Musing on the Future of the Blog

2016.Oct.30 Sunday · 9 comments

in Life

That’s not going to be too distracting, is it? (For those reading this outside the blog, I’m not sure if the animated display above will be animated, but on the blog, it is.) Those are our new dinner rolls at Casa SaltShaker.

When I started SaltShaker in 2005, it was still relatively early days in the world of food blogging. It wasn’t the beginning, by any stretch – the book Digital Dish, on the rise of food blogging, points out that in 2003 there were about 50 food blogs in the world, by 2004 there were a few hundred, and the author’s prediction was, that by the time of publication in 2005 there would be a few thousand, though whether that was 2000 or 20,000, who knows? My guess is, closer to the former. These days, it’s anyone’s guess – there are close to a quarter of a billion blogs of all types out there, and undoubtedly, some large percentage of that number are dedicated in whole or part to food.

There were no fancy themes for blogs – most of them were put up through one or another of the free blogging services like blogger or wordpress. They were simple diaries, with photos. Even running SaltShaker on my own with wordpress software installed, there were limits to how I could make it look. I changed it a couple of times over the years, but, in general, it’s remained more or less in a simple text and photo diary form. Anyone who looks out there at the changing landscape of the blog world knows that that has changed radically. Even our Casa SaltShaker page is technically a blog, also based in wordpress, but with a theme that goes well beyond what the one here can do, and that was a, relatively speaking, simple redesign – mostly by just getting rid of 90% of what was on the previous CS site and starting more or less from scratch with some cut and paste and then new stuff.

So now that the big cookbook project is mostly in the rear view mirror (I should be getting the final proof this week, after making changes to the previous proof that I announced a couple of weeks ago), I’m turning my attention here. So first, the assessment, and I’ll try to make this quick and painless….

There was a time when the blog was getting several hundred readers a day – it was the only food blog in English covering Buenos Aires – these days there are a dozen or more, plus local online columns from our English language newspapers and magazines. These days, it gets around 100-110 actual visitors a day (as opposed to automated ‘bots and people who click on and spend less than 15 seconds, clearly not having arrived where they wanted to). And roughly a third of those do nothing more than hit the listing of underground dining spots and then spend time clicking on to those links. At the same time, I have no way of knowing how many additional people are reading the blog via some sort of blogfeed reader service – there could literally be thousands and I’d never know – it’s the way I read other blogs myself.

Around half of the visitors look over the main page, and maybe twenty of them click on to read one or more of the articles shown there. A fair number check out my listing of favorite restaurants in town. A few each day click on over to the Casa S site. The most popular post is far and away the one on the humble zapallito redondo, the globe zucchini – I guess there’s not a lot of info out there on these local vegetables. For the rest, it’s random. There are over 2500 posts, and around 6000 comments on the blog – but it’s actually pretty rare these days that anyone comments here – I do get some comments on the feed that shows up on Facebook, but not many.

So that all leads to a sort of “is it worth it?” Or, is it just, more or less, textual masturbation for me? Just using that word is going to drive a whole bunch of google traffic to this post. Basically, is there enough interest in what I write about to keep it going? I’m not suggesting a complete cessation of activities, but, what on the blog piques your interest? What do you find useful? What don’t you? I’m actually asking for some real, constructive feedback, either via comment or email or facebook or however (not telepathic beaming, I still haven’t got that one down).

I’m considering a complete redesign of the site as I did with the restaurant site, and basically removing all the old stuff – reviews from years ago that haven’t been updated, or of places that no longer exist; getting rid of the musings and random fluff of my brain (kind of like this post); stuff on moving to and living in BA that are either no longer accurate or are just dated, etc., etc. What’s worth keeping? What’s not? (I’ll always have my backup of everything, it’s not like it will be lost to posterity should someone one day want to research my archives.) Or, I could just continue as I have, randomly posting whatever occurs to me. Maybe make it look prettier. Maybe not.

What say you, my long-term, short-term, regular, irregular readers? (Did anyone even read through to this point?)

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank October 30, 2016 at 11:59

Well, I still read it. I admit, not as regularly as I once did, but I still do. It is still a unique perspective to read from someone who is living here and it’s not a paid article (nothing wrong with those, but I don’t believe those as much). And while we may disagree on a place every now and then I do appreciate the thought and thoroughness that shows through your posts. It’s a tough call, deciding what to do with the blog. I for one appreciate it and would like to see it keep going in whatever format you ultimate decide on taking.

Luke October 30, 2016 at 15:46

Hello there Dan. I’d really miss your blog if you decided to stop it. I’m holding out for the day you finally lose it in a restaurant, and down the bottle of ‘hot sauce’ in one to prove it actually isn’t. Or, at the very least, you send one of those well-done burgers back to the kitchen.

