Longbox Soapbox (Fall 2012)
This seventy-eighth weekly installment of Longbox Graveyard marks this blog’s eighteen month anniversary … so it is time for another Longbox Soapbox, where I blog about this blog — it’s past, present, and future!
Statistics & Hits
In last summer’s edition of Longbox Soapbox it certainly seemed Longbox Graveyard was on the march. The blog had seen twelve straight months of growth and with several new initiatives on the horizon there was every reason to believe that trend would continue.
Alas … what I hoped would be a base camp for the assault on comic book Everest instead proved to be my peak month, as daily hits have declined by about twelve percent these last six months. I suppose there is optimism in that the rate of decline has been shallower than the steep march to my Elvis Month of May 2012, but however you slice it, I have fewer hits at Longbox Graveyard today than I did six months ago.
I can only guess why this might be so. Summer doldrums? Some mysterious shift in the blog’s Google profile? Are my old readers are getting churned out now that Longbox Graveyard is no longer such a novel thing? Maybe it is just down to topic selection these past six months — aside from my very successful Amazing Spider-Man column, this last run has seen articles on more obscure books like Tomb of Dracula, Killraven, Judge Dredd, and Master of Kung Fu (twice!) I suppose I could lift my numbers by writing about Batman, the X-Men, and Spider-Man all the time but my interests lay elsewhere and I have come to accept that not every topic at Longbox Graveyard will be of interest to all.
linkbait: Naked Batman
Whatever the reason, readership is down, and I’d be lying if I said it was anything but discouraging. Not discouraging enough to abandon the blog (which will always be a vanity project no matter how many hits I draw), but enough to find me frustrated at times, and wondering if there’s some obvious-to-everyone-else bit of SEO magic that I am overlooking for the blog. The good news is November was my best month since the benchmark month of May 2012, so maybe Longbox Graveyard has recovered from its slide and will start to build bigger readership numbers again. I have also received some very encouraging feedback recently from readers and listeners that make it easier to accept a dip in my numbers.
Super Tuesday, Dollar Box & The Longbox Graveyard Podcast
One of the reasons my readership decline is disappointing is that my previous growth was largely organic, while these past six months have seen me creating additional material here and at other blogs for the express purpose of driving traffic back to Longbox Graveyard. One such initiative was Super Tuesday — my series of brief blogs looking at comic book ads from the Bronze Age — which was intended to lift traffic on the blog’s slowest day of the week. The feature did result in slight gains on Tuesdays, but they were more than washed away by general declines on every other day of the week, and as I think the features have been weak overall, I’m scuttling Super Tuesday as a regular feature, effective immediately, though I may still publish them from time to time. (I didn’t publish a Super Tuesday yesterday. Did you notice? Neither did I.)
so long, Super Tuesday
Two higher-profile initiatives will continue. Both my Dollar Box column at StashMyComics.com and my Longbox Graveyard Podcast at We Talk Comics were just getting off the ground when I wrote the last Longbox Soapbox — six months on and I can first start to evaluate them.
Here are statistics showing traffic referrals to Longbox Graveyard:
WordPress won’t let me show just the last six month’s worth of data, so these numbers are for all-time, but from this chart you can see my work at StashMyComics has yielded only a dozen or so hits per month, while We Talk Comics is well down the list at two dozen hits, total. Neither project is doing much for Longbox Graveyard, and they are distracting me from my core work here at the blog … but I am finding both of those commitments intrinsically rewarding, and so I intend to continue them for at least another six months (or as long as my hosts will have me, whichever comes first!).
Podcasting has been an especially interesting experience, and is something I never would have done if Mo Kristiansen at We Talk Comics hadn’t convinced me to do it. I consider the podcast supplemental to the blog, and as a verbal form I have used the podcast to editorialize and talk about comics history and theory more than anything else — subjects that might be too much work to develop in writing here at Longbox Graveyard, and also subjects that would be of limited visual appeal. I like podcasting — most of the time — and a few shows have been especially rewarding, such as when my son Miles and I discussed Frank Miller’s Holy Terror. While the podcast has been of no real value to Longbox Graveyard, I think I have developed a small and separate audience for that particular project. From the latest numbers it looks like each podcast gets downloaded about 500 times when it goes live, with lifetime downloads topping out over a little less than twice that number (so far). I intend to follow this particular path wherever it might lead.
