Wednesday, July 31, 2013

State of the Blog


    Hi all, after four plus years of writing here, I thought it might be beneficial (and interesting?) to recap in a State of the Blog.

    This blog started out in 2007 as a syndicated newspaper column and at one time was appearing in four different newspapers; but, I eventually grew disillusioned by the lack of feedback from that venue. In many cases, the newspaper editors never even acknowledged receiving and printing my material. Was anybody reading? I rarely knew. So, I migrated online for a more interactive experience. My first blog posts appeared on MySpace (yes, really) but I quickly abandoned that platform and joined Blogger (the blog’s current format) in April of 2009.

    I didn’t know what to expect when I started the blog here but it’s been very rewarding to see it grow over the years. In the early days, the site would be viewed between one and ten times a day but things started to take off after I posted a few posts about the giant dead rattlesnake pictures that are often e-mailed around. Now, the blog has over 220 posts, is regularly being viewed over 1,200 times each day (about 40,000 times a month) and I believe we will hit one million views within the next year.  For a nature-themed blog, this is very successful. To put things in perspective, this blog is currently ranked around #28 of the over 2500 blogs listed on the Nature Blog Network (and has hit a high of #12).

    Early on, I had hoped I would receive periodic questions from readers that would be the basis of future blog posts. At least that way I would know at least one person would be interested in what I was writing about. The letters started trickling in slowly, but now it is not unusual to run one or two of these a week. Also, a couple years ago I opened up this site to guest bloggers and I’ve been pleased that so many people have now taken me up on my offer to help them reach a new audience for their writing and thoughts on wildlife.

    As far as some of the intangible benefits of the blog, I am often surprised to see who reads it. I have received a lot of feedback from wildlife professionals thanking me for debunking particular wildlife myths (now they can just forward a link to one of my posts instead of spending the time explaining it themselves) and from people telling me that they have learned or appreciated something new about the wildlife in their area, maybe even persuading them to keep that shovel in the shed the next time a ratsnake shows itself around their property.

    Over the last few months, you may have noticed some changes. I have started an e-mail notification list to provide a more reliable means for readers to staying updated on new content and I also joined Twitter to provide another outlet for the blog. Over the next few years, I hope to introduce interview posts to the blog. This format will let wildlife professionals that are unable to commit to writing a guest post still reach you with their exciting research. 

    But, the change I’m most excited about is the addition of three blog contributors: Brian Folt, David Jachowski, and Jim Godwin. Contributors are all former guest-bloggers that I have invited to regularly publish their work here. If you haven't welcomed them already, please do so. These three offer a wealth of experience and perspectives on wildlife ecology, natural history, and conservation, and I’m looking forward reading more of their writing. I hope you are too and continue to offer your comments on their posts.

    Speaking of comments. Don’t be shy. Recently there has been a sharp uptick in the number of comments on the blogs and that is great. I hope that my posts (and those of the contributors) are the starting point for conversations on the topic and reading your questions and comments will allow us chances to clarify our stories and also get ideas for future posts.

    Finally, what do you want? What is this blog missing that you think will help it become more of an educational and entertaining source of wildlife information in the years to come? What topics are you interested in? What new features are you looking for? Do you know someone that you think would make a good guest blogger or contributor? Do you appreciate the e-mail notifications (I can change the settings so that you receive one a week instead of every time a new post is added). If you’re not subscribed, what’s stopping you?

    I am looking forward to hearing your input (below).

    Thank you all for reading over the last four years. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

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