and other organizations are carrying out the vision of C3.
If I wrote anything as important as C3 this year, it was my call for news organizations to pursue a mobile-first strategy, posted Nov. 20. It’s my fifth most-popular post. A follow-up post, detailing how an organization would pursue the mobile-first strategy, was my 15th most-popular. I combined those two posts and an earlier post on helping businesses pursue mobile opportunities into a single pdf with a table of contents and nearly 800 people have read that document posted on Scribd.
Four topics that I addressed multiple times appear to have generated strong interest repeatedly:
- Newspaper companies’ interest in charging for access to online content.
- Journalism ethics in social media
- Changes at the Gazette
Twitter. My Twitter posts tended to fall in three different types: tips on using Twitter, accounts of how Twitter provided valuable information on breaking news and critiques of people who wrote about Twitter and didn’t know what they were talking about.
My Twitter tutorial, Leading your staff into the Twitterverse, written to accompany a webinar for the American Society of News Editors, was easily my second most-popular post. A similar tutorial, Twitter tips for journalists, makes the top 20. My slides accompanying two Twitter workshops were my most-viewed presentations on SlideShare this year, too. I hope they have helped some journalists and business people use Twitter more effectively.
I have blogged several times on how useful Twitter is for journalists covering breaking news stories — an earthquake in Indonesia, a trolley accident in Boston, the floods in North Dakota. With the exception of the North Dakota floods post, which made my top 30 posts, those g0t fairly modest traffic.
I have taken to task some journalists who write scornfully about Twitter. I don’t mind criticism of Twitter. But I am critical of columnists and bloggers who betray their ignorance of Twitter in their writing. I think writers should learn something about the topics they address. I ripped Leonard Pitts, Paul Farhi, Edward Wasserman and Philip Lee for writing in ignorance about Twitter (could have ripped more, but I didn’t bother to take them all on). I should add that Pitts is one of my favorite columnists and that I like him personally, having met him twice. My post ripping him ranks 12th in views, which probably is a testament to his popularity.
Paywalls. I wrote so often about paid content that my post on July 25 mocked how often I wrote about it (and how often newspaper executives have tried it). I promised in that post to try not to address the topic again. Three weeks later, I was back on the topic, with my third most-read post of the year, Newspapers’ Original Sin: not failing to charge, but failing to innovate. With 52 comments, that probably drew the most discussion of anything I wrote that year. I was playing off something Alan Mutter had written earlier in the year, contending that failure to charge for online content in the 1990s was newspaper publishers’ Original Sin of the Internet age. My post provoked a few other writers to weigh in with their thoughts on what the Original Sin was. Tim O’Brien of the New York Times and I had a vigorous exchange about this post in Twitter and in the comments. And Chris O’Brien (no relation) of the San Jose Mercury News responded in his blog. It was a fun discussion, but not nearly my best writing of the year. It was too long and it covered two primary topics (it’s always best to choose one topic). I did a better job of addressing the issue of paid content in Seven reasons charging for content won’t work (No. 8 in views), Google’s no threat to press freedom (my opening remarks for a panel discussion at First Amendment Day at Iowa State University) and Clinging to the past won’t save newspapers (18th in traffic for the year).
Ethics. I criticized policies on social media ethics of the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times (Andrew Nystrom provided a pretty good defense in the comments) and praised the policies of the Roanoke Times and NPR. Those posts usually attracted brief bursts of attention, with the Washington Post critique making my seventh most-read post of the year. I led nine ethics seminars this year for the American Press Institute and my handout on journalism ethics in social networks ranks 16th in readership.
Changes at the Gazette. This was a tumultuous year at Gazette Communications and I wrote frequently about the changes we were making and considering. We cut the staff and reorganized the newsroom. My title changed twice, starting the year as editor and ending as C3 innovation coach. I don’t know how much the attention came from the community or the industry, but seven posts relating to changes at our company ranked in the top 21 posts for the year. I haven’t written much about the changes in the second half of the year. New Editor Lyle Muller has addressed more recent changes in his column and blog.
Four other professional topics brought varying levels of attention:
- Curriculum advice for journalism schools, my 13th most-viewed post of the year.
- Several takes on whether government should subsidize journalism (it shouldn’t).
- Handouts for workshops on blogging, multimedia storytelling, liveblogging and disaster coverage in the digital age.
- I posted several times on how digital tools are changing storytelling.
For the first half of the year, I was writing a column for The Gazette and that appeared first on my blog. Occasionally, I would write about community or state issues. Most notable of those posts:
- Time for Cedar Rapids to get pushy
- Iowa has more important fights than marriage rules
- If the “fifth season” is progress, it better be a long season
Two personal topics generated notable attention on the blog: the illness and death of my nephew, Patrick Devlin, and the World War II diary of my uncle, Frank Arnold. I first wrote about Patrick in a professional context, noting that CaringBridge was bringing me my most important news and wondering whether news organizations needed to provide better platforms for big personal news (a central part of the C3 approach). The supportive response to that post (and subsequent updates about Patrick on the blog, Twitter and Facebook) prompted me to post my eulogy for Patrick. The eulogy was republished by the Green Mountain Scout Council and linked from a social site popular with adolescents. It ranked 27th in traffic for the year. I’m glad I was able to share Patrick’s story with people who were unable to meet him.
Uncle Frank’s diary was linked from an Army chaplain’s blog, which gave it a wider audience than the family members I thought would be the primary audience. He was a genuine war hero who wrote with humor and grace about his daily life during the war. Again, I was pleased to share his story.
As a lifelong Yankee fan, I could not resist blogging during the playoffs and World Series. But I thought those completely personal posts didn’t belong here, so I started a separate Hated Yankees blog, where I’ll continue blogging about baseball occasionally.
The most popular post I wrote that doesn’t fit one of the categories already discussed: My plea to Help me explore and enjoy Eastern Iowa, my sixth-most-read post of the year. I received lots of helpful answers (and I presume the continuing interest means the answers are helping others as well). Mimi and I took some (but not nearly enough) of the advice: canoeing the Maquoketa River, eating at Odie’s in Maquoketa and Breitbach’s in Balltown, visiting Backbone State Park and the Tabor Winery. We have more places to check out in 2010.
The most interesting place I checked out in 2009 was far from Iowa. I posted several times from Siberia, using Google to post Russian translations for the friends I made there.
I wrote more than 250 posts in 2009 and most made barely a ripple. The posts I most expected/hoped to draw wide attention that didn’t were two posts offering advice to journalists starting their careers or to experienced journalists seeking work: Your digital profile tells people a lot and Elevate your journalism career.
My biggest bust of the year was my series of posts on tweeting the wisdom of the ages. It drew little attention, obviously not as clever or insightful as I thought. Blogging should occasionally be a humbling experience.
I’ve enjoyed interacting with you this year. I’ve appreciated your comments, especially those that corrected my errors or helped fill gaps in my reporting and reasoning. I wonder what surprises and opportunities next year will present.