The impact of RSS on readership at law:/dev/null

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 25, 2009 in Technology | Subscribe

Nothing law-related in today’s post.  I stayed up late reading Contracts, but still got up on time, got out the door on time… and got stuck behind a tractor trailer for most of my early morning commute, thereby making it to class about 4 minutes late, just in time for a quiz in Legal Reasoning & Analysis.  I was sick of law for the day by about 8:05am :P

The spark for today’s post actually came from looking at the server statistics for law:/dev/null:  I didn’t realize how significant an impact things like RSS readers have on blog statistics, and I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science!

Last week we averaged about 312 unique visits a day.  Now bear in mind a good chunk of those numbers are web crawlers and of course me, but factoring out the roughly 50% of the traffic from those two sources that leaves ~150ish daily visits – which completely blows me away btw, and I suspect is due in large part to people following shout-outs from other blogs like No634 and the Reasonably Prudent Law Student. Last Wednesday’s entry on Professor Torts murdering a student’s self-esteem was the spike for the week, with 660 unique visits.

But what about last Friday, when I fell asleep before writing anything?  A mere 79 visits, of which it appears only 33% weren’t myself or bots — meaning only 26 unique visits by other humans, a drop of 83%+ over the week’s average (which was itself weighted down as a result of that particular low-traffic day).

How did all those folks who were stopping by daily know not to check for a post on Friday?  Did everyone take the weekend off?  Are we all psychically linked?  Is my writing just that bad?  (Don’t answer that last question ;))

My slightly-educated guess is that RSS readers, things like Safari’s “Top Sites” update indicator, and other new “content-on-demand” technologies are responsible for the overwhelming amount of traffic any given blog gets, at least in its formative months. On the upside it means a blog’s audience can expand rapidly in a fairly short amount of time if people visit once and then add you to their RSS feeds.  The downside is that your traffic will virtually disappear if you’re not able to produce something on a fairly regular basis.

Those are my CSC-based pontifications for the day :)  Off to go study for “hump day” classes, which in my case actually are in the shape of a camel hump on my schedule (and, correspondingly, suck).  Have a great evening everybody! :D

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