Category: Blogging

Link Fixing and the Wayback Machine

This blog has been around for a long time, moved several times (both in hardware and physical locations), been ignored, and has become broken.

Since the start of the month (April 2022) I have been restoring the links and images on this blog from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. If you didn’t want it out there anymore, the Wayback Machine will find it.

It will likely take time to restore the glory that once was the Newest Industry blog, and, yes, some posts will be removed, but it’s coming back.

Hüsker Dü’s Newest Industry and The World Today

This blog used to have a different name, but a few years ago, I let the registration of the domain lapse and someone else snapped it up. It was based around a Hüsker Dü song from Zen Arcade.

I’ve been listening to that album a lot lately, and this song keeps standing out as a timeless reminder of what we will do to ourselves if things get out of hand.

Listen carefully; these lyrics from 1982/3 still have a deep meaning.

New Server – New Fun!

This is the amazing “new” server that this blog is hosted on. Using a dynamic DNS service and Ubuntu on a 9 year-old MacBook, I have taken control of my blog again, trying to revive it from the untouched archive it has been for the last few years.
[Oh, and if you have arrived here from a Newest Industry link, don’t panic. Just search for the article you want – they’re all here.]

I’ve just recently changed companies (through an acquisition), so I will have new web performance items to hook into as I get a chance to work with new customers.
All raise your glass – PerformanceZen is back.

The Loss of Blogging Voice, or Why I removed the Ads from my Blog

I have had advertising on my blog for as long as I can remember. Except for the period of time when I hosted the site at WordPress.com, I have always had AdSense, Chitika, or some other ad services content being contextually presented to my visitors.

Frankly, I found having ads up on my site extremely hypocritical, as I do everything in my power to avoid seeing ads of any kind during my day-to-day Web use. My browsers have ad-blocking plugins, or pass through ad-blocking proxies to eliminate the content I see as intrusive and unwanted.

Still, I spent a long time thinking about ad-placement on my own blog, and what I could do to drive traffic to get revenue, from something I didn’t believe in myself.
Yes, my blog doesn’t get huge amounts of traffic. And yes, I have been paid out exactly four times by AdSense in the 5 years I have been blogging. In four years, I have made $400 from the ads on my site.

I find ads intrusive, invasive, repulsive, and, in many cases, extremely ugly. So why should visitors to my site have to suffer with them?

Effective Sunday, August 9 2009, the ad code, in all its various forms, has been eliminated from my site. My blog is now officially ad-free. And it will stay that way.
For me, ad-revenue is ineffective. It takes away from the true reason I started writing this blog: I have something to say. If I am always thinking “How will this play with the contextual ad providers?”, then I am not writing in my own voice. I am writing to meet the criteria of an algorithm that triggers on certain words and will provide advertising that might make me money.

By presenting ads to visitors, the same ads that I despise.

When you step back and think about your blog, consider the following.

  • Do you think about every word in your posts, considering its effect on your SEO?
  • Do you change your site design often to try and discover the optimal ad layout?
  • Is ad revenue more important than your reputation as a blogger?
  • Do you always think about branding in terms of dollars instead of in terms of authority and reputation?

Blogging is not about the money. And while I read Darren Rowse and other pro-blogging advocates, I also realize that they’re focus is on quality content for an appreciative audience.

I feel that ad revenues can lead to the loss of your blogging voice. And my voice and reputation are what are most vital to me, not dollars from ugly ads.

PageRank for Social Media is a Broken Metaphor

When I posted Advertising to the Community: Is PageRank a Good Model for Social Media? a couple of days ago, I was working in a vacuum. I was responding to some degree to the infamous BusinessWeek article [NB: Ancient link no longer active], and to the comments Matt Rhodes made on the idea of PageRank being used to rate social media participation.

Turns out I am not alone in criticizing this simplistic approach rating the importance and relevance of conversations and community. Mark Earls comments on the power of super-users [here], and how the focus on these influencers misses the entire point of community and conversation. John Bell of the Digital Influence Mapping Project and Ogilvy points out that the relationships in social media and online communities are inherently more complex than creating a value based on the number of interactions someone has with a community [here].

This conversation is becoming very interesting. There are a lot of very bright people who are considering many different approaches to ranking the importance of a conversation or a community based not only on who is participating, but how engaged people are.

