The Annual Blog Summary: Thousands of Miles to Cover (if you want to)

WordPress offers an annual report for 2013 to each individual blogger, with individual statistics. As the previous summary for 2012, too, the 2013 summary for JR’s China blog is upbeat. And it handsomely ignores an interesting fact: this blog has seen the second traffic decline in two consecutive years. That’s what my actual WP dashboard tells me, and it’s useful information indeed. It helps me to think about what makes me write, and what makes others read.

Reflecting on the statistics, I understand that my entries haven’t necessarily become less interesting. I’ve posted less frequently, of course. But that’s probably not the only reason fort he decline. The decline in stats began in 2012, and it didn’t come with a decline in blogging activity. A rough estimate, based on my drafts on my computer,  suggests that there were 252 new posts in 2011 and 275 new posts in 2012.

There’s a number of factors that, maybe, drove this blog before 2012, and that abated somewhere in the second half of 2011, or the first half of 2012.

One is the general trend. Microblogging has, in many bloggers‘ lives, replaced actual blogging. Facebook may be another alternative to blogging (even if one I’d never consider myself).

My own writing may be a factor, too. To rate the quality of someone’s writing, or the appeal of it to readers, is difficult when it’s actually your own writing. I’m not trying to be my own critic now. But there’s one thing I can easily discern. Before 2012, I wrote about China and human rights, and made fun of the CCP. It was simple argumentative technology, and it was easy reading. From 2012, I turned to a more “researching” or “deliberative” kind of blogging. There’s probably a post to mark the turn: JR turns to science.

It’s never become real science, I guess, but it did become more about translation and analysis. This started in December 2011, the timing of that post basically corresponds with my memory.

The topic that made me change my blogging approach – not completely, but gradually first, and then to quite a degree – was the Zhang Danhong incident in 2008, and the case of four Deutsche Welle employees who were sacked in 2010/2011. My own situation had changed, too. After having lived in China for a number of years, I had returned to Germany – probably for good. I can’t imagine living in China for another number of years. The people and things that matter most to me are now here.

That doesn’t make China less fascinating to me. But my perspective has shifted. It’s where China has an impact on life in Germany, and the other way round, what interests me most.

Many different worlds

Are you covering this?

In a way, that seems to have the potential of a pretty global topic – there are “thousands of miles” where one country, or one civilization, overlaps with another. But these are, seemingly anyway, rather unspectacular seams around the globe. They usually go as unnoticed by the public as does Chinese economic involvement in Africa or Latin America. Jeremy Goldkorn bemoaned the state of the South African media in 2010: even if a foreign country becomes your new number one trading partner, you may not notice it  at all.

The challenge for the press would be to start digging on those sites, along those global borders and seams around the globe – in a way that people want to read. The challenge for a blogger may be pretty much the same.

But to react to this (supposed) demand would require much more of my time, and a willingness to become more „public“ on the internet, as a person. And it would be an experiment which still wouldn’t necessarily lead to a bigger impact.

After all, these reflections are only about what I think people would be interested in. Many bloggers – and many news people and entertainers – believe they know what people actually want to see most. And in most cases, their beliefs are probably wrong.

But if I were a press pro (with a generous boss), I’d probably give it a try. And yes, a bit of curiosity remains: how would it work out?

3 Comments to “The Annual Blog Summary: Thousands of Miles to Cover (if you want to)”

  1. This China-Africa interface you mention is certainly worth attention, but seems to be ignored by all and sundry. And if there is an African country which functions as the perfect template, it is Mozambique.

    That aside, if web communication is to be reduced to facebook and twitter, I will quite happily deep six my keyboard into the municipal tip.

    Those wordpress annual reports seem to fly in the face of one’s own estimations and expectations. By way of example. Did a reasonable seven series on Black Markets in Post WW11 Japan and you could fit all the readers into the average sized chook pen. Compare the Hidden Harmonies crowd to the Charlie Manson gang and your stats go ballistic. There is no relationship between a readers/clicks and posts with a bit of substance and lots of evidentiary links and fluff posts belted out in haste.

    I suppose there is no use whinging about it, but people simply don’t bother reading links. Probably too time consuming which really disappoints me, since traditional bibliographies, end notes and index’s are the bread and butter of a good old fashioned book, and in historiography in particular.

    There is also a question of how seriously one takes one’s site. Are you focussed on a single theme (here, Chinachange and SinoNK) or are you writing about diverse and passing enthusiasms. Is it in depth analysis or Japanese surfer girl titillation?

    No matter which camp one likes to think one lives in, the readership is guaranteed to disappoint the scribe

    So, in the long-term, bloggers soldier on simply because they enjoy the process and discipline of hitting the publish button on a regular basis.

    However, for guaranteed self-satisfaction there is nothing better than the traditional reading format eg pre-Kindle tree books.


  2. I think bloggers agree about most blogging-related issues these days (unless they are propagandizing something), but there’s one post that has been among the top five basically every day since I published it in March 2010 – the one asking if China is authoritarian or totalitarian. As long as searchwords weren’t mostly “unknown” to WP, they also showed that this was really searched for on the internet. And it tops the top-five posts every year – 2013 was no exception.

    Totalitarianism is an issue rarely addressed these days, when China, to many people, is too big a business to be questioned – and when questions about totalitarianism in China may easily lead to questions about totalitarian ambitions among Western politicians, or politicians anywhere, for that matter (Venezuela could be an example, too). Not a popular topic, but evidence that a post doesn’t need to be popular to be read.

    Occasional farts in the Chinese face from Net Nanny, Hermit, or the Good Ganbu would help, too – but you have to feel like it. As you say: blogging is about the blogger’s enjoyment in the first place.

    But yes, there are still China blogs out there which are worth reading (and updating), like China Change. And there are blogs about Tibet – by Woeser, by Dechen Pemba, or Lhakar Diaries (see blogroll/beyond) which are regularly updated.


  3. Personally I blog less than I did in 2011 when there were a number of issues I was interested in writing about. Nowadays what’s going on in China is only a very small part of my reading.


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