This blog is now more than 10 years old. Now the little party to celebrate the anniversary is behind me, I need to set about working out what this blog is for these days.
The brutal truth is that this blog is struggling – reader numbers are down month on month, and especially for the things I write about politics and the European Union. It’s only stories about other things (like how to find a flat in Berlin, or how to use the railways of Bulgaria) that keep the stats reasonable respcectable – at about 15000 individual visitors a month.
I did contemplate simply stopping the blog at the 10 year mark, leaving it there as some kind of a testament to a period in EU politics where being an enterprising individual did actually give you a partial voice. As Kosmopolit argues, it’s not as if there are many other independent blogs about the EU any more.
I also think that this blog, and indeed also my presence on Twitter, owe a lot more to the hype cycle than anything else – I have the audience I do because I was early, I was one of the first in the business, and attracted an audience here long before anyone knew what a blog even was, and on Twitter before the Brussels bubble had woken up to the power of that network.
But what do I then actually do about all of this?
First of all I have not stopped the blog because it still gives me joy to write it, and I still have plenty of ideas. As someone said to me at the 10 year anniversary, don’t stop doing it because then you become like all the rest (meaning just being one more author among others on larger platforms). For reasons I do not fully understand there are people who actually like what I write, so rather than – as has been the case until now – being rather surprised by this, I am instead just going to live with that. I need to be more confident of my audience.
Second, while keeping that in mind, I need to professionalise what I produce here. That means an end to esoteric rants about life as a freelancer, or odd reflections about Linux on a Mac. The core of this blog needs to be about Berlin, German and EU politics, and my membership of the Grüne here in Berlin. Politics dominates my life, and so it will dominate this blog. I may still find time for guides about other things, but those will not be given pride of place (most of the traffic to those is from Google anyway).
Third, I am going to experiment cross-posting content elsewhere to see if it can attract a larger audience as a result. I may also more systematically re-visit columns for other websites or publications. Also organisations and publications are welcome to syndicate my content – all you need to do is ask.
Fourth, friends have told me I have a knack of digging up interesting articles and stories through what I read online, but that Twitter is too fleeting a way to follow all of these. I am hence going to create a kind of “What I am reading” system, and integrate that into the blog here, and also improve the e-mail service I provide to readers – something along the lines of a once-a-week compilation of interesting things I have both written and read, with some good visuals added in as well.
If I keep on going as I have been until now this blog will fade into insignificance. That, I have concluded, is not actually something that I want to happen. This blog is more central to who I am as a person, and what I do professionally, to simply let that happen. So the fightback starts here!
[UPDATE 28.7.2015, 1200]
A few changes have been made to the blog already. The very buggy “Notification by e-mail” system has been turned off, pending the launch of the newsletter system. Links to my profiles on more social networks have been added, and more consistency applied here – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are my primary networks for text and debate, and Instagram and Flickr for images. Anything else (Xing, Pinterest, App.net, Ello, or any video services) will not feature as these are too sporadically used. The “What I am Reading” system has been established – using Delicious and RSS – but it’s a bit buggy as well so far. But progress has been made already.
[UPDATE 29.7.2015, 1300]
New blog template has been applied. Google Analytics has been disabled. All blog traffic now served over https:// – SSL encrypted. New cookie approval system in place. The final step is to sort out the newsletter – that is currently being put together!
Good to hear someone’s keeping going. Around my ten year mark I was thinking about reviving the blog, but found that I lacked the passion I once had. The occasional rant on Twitter is enough for me these days.
Re: professionalising it, makes a lot of sense and can’t hurt, especially considering how you’ve been earning a living the last few years. No reason you can’t still write about the other things that interest you, but makes sense to split the different facets off into their own streams rather than have them all in one place.
(My experience: if you focus too much on only one area in a bid to give your readers what you think they want, you’ll likely get bored/frustrated. Professionalising is good, and there are a load more opportunities along these lines now than there were even a couple of years ago, but do it because you want to, and because it’s interesting – not because you feel you should. I think this was part of the reason for my blogging petering out: it had ended up *too* EU politics focused, because I felt it needed more focus on its core – but I was getting increasingly bored with the subject matter and felt increasingly like I had nothing of value to add to increasingly technical debates. I couldn’t be bothered to put the effort in to win over new audiences on other topics that interest me at the time, and now don’t have the time to write for fun any more – though I’m trying to change this…)
Short version: stick with it, and congrats on the anniversary.