Reality check: nobody reads blogs

On one hand, it's not news to me that the traffic on most good blogs hovers just above embarrassing: the traffic of this blog has yet to poke its nose out from under atrocious. On the other hand, if you spend as much time as I do clicking around the Internet in search of everything in particular, you start to believe that you're not the only one in the world that actually reads shit and clicks on shit and consumes at least some of the information you stumble across on a daily basis. You begin to think that everyone else processes stimuli in the same way that you do.

Trent Reznor went and disclosed the numbers behind the great Niggy Tardust experiment. Aside from being a brilliant move to get people talking about the record again*, his screed shocked me not for its admissions that even the people in this business who know the most what they're doing still have no idea what they're doing, but for the underwhelming numbers contained within.

I agree with most of the Internet, including this guy, that Trent's reasoning is a bit specious as far as who those downloads represent, and I think even if his assumptions are correct, an 18.3% conversion rate isn't half bad. The number that shocked me was the total downloads.

Granted, there wasn't a front page piece in the Times about the record, but when a guy like Trent Reznor gets behind a project by a great artist with a name like this one had, and it's released the way this one was, people pick up on the story. In case you never did, you can (but you won't) read about it here. For a while, this was the buzz of the blogs. Saul Williams enjoyed top billing on elbo.ws, and useless exposure on Technorati.

And after all that huffing and puffing, just over 150,000 people downloaded a record for FREE!? I guess I just thought there were more people like me on the Internet. People who read about something on a site they trust, and try it. Especially something very likely to be cool -- especially something entirely, legitimately, free.

But maybe not. Maybe nobody reads anything because they're too busy fighting over who commented first, and all the traffic that keeps your favorite blogs in business is just the result of great keywords hidden in mountains of back content, and irresistibly clickable ads.

When I was a boy, we had to ride our 14.4k modems uphill both ways to get to the Internet. These whippersnappers are taking the web to hell in a handbasket.


An anecdote to bring my point home: this particular site enjoys a small but consistent trickle of traffic from people Googling for "naked in the bath" and finding this post (even more from now on, I suppose). Unsurprisingly, they don't stick around very long. But once in a while, they click on an ad.

* I'm playing right into your hands, you clever bastard.

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