It's occurred to every blogger from time to time:
"I've just spent two hours writing and posting this heartfelt article - I wonder how many people will actually read the damn thing?"Wonder no more! A few months ago, I subscribed to StatCounter, which bills itself as a "free, invisible Web tracker." StatCounter counts hits, tracks unique and returning visitors, and organizes the information into handy dandy charts, like the one above.
It also offers a more detailed, paid version of the service, but that's only for sites with over 250,000 page loads per month or more. Like mine. Uh, maybe not.
The bad side of the service is that it can be depressing to find out how many (or few) people read your blog; as well, if you're obsessive, StatCounter can quickly turn a fun pastime - blogging! - into numbers, graphs, and spreadsheets. Gag.
That said, the big promise of the service is that you can find out what gets people to your blog, and do more of it. With people comes advertisers. With advertisers comes money. With money comes happiness. Hey, money does buy happiness!
Another advertising revolution
But seriously, this kind of instant, real-time data is what's revolutionizing the advertising business, which used to be about creating a print ad with a catchy headline. Before this ability to track came along, no one could tell an advertiser who was seeing its ads, when, and what their response might've been.
This ability allows advertisers to immediately test a campaign and fine tune their messages before spending millions of dollars rolling it out - no surveys or focus groups required.
To bloggers who want to eventually quit their day jobs, the key is "demographics." Once you know who, specifically, reads your blog (age, geography, psychological makeup, etc.), and how many times they do it, your blog gains value, and can be sold to advertisers through Google AdSense, Yahoo Right Media, or the old-fashioned way.
Right now, StatCounter doesn't provide that demographic data, though I'm sure it already has the ability to do so, and the extent of that ability will only get more advanced - and pricey - with time.
Until that time arrives, an advertiser could hire a data company, like BlueKai, which says its the best source of online "intent data," or Media6Degrees, which analyzes Facebook groups to identify likely marketing approaches.
"These bespoke Media6° segments are both completely customized for each advertiser and enormously scalable," promises Media6Degrees on its homepage. Love the big words!
What about this blog?
StatCounter tells me that I get between 300 and 1,000 hits a week, and that there's already been a bit of a summer drop-off - not surprising, considering my biggest audience is probably my students at Red River College, who are now far away from school, and I far from their thoughts (I hope!).
However, every once in awhile, my readership spikes, and I get 1,000 hits in a day. Ironically, it's always on the days when I write about my least favorite subject: sports. No kidding: I'm the only straight guy in Winnipeg who would rather watch the Tony Awards than a Moose game. Nonetheless, my two most popular stories, according to StatCounter:
Jason Beck mistaken for desperate Penguins fan.
Manny Ramirez and marketing march to Hell together.
So much for my heartfelt treatise on "How students remember you."
Coming up on tomorrow's blog: sports, sports, sports, and more sports!