If communities or conversations are run and directed by a select group of people, then they are called dictatorships or lectures. Breaking down, rather than erecting, barriers is why social media is such a powerful force.

Advertising to the Community: Is PageRank a Good Model for Social Media?

In previous posts about advertising and marketing to the new social media world [here and here], I postulated that it is very difficult to assign a value to a stream of comments, a community of followers, or a conversation.

As always, Google seems (to think) it has the answer. BusinessWeek reports the vague concept of PageRank for the People [here]. Matt Rhodes agrees with this idea, and that advertising will become more and more focused on the community, rather than on the content.

Where the real value in this discussion lies is in targeting the advertising to be relevant to the conversation. It’s not just matching the content. It’s all about making the advertising relevant to the context.

Is the tone of the conversation about the brand positive or negative? I like to point out that I see my articles about Gutter Helmet creating a content-match in the AdSense logic that drives this product to be advertised. What is lost in the logic that AdSense uses is that I am describing my extremely negative experience with Gutter Helmet.

Shouldn’t the competitors of Gutter Helmet be able to take advantage of this, based on the context of the article? Shouldn’t Gutter Helmet be trying to respond to these negative posts by monitoring the conversation and actively trying to turn a bad customer experience into a positive long-term relationship?

Conversation and community marketing is a far more complex problem than a modified PageRank algorithm. It is not about the number of connections, or the level of engagement. In the end, it is about ensuring that advertisers can target their shrinking marketing dollars at the conversations that are most important.
Injecting irrelevant content into conversation is not the way to succeed in this new approach. Being an active participant in the conversation is the key.

In effect, the old model that is based on the many eyeballs for the lowest cost approach is failing. A BuzzLogic model that examines conversations and encourages firms to intelligently and actively engage in them is the one that will win.

The road to success is based on engagement, not eyeballs.

Metrics in Conversational and Community Marketing

There is clear dissatisfaction with the current state of marketing among the social media mavens.

So what can be done? Jeff Jarvis points out that the problem lies with measurement. I agree, as there is only value in a system where all of the people involved agree on what the metric of record will be, and how it can be validly captured.

Currently CPM is the agreed upon metric. In a feed based online world, how does a CPM model work? And, most importantly, why would I continue to place your ads on my site if all your doing is advertising to people based on the words on the page, rather than who is looking at the page and how often that page is looked at.

In effect, advertisers should be the ones thrying to figure out how to get into the community, get into the conversation. As an advertiser, don’t you want to be where the action is? But how do you find an engaged audience in an online world that makes a sand castle on the beach in a hurricane look stable?

The challenge for advertisers is to be able to find the active communities and conversations effectively. The challenge for content creators and communities is to understand the value of their conversations, the interactions that people who visit the site have with the content.

In effect, a social media advertising model turns the current model on its head. Site owners and community creators gain the benefit of being attractive to advertisers because of the community, not because of the content. And site owners who understand who visits their site, what content most engages them, how they interact with the system will be able to reap the greatest rewards by selling their community as a marketable entity.

And Steven Hodson rounds out the week’s think on communities by throwing out the subversive idea that communities are not always free (as in ‘beer’, not as in ‘land of’). If a community has paid for the privilege of coming together to participate in communal events and discussions, then can’t that become an area for site owners to further control the cost of advertising on their site?

While the benefit of reduced or no marketing content is the benefit of many for-pay communities, this benefit can be used by site owners by saying that an advertiser can have access to the for-pay community at the cost of higher ad rates and smaller ads. The free community is a completely different set of rules, but there are also areas in the free community that are of higher value than others.

In summary, the current model is broken. But there is no way to measure the value of a Twitter stream, a FriendFeed conversation, a Disqus thread, or a Digg rampage. And until there is, we are stuck with an ad model that based on the words on the page, and not the community that created the words.

Blog Advertising: Toward a Better Model

This week, I have been discussing the different approaches to blog analytics that can be used to determine what posts from a blog’s archive are most popular, and whether a blog is front-loaded or long-tailed. The thesis is that it’s not always what the words in the blog are that are important.

In a guest post this morning at ProBlogger, Skellie discusses how the value of social media visitors is different and inherently more complex than the value of visitors generated from traditional methods, such as search and feedreaders. Her eight points further support my ideas that the old advertising models are not the best suited for the new blogging world.