I use the Newsify app to read the blog, and many other blogs. As you know, it just isn’t feasible to visit the individual sites all the time. I wonder if you can get any statistics from the various apps.

In terms of content, I enjoy most of your posts, particularly the reviews and your holiday exploits. My partner and I stayed in BA for six weeks back in 2008, and reading your blog keeps me loosely in touch with the city – obviously from the food angle, which is probably one of the best angles!

So I do hope you keep it going. One piece of constructive criticism: when you mention the waiters somewhere are cute, please provide photographic evidence :o)

dan October 30, 2016 at 16:42

Thanks! I definitely don’t plan to stop completely, it’s more a matter of what kind of stuff is actually of interest to readers; what sort of format; and, is there any reason to keep all the really old posts – or do they just clutter things up. And, duly noted on the photos!

I can get some statistics for the rss feed. Feedly has a plugin that tells me how many people are using it to read the blog (151 as of today), but I haven’t found anything similar for other readers, and just being subscribed doesn’t mean they actually read it – I often sort of skim down through the headlines of everything in my newsreader and pick and choose what to read that day. Feedburner, which manages the rss feed, tells me that 2432 people have clicked on the “subscribe by rss” link, but that doesn’t tell me anything about people who’ve subscribed by entering the blog name into their reader directly, nor does it tell me if they continue to follow the blog – they could have deleted the link after a couple of posts – all I can tell is that they clicked on the link at some point. And, I know that roughly 100-110 people at any given time are subscribed by the email link, it usually goes up and down by 1 or 2 every week as people add in, drop out, or change their email addresses.

Carmelo October 31, 2016 at 10:03

Ive been reading your blog for some years now and would be
sorry to see it go . Its part of my daily routine in the office (like reading the newspaper) Your comments (sarcastic or otherwise) make my day. And your recipes are great and easy to follow (will buy your book). Please hang on some more and change whatever you dont like , but keep on writing .

dan October 31, 2016 at 11:35

I definitely plan to continue, it’s more a matter of what format and what’s worth keeping and what needs to be excised. Thanks for your comment – and glad to be part of someone’s daily routine besides my own!

Karin October 31, 2016 at 18:12

Yep, I read it all. Even the stuff that’ll being you new readers through creative word use regarding texting. I enjoy the blog, via bog feed to my email, for all the content. Learning about what you do, how you do it, the concept of puertas cerradas, etc. And BA, which I knew very little about until your blog!

Ryan October 31, 2016 at 18:47

Hi Dan, I’ve enjoyed your blog over the years since first visiting the restaurant almost a decade ago (!). I read it through the newsletter and enjoy seeing how BA has changed since I was there, as well as getting new ideas from you and seeing the world’s food through your trips. The reviews are probably the least actually useful to me, though I still enjoy reading them, as they’re well-written and honest. Definitely enjoy the different series that you have going on and I don’t mind them coming and going – it’s always a pleasure when you return to them. Whatever you decide on, I’ll keep reading. Thanks!

Oscar November 1, 2016 at 14:00

Después de pensar bastante acerca del sentido que podría tener comentar sobre tu artículo, decidí que después de años de leerte y disfrutar de tus escritos es lo menos que puedo hacer aunque sea a modo de agradecimiento.

Preferí hacerlo en español, por varias razones. La principal es dejar testimonio de que tu blog tiene un público más amplio que expats y nostalgic ex-residents.
Si bien es cierto que hay probablemente miles de blogs de comida en BsAs, la honestidad, el enfoque y la calidad del tuyo no tienen competencia.

Por supuesto que algunas líneas me interesan más que otras, pero ninguna deja de ser grata de leer.

Respecto de la calidad de los templates de Wordpress, son lo que son. No son bellos, ni una buena herramienta de marketing. Pero poner mucho esfuerzo en mejorarlos no sé si tiene sentido. Es tolerable y lo más importante es el contenido.

Las notas antiguas sirven, aún aquellos reviews demasiado viejos como para que los lugares y precios hayan cambiado sustancialmente. Quizás solo habría que agregarles un warning al principio para advertir al lector desprevenido.

Hasta hoy he venido leyendo las notas directamente en el site, pero estoy cambiando a RSS en este momento.

Please keep going. I’d miss your articles a lot.

dan November 1, 2016 at 19:35

Oscar – gracias! Ya comienzo de cambiar la imagen un poco – los colores, saque algunas enlaces que no siervan, etc. Vamos a ver si hago un cambio mas grande – parece con las reacciones que en general, mis lectores le gusta como es.

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