This semester in publishing has certainly taught me quite a bit about being a content creator. Despite having used the internet for so many years, this was my first opportunity to own and operate my own site, and the amount of learning that came out of it surprised even my own initial expectations.
CREATING THE BLOG
There were certainly some hurdles in the beginning, aside from setting up the infrastructure of the website. Just deciding on what direction to go in was a question that I spent a lot of time brainstorming about. I wanted to pick something that I was actually interested in – I knew that if I did so, working on the site wouldn’t just be an assignment, but something that I would want to do, even in my personal time.
I decided to create a site that was all about one of my favourite things on the internet; featuring content, particularly video series, that you can potentially binge watch for weeks on end. These were the types of videos that would lead me down a rabbit hole for very long periods of time, and that was the same type of appeal that I wanted offer. It would help me build an audience that would be reliable readers in the long run, and not ones that would fade away by the month’s end. Considering that online attention spans over viral trends have been declining over time (McClinton, 2019), I felt that it was to my advantage to avoid chasing over shallow headlines in that way, and instead pursue more substantive topics.
As implied previously, even though I hadn’t learned the formal definition of a public at the time, I was essentially going through the same process (Warner, 2002): I knew that I wanted this platform to be a place catering to certain types of publics, two in particular.
The first type of public that I wanted to reach were those people that are open-minded and willing to delve into new things. I felt that these users were more likely to explore new content by smaller creators like myself, and also more likely to share content with those around them.
The second type of public that I wanted to reach were those that had a certain level of curiosity and inclination to learning. As mentioned, I didn’t want to just spotlight trends that would come and go very quickly. I wanted to build an audience that would be consistently loyal and that would stick around in the long run. I felt that this public, one that is committed to learning, would be most likely to engage in content in a more meaningful way.
I’ve made sure that my content and design cater to those publics. For example, all of the reviews that I cover tend to feature thoughtful or unique content, something that is more likely to withstand the test of time. This also creates value for the people that want to browse my blog. First off, all the channels and topics that are featured have gone through my own review process. For the publics that I’m catering to, they are easily able to find a similar type of content that they want to watch, in a convenient way. But in addition to that, I try to tie in related concepts and my own commentary about the content. This gives readers that are unfamiliar with the topic a little bit of context beforehand and extra background about those topics. This serves to actively contribute to the overall conversation (one of my original aspirations for this blog in the first place).
In terms of Google Analytics, even though the overall traffic on the site remains low (because it’s still early on in its lifespan), it seems that those that are visiting my blog are staying long enough to keep the bounce rate below 50%. The total number of views has also steadily gone up, albeit at a slow rate, and I even noticed the first few international hits in these past few weeks. From this, it appears that readers so far are engaging with the content, which was one of my objectives I previously mentioned. Part of the major obstacle to growth at this point may simply be trying to get the website out there. I haven’t yet thoroughly incorporated my site into my personal social media, which I can imagine can help drive some additional views. A certain level of advertising may also be helpful, although it can be expensive at this early stage. In terms of comments, there hasn’t been enough traffic so far to gauge audience reaction. However, feedback has been mostly positive from those around me, and I’ve incorporated some of the suggestions from peer reviews in my site.
TAKING A LOOK BACK
Looking back on this semester, I’ve learned quite a bit about the publication process. Building your own brand and setting up a personal website were mostly theoretical ideas for me, and not something that I had hands-on experience in. I always felt that you needed to be an expert in these areas just to be able to set up a basic site. After this semester however, I’ve learned how easy it is to get started building a website – even the technical aspects of running a site. In fact, the more difficult parts are often the long-term sustainability of the site, particularly ensuring search engine optimization for the site (Hollingsworth, 2018), for example, or how to monetize content in order to keep operations sustainable. That class reading in particular reminded me of how much subsequent growth requires not just work on your own site, but also on others’, in a sense.
This semester has also given me a new admiration for content creators and their work. Over time, and after putting an enormous amount of work into the site, it’s become valuable to me, and a platform that I use to convey my thoughts to the wider world. It’s almost become a kind of hobby or side project that I turn to, something that genuinely does give me a sense of accomplishment when I finally get a widget to work, or finally figure out how to fix a small issue on the site. For content creators, their sites are things that they put their heart into, and a level of dedication that I hadn’t realized.
Looking forward, I would hope to be able to continue this site, because I feel that it’s such an important part of adding to online discourse. Social networking sites have continued to rise in popularity (Clement, 2020), and the larger that they’ve grown, the more discourse seems to revolve around those platforms. Having my own platform, even if it’s still just a very small voice, is an important channel of communication that I don’t yet want to lose.
This semester has also revived some of my long-held ideas to establish a personal site for my professional career. I’ve definitely learned enough at this point to be able to work on expanding my professional online presence in the years to come.
Clement, J. (2020, February 26). Daily time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide from 2012 to 2019. Retrieved from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/433871/daily-social-media-usage-worldwide/
Hollingsworth, S. (2018, April 13). 12 Reasons Why Your Business Absolutely Needs SEO. Retrieved from Search Engine Journal: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/why-seo-is-important-for-business/248101/#close
McClinton, D. (2019, April 17). Global attention span is narrowing and trends don’t last as long, study reveals. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/16/got-a-minute-global-attention-span-is-narrowing-study-reveals
Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 413-425.