Stepping away from the existing advertising models that have been used since blogging popularity exploded in 2005 and 2006, it is clear that the new, interactive social web model requires an advertising approach that centers on community and conversation, rather than the older idea of context and aggregated readership.

The Current Model

Current blog advertising falls into two categories:

  1. Contextual Ads. This is the Google model, and is based on the ad network auctioning off keywords and phrases to advertisers for the privilege of seeing their ad links or images appear on pages that contain those words or phrases.
  2. Sponsored Ads. Once a blog is popular enough and can prove a well-developed audience, the blogger can offer to sell space on his blog to advertisers who wish to have their products, offerings or companies presented to the target audience.

In my opinion, these two approaches fail blog owners.

Contextual ads understand the content of the page, but do not understand the popularity of the page, or its relationship to the popularity of other pages in the archive.Contextual ads lack a sense of community, a sense of conversation. While the model has proven successful, it does not maximize the reach that a blog has with its own audience.

Sponsored ads understand the audience that the blog reaches, but do not account for posts that draw the readers’ attention for the longest time, both in terms of time spent reading and thinking about the post as well as over time in an historical sense. The sponsored ad model assumes that all posts get equal attention, or drive community and conversation to the same degree.

The New Model

In the new model, more effective use of visitor analytics is vital to shaping the type and value of the ads sold. Studying the visitor statistics of a blog will allow the owners to see whether the blog is, in general, front-loaded or long-tailed.

If the blog has a front-loaded audience, the most recent posts are of higher value and could be auctioned of at higher prices. In order for this to work, both the ad-hoster and the advertiser would have to agree to the value of the most recent posts using a proven and open statistical analysis methodology. In the case of front-loaded blogs, this analysis methodology would have to demonstrate that there is a higher traffic volume for posts that are between 0-3 days old (setting a hypothetical boundary on front-loading).

For blogs that are long-tailed, those posts that continue to draw consistent traffic would be valued far more highly than those that fall out into the general ebb and flow of a bloggers traffic. These posts have proven historically that they appear highly in search results and are visited often.

In addition to the posts themselves, the comment stream has to be considered. Posts that generate an active conversation are farmore valuable those that don’t. Again, showing the value of the conversation is reliant of the ability to track the numbers of people in the conversation (through Disqus or some other commenting system).

This model can be further augmented by using a tool like Lookery that helps to clearly establish the demographics of the blog audience. Being able to pinpoint not only where on a blog to advertise but also who the visitors are who view those page, provides a further selling point for this new model and helps build faith in the virtues of a blog that sells space using this new, more effectively targeted advertising pricing structure.

Now, I separate the front-loaded and long-tailed blogs as if they are distinct.

Obviously these categories apply to nearly every blog as there are new posts that suddenly capture the imagination of an audience, and there are older posts that continue to provide specific information that draws a steady stream of traffic to them.

Summary

This is a very early stage idea, one that has no code or methodology to support it. However, I believe that the current contextual advertising model, one based solely on the content of the post, is not allowing the content creators and blog entities to take advantage of their most valuable resource – their own posts and the conversations that they create.

I also believe that blog owners are not taking advantage of their own best resource, Web analytics, to help determine the price for advertising of their site. Not all blog posts are created or read equally. Being able to very clearly show what drives the most eyeballs to your site is a selling point that can be used in a variable-price advertising model.

By providing tools to blog owners that intimately link the analytics they already gather and the advertising space they have to sell, a new advertising model can arise, one that is uniquely suited to the new Web. This advertising model will be founded in the concepts of conversation and community, providing more discretely targeted eyeballs to advertisers, and higher ad revenues to blog owners and content creators.

UPDATES

Appears that BuzzLogic has already started down this path. VentureBeat has commentary here.

Blog Statistics Analysis: Page Views by Day of Week, or When to Post

Since I started self-hosting this blog again on August 6 2008, I have been trying to find more ways to pull traffic toward the content that I put up. Like all bloggers, I feel that I have important things to say (at least in the area of Web performance), and ideas that should be read by as many people as possible.

As well, I have realized that if I invest some time and effort into this blog, it can be a small revenue source that could get me that much closer to my dream of a MacBook Pro.

