Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The power of Powerline

I'm being very honest with you when I say that this blog is mostly for me. I started writing it a few years ago with no expectation that I would ever build any kind of large, steady audience, and it serves as sort of a therapy for me.

I write for a living, which means that almost all of the writing I do is driven by what someone else wants written. It has to be done in their style, on their terms and on their timetable. All of which is fine, and I'm grateful that God gave me a thimble-full of writing talent, or at least enough to help me make a living.

But the blog is different. I can write about whatever I want, whenever I want, without the pressure of clients or deadlines. If I want to put some thoughts down about my unbelievably brilliant grandchildren or the lunacy of the President or my horrible golf game or the beauty of a Myrtle Beach sunrise, I can do so. Writing like that - pretty much for my own fun - is relaxing.

If you wanted this option 30 years ago, about all you could do was keep a diary, which most people didn't want anyone to read. Until you were dead, at which time friends or family might find the diary and wind up surprised to learn that you either deeply loved or heatedly despised several of them. But now, thanks to Al Gore's invention of the interwebs, any monkey with a keyboard (I'm looking at you, Paul Krugman) can throw his thoughts, spelling mistakes and prejudices out there for the general public to pick apart.

The outfit that provides the template and bandwidth for Tim Droogsma's Blog provides a little tool that counts the number of visitors to my site. In the first few months, I was thrilled when I would get 50 visitors in a month. Imagine that, four DOZEN people reading something I wrote!

Over the course of a couple of years, the number climbed. More relatives found out about the blog. A few fellow conservative travelers checked in once in a while for bits of politics. And eventually the day came when I was getting 300-400 readers a month, which really was about all of the expectation I had. This year, however, a couple of things happened.

First, the folks at a little online publication called MinnPost started picking up some of my blogs. They have a daily feature called "Minnesota's Blog Cabin" and the editor sometimes linked to this blog. It was flattering, and it helped move the needle on the visitor counter a little.

Then back in about April, I wrote a long post about the upcoming Amy Senser trial, and it seemed to strike a nerve. A few hundred people found their way to the blog, and for a short while the counter - which records the number of visitors on a rolling 30-day basis - was up over 1,000. Suddenly, at least for one month, I had more readers than did the Red Wing Republican-Eagle, which I used to work for.

On the eve of the Wisconsin recall election, I wrote another post about the slimy U of M professor who was trying to peddle a tall tale about Governor Scott Walker. In just a day, nearly 1,000 people showed up to read the post. An unfortunate number of those readers were knuckle-dragging, paint thinner-swilling, foul-smelling Wisconsin leftists who weren't likely to become regular readers, but hey, eyeballs are eyeballs, right?

But then, on July 5, came the tragedy of Clarisse Grime, the St. Paul girl killed by an illegal immigrant. The story angered me, and I wrote a post (read here) about the broken-down government that had failed her so badly. It helped me to vent, and I hoped that my handful of readers might be moved by her story.

Then Powerline came along. 

Powerline is the wonderful political blog that is based here in Minnesota, but reaches all around the world. Founded by Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker - fellow Republicans that I have never met - Powerline rose to fame in 2004, when they helped expose the phony reporting Dan Rather did in an effort to smear President Bush. It's become a must-read blog in political circles, and they get somewhere around three million hits a month.

The fellows over there write a number of blog posts each day, and at the top of their home page they provide links to other stories. Usually those stories are from well-known publications like the Washington Post, New York Times, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Real Clear Politics and others.

On July 9, they chose to put a link to Tim Droogsma's Blog and the story about Clarisse at the top of the page, and the counter started spinning. In the first 24 hours, more than 3,000 visitors made their way to the blog and read the story. Many of those people then linked to the story from their own blogs. A radio station called to talk to me about the story and I was denounced on liberal web sites, which I always consider a badge of honor. There were an amazing couple of hours when my Powerline link sat right next to a link to a Thomas Sowell article. Rare air for a guy from Red Wing.

I am under no illusion that the traffic was generated by my writing. Clarisse's compelling story, and the incredible reach and influence of Powerline are what created my 30 seconds of attention.

A couple of follow-up posts generated some good traffic, and my counter currently stands somewhere over 7,500 visitors. That's a huge number for me, but barely a drop in the ocean that is the blogosphere. I have little doubt that the number is headed back down eventually, and will likely settle back into that 300-400 range made up of mostly of friends and family, but for a couple of days it was kind of fun to have a little extra attention. Thanks, Powerline guys.

1 comment:

  1. I followed the link from Powerline and now have you bookmarked. You write good stuff. Keep it up.