Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Does anyone actually read blogs? 

Yes, of course they do, and I know it not simply because the mainstream media has recently woken up to the phenomenon and graced us with a series of articles about the growing influence of the blogosphere; I know it because many of my readers leave thoughtful comments or send me emails regarding my posts. But the reason I'm asking this question is that I've noticed that somewhere around 80% of the visitors to my blog spend less than 5 seconds here.

Now, before hanging my head in shame and despair for failing to provide my blog with enough "stickiness", as marketing people would say, in order to attract and keep the visitors' attention for longer than it takes to yawn and click to something else, this problem is not just restricted to this humble site.

For the Blogfather
Glenn Reynolds himself, the average visit length is 2 seconds. Andrew Sullivan also scores 2 seconds. The Volokh Conspiracy has more attentive readership with an average of 33 seconds per visit.

And the short attention span is not restricted to the right:
Daily Kos scores only 4 seconds.

I know that we live in a very fast society, but I'm sure we're not all speedreaders, and 2 seconds might not be enough to judge whether a particular post is interesting enough to read. A brief visit to a blog would suggest to me somebody coming in, realizing there haven't been any updates since the last visit and leaving - the problem is, however, that all the blogs in question are updated reasonably frequently.

It's a blogosphere mystery. Any suggestions from readers? Then again, if you have read thus far, you probably don't know why other leave after 2 seconds.

Update: I never quite expected the magnitude of response, but this post has generated tons of interesting discussion. I apologise if the above has come across as a whinge and a tantrum along the lines "why aren't people reading my work?!" - that wasn't my intention; I was genuinely curious about this problem.

All the answers are there in the comments section - as with just about everything under the sun, the causes of the "2 second" phenomenon are numerous and varied; some technical, some to do with people's reading and browsing patterns. I certainly finished off much wiser than I had started yesterday. A few weeks ago the blogosphere demonstrated to Dan Rather's displeasure how it actually works - by linking and utilising expertise and opinion of thousands of individuals around the world - something that simply wasn't possible until recently. This discussion is yet another example of the power of the networks. Thanks to all who participated and offered suggestion - and to those who at the same time took the opportunity to tell me they enjoy my work. I'm glad to hear and I hope you'll keep on coming back.


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