The Analysis

In a post yesterday morning, Darren Rowse had some advice on when the best time to release new post is. Using his ideas as the framework, I pulled the data out of my own tracking database and came up with the chart below. This shows the page view data between September 1 2007 and September 15 2008 based on the day of the week vistors came to the site.

Blog Page Views by Day of Week

Using this data and the general framework that Darren subscribes to, I should be releasing my best and newest thoughts in a week on Monday and Tuesday (GMT).
After Wednesday, I should release only less in-depth articles, with a focus on commentary on news and events. And I must learn to breathe, as I suffer from an ailment all to common in bipolars: a lack of patience.

A new post doesn’t immediately find its target audience unless you have hundreds or thousands (Tens? Ones?) of readers who are influential. If you are luckyin this regard, then these folks will leave useful comments, and through their own attention, help gently show people that a new post is something they should devote their valuable attention towards.

It takes a while for any post to percolate through the intertubes. So patience you must have.

Front-loaded v Long-tailed

Unless, of course, your traffic model is completely different than a popular blogger.
The one issue that I had with Darren’s guidance is that it applies only to blogs that are front-loaded. A front-loaded blog is one that is incredibly popular, or has a devoted, active audience who help push page views toward the most recent 3-5 posts. Once the wave has crested, or the blogger has posted something new, the volume of traffic to older posts falls off exponentially, except in the few cases of profound or controversial topics.

When I analyzed my own traffic, I found that the most of my traffic volume was aimed toward posts from 2005 and 2006. In fact, more recent posts are nowhere near as popular as these older posts. In contrast to the front-loaded blog, mine is long-tailed.

There are a number of influential items in my blog which have proven staying power, which draw people from around the world. They have had deep penetration into search engines, and are relvant to some aspect of peoples’ lives that keeps pulling them back.

Summary

I would highly recommend analyzing your traffic to see it is front-loaded or long-tailed. I know that I wish that this blog  was more front-loaded, with an active community of readers and commentators. However, I am also happy to see that I have created a few sparks of content that keep people returning again and again. If your blog is  long-tailed, then when you post becomes far less relevant than ensuring the freshness and validity of those few popular posts. Ensure that these are maintained and current so that they remain relevant to as many people as possible.

Blog Statistics Analysis – What do your visitors actually read?

Steven Hodson of WinExtra posted a screenshot of his personal WordPress stats for the last three years last night. I then posted my stats for a similar period of time, and Steven shot back with some question about traffic, and the ebbs and flows of readers.

Being the stats nut that I am, I went and pulled the data from my own tracking data, and came up with this.

Blog Posts Read Each Month, By Year Posted

I made a conscious choice to analyze what year the posts being read were posted in. I wanted to understand when people read my content, which content kept people coming back over and over again. The chart above speaks for itself: through most of the last year it’s clear that the most popular posts were made in 2005.

What is also interesting is the decreasing interest in 2007 posts as 2008 progressed. Posts from 2006 remained steady, as there are a number of posts in that year that amount to my self-help guides to Web compression, mod_gzip, mod_deflate, and Web caching for Web administrators.

This data is no surprise to me, as I posted my rants against Gutter Helmet and their installation process in 2005. Those posts are still near the top of the Google search response for term “Gutter Helmet”. And improving the performance of a Web site is of great interest to many Apache server admins and Web site designers.

It is also clear is that self-hosting my blog and the posting renaissance it has provoked has driven traffic back to my site.So, what lessons did I learn from this data?

  1. Always remember the long tail. Every blogger wants to be relevant, on the edge, and showing that they understand current trends. The people who follow those trends are a small minority of the people who read blogs. Google and other search engines will expose them to your writings in the time of their choosing, and you may find that the three year-old post gets as much traffic as the one posted three hours ago
  2. Write often. I was in a blogging funk when my blog was at WordPress.com. As a geek, I believe that the lack of direct control over the look and feel of my content was the cause of this. In a self-hosted environment, I feel that I am truly the one in charge, and I can make this blog what I want.
  3. Be cautious of your fame. If your posts are front-loaded, i.e. if all your readers read posts from the month and year they are posted in, are you holding people’s long-term attention? What have you contributed to the ongoing needs of those who are outside the technical elite? What will drive them to keep coming to your site in the long run?

So, I post a challenge to other bloggers out there. My numbers are miniscule compared to the blogging elite, but I am curious to get a rough sense of how the long tail is treating you.

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