Building an audience on Harper’s hair.

This is embarrassing. For four years, Babel-on-the-Bay has been building an audience. It is not in the thousands yet but it has moved up in the respectable hundreds. The puzzle has been that despite the steadily increasing figures, it is a surprisingly consistent third of our readers who have been on the site before. That seems to mean that about half the people who check something on our site consider it worthy of a second visit in a month.

But Google Analytics tells you much more than that about your site. It tells you what people have asked a search engine that leads them to your site. It is this information that told us to stick to political subjects. You also note with chagrin that it is not the most serious political subjects that suddenly bring people in droves to your site. Three years ago we told some stories about our old friend Gene Whelan and his green Stetson. That story has drawn readers every month since.

What was originally written in 2007 as The Democracy Papers has a long-standing readership in Babel-on-the-Bay when people research alternative forms of electing governments. Researchers particularly like the paper that includes ten reasons for using first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies.

And now we have Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hairpiece. The spike in readership almost goes beyond the top of the computer screen since we first told that story. You will notice that the main stream media in Canada still refuse to touch a hair on Stephen’s head. Yet that is the type of story that attracts readers. We have the statistics to prove it.

But we also have other things in our life. Writing stories for Babel is a fun part of the day but there are also days when you really have nothing to write about. So you do not. It makes for a strange pattern. There are days when you have two or three ideas that could be used but you select one and save the other thoughts for another day. Occasionally we have written ahead when we are going to be out of town for a while but there are few stories that you trust to that approach. Politics is too volatile a subject.

Babel used to have more balance to the federal, foreign, provincial and municipal stories but the idea is to stick to stories where we can bring a fresh approach. If it is possible to add humour, political insight or political information to a story, that is the objective. At the same time, we spike some of our stories because we are not insensitive to the laws related to slander and defamation in this country. In Canadian politics there is an understanding of fair comment but it does not pay to push too hard on the boundaries of the concept.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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