I’ve continued to maintain my Pinterest boards, and while my followers over there have swelled to six hundred or so, from the chart above you can see these are another siloed group of users who do not come over to Longbox Graveyard in appreciable numbers. At this point I am happy to keep the boards going but I’ve all but conceded in my one-geek-war against handbags and hairstyles on Pinterest.
Doctor Strange, from my Pinerest gallery of Third Eye Black Light posters
Twitter remains a strong channel for me, and I do have fun carrying on conversations over there — it’s a way for me to have daily contact with the Longbox Graveyard experience, even if the blog only publishes once a week. I have 1700 followers on Twitter, and my Klout hovers around 60 (for what little that is worth). Twitter has proven the third-largest driver of traffic to the blog, though it only generates about a hundred hits per month. I’ve been using Hootsuite to monitor Twitter, and also to pre-schedule my weekly rotation of headlines, promoting the week’s new blog every day, along with pointers to older posts on the blog posted by Hootsuite at times the system ensures me are calculated for maximum exposure based on my follower’s habits. I apologize if these messages are tiresome or repetitious for my long-time readers but I do have anecdotal evidence that this promotion helps keep my past work alive, particularly for new readers, and it’s always a kick when a Twitter discussion springs up about something I wrote months and months ago.
Longbox Graveyard on Instagram
My greatest new media effort has been with Instagram, which I outlined in a blog post a couple weeks ago. I’ve leveraged that channel up to nearly six hundred followers, and near as I can tell it’s delivered zero traffic to Longbox Graveyard, but I am having fun posting images over there, and I’ve struck up a correspondence with a number of readers that seem unique to that service. As with Pinterest and the podcast, Instagram may be telling me that the Longbox Graveyard “brand” is going to be a distributed presence, rather than a single, growing blog with lots of little feeder channels.
I continue to post to Facebook and Google+, but may give up on them before long. Google+ is a ghost town (though it does seem to help my search ranking a bit), and while Facebook has driven its share of hits, I think most of that traffic comes from my personal page, rather than the dedicated “Mole Mann” identity I set up to support Longbox Graveyard.
The Accumulation & Comic Sales
I’ve arrived at kind of a truce with my comic book Accumulation. Things are better organized, comic book-wise, than they have ever been, but the rest of my hobby area in the garage has gone to Hell, leading me to think it is time to bite the bullet and embark on a concerted effort to build-out a “man cave” that might better showcase my crap and make me feel better about the stuff I’ve got.
kind of a dump in the garage right now
I am just about ready to grant an amnesty to all of my comics and stop trying to sell or give them away. I had a little bit of success in moving bulk boxes of comics over the summer, but there are still way more books here than I can sell in any reasonable length of time, and eBay remains a gigantic waste of time and money when it comes to selling my comics. I have the Accumulation curated down to just about what I want it to be, but I still have about a dozen longboxes worth of books without a home … so I may look into donating them, or leaving them on a curb somewhere, or (maybe) widening my collection and just keeping them after all. Dunno.
I’m still pretty much reading comics and nothing more, though my reading has shifted a bit from back issues and Marvel digital titles to graphic novel collections. Regular business travel takes me up to Los Angeles a couple times a month, and I’ve made it a little ritual to drop by the House of Secrets comic shop in Burbank and pick up something new each time. Thanks to this initiative I’ve been reading many of DC’s New 52 trade paperbacks, as well as other newish collections like Ed Brubaker’s crime comics collections (Criminal and Incognito), and even flavor-of-the-month books like Saga. I’m still not buying single issues but these past six months I think I’ve purchased and read more contemporary stuff than I have have back issues from the Bronze and Silver Age that has been the focus of Longbox Graveyard. It’s worth noting that I’ve purchased very few Marvel trade paperbacks as I can instead read that back catalog digitally — I’ve binged on the rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy, the Bendis and Brubaker runs of Daredevil, and even some old Thomas/Trimpe Hulks in digital form, which has saved me hundreds of dollars over trying to purchase those same stories in printed collections.
Rocket Raccoon, from the rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy
My lads steadfastly refuse to become comic book readers — I think they are lost causes, and I need to come to grips with it. Miles did meet me half way with Holy Terror, and I did read Walking Dead at his suggestion, but if or when I read Sin City, I will have exhausted his particular interest in comics (several targeted collections I’ve left in his room have met with utter indifference). Jack went to the San Diego Comic Fest with me but I think his geek interests are more on the television and movie sides of the spectrum — the comics bug just isn’t biting him.
