China Blogging: To Whom it may Concern

At least when it comes to China-related blogging, traffic in general seems to go down. An outspoken blogger told me that this was the case with his blog. Commenting activity on usually very lively blogs seems to suggest that even there, traffic is low, and it is certainly low my own blog.  Statistics do go up once I’ve posted something new – and even more so when I post more than just one article a time. It certainly didn’t help that I’ve put some voluntary limits on my blogging output by now. OK – semi-voluntary limits.

You aren't a blogger

You aren’t a blogger – how do you know what bloggers enjoy?

But low traffic isn’t what I imagined five years ago, when I started this blog. I thought it would be more like publishing. In fact, it has become more like e-mailing. Most people seem to read this through a feedreader. And only rather little “comes back”, in terms of comments or emails.

Should that trouble me? It doesn’t, actually. It has led me to cutting back on blogging, because it’s influence was so small that it doesn’t justify two or even one  hours a day of blogging (blogging here includes lots of reading). But at the same time, I see this blog as a contribution to the vast resources on which I depend myself – to the internet. It’s Give and Take.

And once in a while, something comes back directly to this blog. A comment, some advice, some kind of input.

There is only one regret I do feel: it’s that this blog is rarely read in China, and rarely responded to from China. Now, you can draw your own conclusions, of course, and suggest that it is too cold-war-minded to attract readers.

But I believe that the contrary is the case.

It isn’t just that JR isn’t really cold-war-minded – he’s only outspoken. And even people who take offense, as a rule, tend to come back to what seems to offend them. It’s a global rule, not specifically Chinese, and I’m not trying to explore the motivation for such reading habits.

It would seem to me that censorship in China has become yet more efficient – that would be one factor in declining traffic. In the past, even when it was said that WordPress blogs were blocked in China throughout, one or another white point in China would still appear on ClustrMaps, every few days or weeks. Not anymore.

There is a blog in German, Doppelpod, which – I think – started early in 2011. It has seen some success so far  – it’s quoted on some of the more influential German blogs once in a while, for example. But the actual goal of its founders – to establish a platform where Chinese and German readers would discuss issues and build cross-cultural or personal links between each other – hasn’t been achieved, and that goal is now being abandoned.

Obviously, censorship isn’t the only barrier between a German and a Chinese public. Language is another barrier. Rather limited general interest in each other’s country is yet another.

But there’s a good thing about simply blogging for the fun it brings: cold numbers and economics don’t need to decide about its future. In fact, bloggers seem to be more free to write about what really concerns them, than professonal journalists.

And it doesn’t matter how many people read your blog. What matters is that those who care do read.

7 Comments to “China Blogging: To Whom it may Concern”

  1. Hopefully I’m not being terribly glib here, but I vote for more illustrations! That’s what brought me into JR fan-dom in the first place, back when my own China blog was needing a good shove to get moving.

    I think you’re absolutely right about the firewalling of your work from China — it isn’t that inherently you would have 10,000 readers a day simply by bouncing around Weibo (of course stranger things have happened), but the difficulty in starting a kind of dialogue with PRC colleagues that occurs in public, and in mixed English/Chinese (as the present website tends to be, another of its strengths), is discouraging because WordPress is blocked. Over at, we don’t have the WordPress in the URL, mostly, but still are getting very few hits from the PRC. I think it takes a very intentional strategy to break into Chinese readership that would involve a dedicated tweeter in the Weibo hatch in Chinese, among other things…

    But maybe that’s what the internet is revealing more generally — the human tendency not to take a great deal of interest in things that are happening in other countries, unless of course they are odd enough to be entertaining (see: North Korea) or easily railed against (something even China’s position in Tibet seems to be slipping at, in spite of the self-immolations since 2009).


  2. But there’s a good thing about simply blogging for the fun it brings: cold numbers and economics don’t need to decide about its future. In fact, bloggers seem to be more free to write about what really concerns them, than professonal journalists.

    And it doesn’t matter how many people read your blog. What matters is that those who care do read.

    Fun. Freedom and who cares about extent of the readership.

    Pretty well my sentiments, JR.

    When it comes to a continuous diet of Sino matters, I think most bloggers are now simply going thru the daily routine, and that their hearts are no longer attached to the enterprise: they would simply like to declare victory and then retreat to other matters, but just can’t bring themselves to pull down the final curtain.

    For myself, I have exactly one more China post and that will be on the environment and the alarming stats coming out of Chinadialogue and Quartz. The domestic debt situation is pretty interesting, but blogging about it has been ruined by Gordon Chang and Minzin Pei. Folk are really scraping the barrel these days, judging by Matt Schiavenza’s inaguaral piece in The Atlantic today.
    Their is no rythme or reason to the number of views and, every now and then it does feel like an email to onself. Myself: going to continue scribbling about my minor, personal enthusians (music and related materials). For me, wordpress is still a tremendous free vanity press. Just wish I could find more clips on Vimeo so I could deep six youtube.
    Adam and colleagues are to be congratulated on their bold new layout and the choice of guest writers on SinoNK.
    The best thing BJC ever did was ‘holiday’ me… talk about relief.


  3. I vote for more illustrations!

    It takes inspiration, Adam, which in turn depends on lots of other things. Catholics call it a mystery, or something like that. Ask KT, he knows everything about it.

    The best thing BJC ever did was ‘holiday’ me… talk about relief.

    KT, you know I’d never want to appear snoopy and ask those questions, but I am curious. Why did they holiday you?


  4. Bill Bishop/Sinocism complained long and hard to The General about my nasty and unprovoked attack on his gravitas. Also sent me me a classic mail demanding public retractions on every media platform known to man and woman.
    The contentious issue: hiding behind a pseudonym blah, blah etc. I framed it.
    Also those figures on CS, Shanghaiist and BJC. As I said, the apps I used to gain them were a bit dodgy, but they must have struck a chord.
    I suppose that after being encouraged to go after everybody like a tong lord, I was really dealing with a controlling editor.
    Yes, I was dazzled by the prospect of becoming a big web cheese, but was reconsigned back to minnow status in quick time. Anyway, look at the topics covered by bjc of late. I probably had a lucky escape.
    “Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush”. (Joke: Sid Hudgens tabloid muckraker LA Confidential by James Ellroy.)
    And no more altar boy references, okay.


  5. Apol. I forgot. I was also feeling very uncomfortable having my scribble slotted beside so many posts on NBA.


  6. Your posts were certainly a reason for me to read there, and I wondered when nothing new arrived for weeks. My only objection would be that blogging about blogs is self-referential and produces little new information. But then, the blogosphere itself is very much about self-reference – and maybe that was the real problem.

    Anyway – I enjoyed your blogshow, and obviously, when I have questions about the new pope, I’ll turn to you. Whom else? Neither Adam nor Foarp can share that much inside knowledge from the world’s longest-running dicatatorship.


  7. “….like a tong lord” — classic!


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