A New York City reader wrote tonight:
My wife and I just returned from a trip to Paris and San Sebastian, Spain. I had to stop by Shakespeare and Co. to make a contribution to the used book section.
You’ll find the attached picture showing the Crunchy Cons paperback toward the bottom, with the Shakespeare and Co sign in the background.
Guy made my night, week, month — especially since we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of my family’s trip to Paris. I’ve been pining.
The generosity of this gesture — the contribution to Shakespeare & Co., and his writing to tell me and send the photo — reminded me that I promised reader Douglas C. I would ask y’all to talk about this blog. Doug wrote last week:
I have to ask: Have you thought about doing a post, or multiple posts, asking your audience straight out about the impact of your blog in their lives?
I think you’d be surprised by some of the answers you’d receive. I’ve been reading you since before 9/11, back in your days on The Corner, and must say that I’ve become as irrationally attached to your written voice in my life as my elders in New Jersey were attached to the New York Times or the Newark Star Ledger.
My assumption is that my pattern is more common than I realize: I’ve got a half dozen blogs that I check regularly, several – sometimes dozens – of times throughout the day, just 5 minutes here and there. This is my news filter. Yes, I also check a couple of news sites, in case of nationally significant events, but in general I rely on the commentary of a small number of blogs – my own personal daily or hourly editorial page – to form my thinking, or at least the conversations in which I engage in my mind and relate to my family and friends.
I’d love the opportunity to share this thought on your blog, but there hasn’t really been an appropriate thread of late. I doubt I’m the only one who primarily lurks. You should at least throw out your traffic numbers, for us to discuss.
I wrote back to thank him and tell him that I wouldn’t mind doing that, but that I’m afraid it would come across as trolling for compliments. He responded:
I think the best approach would likely be to frame a post from just such a perspective, as a series of questions. How do we talk about the readership community itself? How does it compare to other communities on the web? How significant is the audience, when thought about in terms of quantifiable numbers like articles read, length of stay, frequency of visits, particularly compared to print journalism? Are you too sensitive? And so on.
You’ve obviously got a strong ongoing forensic interest in the nature of communications mediums and professions in the 21st century; witness your post today on religious journalists. I think you’re missing an opportunity for both yourself and your readers by not turning the same inside baseball analysis to online opinion writing. And what better community to analyze than the one you understand best?
I appreciate Doug’s interest. I don’t think I am allowed by the magazine’s policy to discuss traffic numbers in public of other quantifiable date (we have a lot), but if I’m wrong, I don’t mind posting this information as an update. They’re significant, I think — nowhere remotely near Andrew Sullivan’s, of course, but not bad at all. Like Doug, I’m interested in knowing how you use this blog — why you read it, what your favorite parts of it are, what your least favorite parts are, what improvements you’d like to see, and so on. Do you think I do a decent job curating the comments section? How would you do it differently? What do you think about the other commenters here?
I’m especially interested in why so many people who rarely seem to agree with anything I say keep coming back, and participating in the comments threads. I’m genuinely curious.
What things have surprised you about this blog, either in the things I’ve posted or the things one or more commenters have said?
Again, I’m not asking for praise (though I’ll take it), and I’ll be grateful for your constructive criticism. This is a great little community we have here because so many of you give so much to it. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it analytically and civilly.