Choosing a Blogging Community

Who’s going to read my blog? What sort of blogs will I be exposed to? Our choice of blogging platform has some bearing on these questions.

(One caveat: I wrote this in October 2013; if you’re reading it in 2015 or later, most of this information will be useless.)

Rather than looking primarily at the quality of available blogging services and whether their features would suit my needs like a lot of reviewers, I’m focusing on the people that make up blogging communities. In my example, I’ll be assessing Alexa’s top three ranked free blogging services: WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr as candidates for a secondary blog. I’m doing this because like many artists, I already have a website where I can post all kinds of content. My site runs on the award-winning open source content management system Joomla; It is stable, customizable and functions well as blog. What it lacks, is ready access to millions of potentially similar blogs and the ability to comment on them using a single account that leads to my blog and website.

Alexa.com offers popularity rankings, user demographics and other stats that can help us gain a broad overview of a website’s visitors and how they behave. With a global rank of 13, Blogger is the most popular blogging service in the world. However, the majority of it’s traffic comes from America. WordPress is ranked 15th globally and while my native UK makes up 3.8% of visitors, it is still the 15th most popular site on this relatively small landmass. Tumblr is the least popular, with a global rank of 26, but similarly, because a mere 4.1% of its visitors are based in the UK it is the 18th most popular site here. Blogger is the most extreme example, being the most popular overall, but ranked 69th in the UK. The fact that blogger is the least popular in the UK could have some consequences: I’d find it less convenient read and interact with blogs of people I meet face-to-face in the UK and I’d be far less likely to network with people with links to UK universities, galleries and other institutions.

Another part of Alexa’s traffic analysis that may be useful is their audience engagement stats. WordPress.com has the highest Bounce Rate, meaning that a high percentage of visitors don’t continue browsing after viewing one page, and lowest Pageviews per Visitor and Daily Time Spent on Site – thought the site is currently improving, with the first statistic falling and the second two rising. While Tumblr has the best of these stats, they are moving in the opposite direction to WordPress’, meaning that the site may be deteriorating. Blogger’s Bounce Rate is the lowest, and is falling; Its Daily Time on Site is mediocre but rising. As I have little reason to think that current trends will continue, I think Tumblr performs best in this area.

While traffic analysis stats tell us a bit about who visits a site and how they do it, it’s possible to get some idea of the content of a website using search engines. Below is a table of the estimated numbers of results in each site for different search terms using Bing. I chose MS Bing because it’s unaffiliated – unlike Google, Microsoft doesn’t have the incentive or ability to immediately index all new Blogger blogs.

blogspot.com wordpress.com tumblr.com
art 17,400,000 8,740,000 17,400,000
“digital art” 361,000 132,000 383,000
fiction 2,910,000 2,460,000 1,120,000
philosophy 2,150,000 1,880,000 357,000
poetry 2,860,000 2,680,000 11,600,000
prose 711,000 445,000 5,710,000
“interactive prose” 9,290 2,860 30
“interactive poetry” 2,660 2,080 6
“digital poetry” 2,740 2,430 69
“digital fiction” 1,400 2,400 71
“interactive fiction” 16,200 12,600 4,070
“Games design” 79,000 7,420 6,330
“indie games design” 5,100 2,970 4,010
unity3d 33,800 12,500 7,260
“blender 3d” 41,900 12,100 7,030
GIMP 559,000 247,000 78,400
c# 1,000,000 534,000 8,250
TOTAL: 28,143,090 17,175,360 36,685,526

I chose the particular words based on my personal interests. I’m confident most of you could compile a similar list. Tumblr’s much higher total owes to the millions of results for the rather generic terms prose, poetry and art. For more specific phrases, and software-related terms, Tumblr doesn’t deliver. Blogspot certainly does better in this area, as well as yielding more results for the general terms. WordPress falls somewhere in the middle with no great flaws or strengths.

In my case, each of our three blogging services performs best in one category: WordPress in most popular in my native UK, Tumblr tends to have more engaged visitors and blogspot seems to have more content that is relevant to most of my interests. There are several other factors here. WordPress does better in terms of quality and features, as this ranking of blogging services indicates. I have past experience of both WordPress and Blogger, albeit four years ago, and I did enjoy the former more. I’m also fond of WordPress because it’s a quality open source project, which represents countless hours of work by highly skilled volunteers. If we were going on features alone, WordPress would be a winner, but I already use its more complex and powerful competitor Joomla. Blogger gets a decent review on TopTenREVIEWS, while Tumblr doesn’t appear in the ranking. This review from PC Magazine is hardly overflowing with praise. The very idea of emphasising images at the expense of text goes against many of my inclinations. Especially as, in practice, pornographic images end up circulating widely (Tumblr had the highest number of Bing results for the term “porn”.) Blogger, on the other hand, while not as high quality as WordPress, is geared toward more conventionally verbose blogs and is highly customisable – allowing you to edit the HTML directly.

I am torn between the quality of WordPress, and the fact it has a large share of the UK market and the greater relevance of Blogger. Regardless of how enjoyable wordpress might beto use, it’s audience engagement stats are underwhelming – it’s far more important that people enjoy reading enough to carry on doing so. Perhaps I can could use Twitter and Facebook as a link to UK based networks and Blogger to find a community of like-minded artists and writers. It is also worth remembering that google has a 67% share of the search engine market and will be guaranteed to index all of my content if I use Blogger. At this stage, I think it’s worth putting that theory to the test by running the test I ran earlier with Google search:

blogspot.com wordpress.com tumblr.com
art 226,000,000 55,200,000 87,100,000
“digital art” 742,000 369,000 364,000
fiction 38,500,000 18,500,000 5,130,000
philosophy 14,600,000 7,300,000 731,000
poetry 28,800,000 2,260,000 2,590,000
prose 4,090,000 445,000 308,000
“interactive prose” 43 93 2
“interactive poetry” 4,270 5,240 162
“digital poetry” 3,980 14,100 1,200
“digital fiction” 6,980 9,420 71
“interactive fiction” 23,100 18,300 974
“Games design” 31,000 17,600 4,500
“indie games design” 9 10 7
unity3d 61,900 203,000 24,900
“blender 3d” 53,500 16,500 10,900
GIMP 1,090,000 415,000 83,300
c# 1,570,000 828,000 13,600
TOTAL: 315,576,782 85,601,263 96,362,616

Even if my conjecture about Google indexing their own blogs very thoroughly is true, WordPress scores higher in a handful of quite specialised areas: Unity3d, digital poetry, interactive poetry and interactive prose. In sampling Blogger, I also discovered that it is possible to comment on others’ blogs using a WordPress account – WordPress doesn’t appear to have the reverse option. This means that if I could easily interact with both communities, as well as enjoying the quality and UK popularity of WordPress.

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