Jack at Comic Fest
While my attempts to home-grow comics fans have come to ruin, I have connected with a couple guys through work. My sometimes-collaborator Chris Ulm has gotten a contact high off of Longbox Graveyard and is reading comics more frequently than before (though he never really gave them up). He and I have been going through the New 52 together and will hash it all out in my December podcast. I’ve also got a commuting buddy for those L.A. trips and House of Secrets visits, who has proven a captive audience for my comic book rants; we’ve also shared a couple graphic novel recommendations together, and he’s happy to try new stuff, so I benefit from the odd title he picks off the rack at the shop then leaves on my desk when he is done with it. I have more books than I can read and people to share them with and so I can’t complain.
The blog is still a dead loss — of course it has never been a money-making venture, but duty requires that I report advertising revenue is in the ones of dollars per month, and my donate button might as well be the G-spot for all that people can find it. I had an internet casino contact me about putting a banner on my front page but they only wanted to pay ninety bucks a year and I didn’t think it was a good fit. I host a banner for my pals at StashMyComics.com that along with my Dollar Box plugs drives maybe thirty-odd clicks a month to their site (which I see now is a bit more than I get in return, hmm …), but that is all gratis and in exchange for clicks from their site.
are ads distracting you?
I will probably keep the WordPress video ads running for another six months or so, just so I can get to my hundred dollars credit and cash out. They’re pretty ugly and they do slow down my page load. I also occurs to me that those ads have been running during this period of declining readership and that there might be a relationship. My feeling on ads is that if you live next to a river, you might as well put some lines in the water, but if they are negatively impacting your opinion of Longbox Graveyard, I will give them the heave-ho.
This seems a good subject for my poll!
While my hits are down I think my comments are up, or at least holding steady, so it might be that my community is solid or even growing while my drive-by hits are waning. Your thoughtful comments are treasure to me and are always welcome at the blog. I try to reply to every one of them, or at least give them a thumb’s-up. I like the “permanent record” nature of threaded comment boards and I like seeing discussions flower here but I find I have better luck engaging readers in more real-time environments like Twitter or even Instagram. Still, the comments field is there for you and I hope you feel welcome to use it, even for older posts which haven’t seen much activity for awhile.
And as has become the tradition with these Longbox Soapbox posts, if you are reading this column, please post in comments, even if just to let me know you are lurking out there!
And so I come to that part of the blog where I declare if I will continue Longbox Graveyard or not. I have gotten this far by signing six month contracts with myself — knowing that I cannot quit during the contract, but that I can walk away when the contract is complete has kept me on track so far, and sustained this blog through a few discouraging and busy patches these past six months when it might otherwise have lapsed into inactivity. While I have seriously considered shutting down the blog or transitioning to bi-weekly publication, I am going to step up and commit to another six months of weekly publication. Partly this is because I feel I have unfinished work here. Partly it is because it would give me a kick to publish an Issue #100 of Longbox Graveyard (scheduled for May 2013). Largely it is because my gut is telling me not to keep going, which means I surely should.
thought about it …
So I will continue to publish here on Wednesdays, as fate will allow, and I will post up monthly podcasts and Dollar Boxes, too, and there may be some other surprise appearances along the way. Expect a few format tweaks here, and a departure from my strict attempt to alternate reviews with other types of columns every-other week. I hope you will continue to support Longbox Graveyard, and tell your friends about the blog to improve my readership (and lift my spirits!). Mentioning the blog in your own social channels — Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc. — all help with the virality and discoverability of my blog, so if you find a post you like, don’t shrink from tapping that blizzard of buttons in the “Share This” bar at the bottom of the column to recommend me to the wider world of the world wide web. Mentioning Longbox Graveyard in online comic book message boards or other communities is also very helpful.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you back here next Wednesday for your regularly-scheduled Longbox Graveyard! Don’t forget to post your mandatory-every-six-months comment below. And please accept my sincere appreciation for supporting Longbox Graveyard, my podcast, and all my crazy comic book hobby endeavors on the web!
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #79 Out Of The Holocaust … A Hero!