Survey results: the vital statistics of cricket blogging
This second post in the series on the blogger survey results, draws out some of the significant numbers that give shape to the pursuit of cricket blogging in 2014. It follows an earlier post about the bloggers and their motivations.
In wanting to give numerical substance to that shape – longevity, frequency of posting and readership – I realised that the survey was not providing me with an essential part of the picture. I needed to know the blogs’ subject-matter. Lumping together metrics for a blog dedicated to nineteenth century minor county cricket with a multi-handed sports news blog would generate little insight. So, to make good this omission, I have quite crudely attempted to categorise blogs by what they are about.
I applied the following categories:
- topical – for blogs where the major stories of the day, globally or nationally determine what’s written
- specialist – sites dedicated to a niche of the cricket world, historical, geographical, functional, etc.
- visual – where pictures, not words are the key content
and finally, in a category that assembles blogs of many flavours
- essays – blogs where posts range across subjects, perhaps related to topical issues, but driven by the writer’s own experience as player, spectator, viewer or reader.
Some blogs are truly versatile. In those cases, I have applied a judgement about which category best fits.
The incidence by subject matter of the 87 blogs that I was able to categorise is charted here. Topical blogs are the second most numerous but account for less than one-third of all sites. Essay blogs are the most common. Many bloggers have found a specialism, away from cricket’s mainstream. These two categories may bear out the finding of the previous post that many bloggers are motivated by a belief that they have something distinctive to write about.
98% of respondents to the survey have (or contribute to) live blogs. The range of time bloggers have been active, depicted below, is suggestive of a couple of trends:
1) one-third of the bloggers have been active for over five years, showing that there is a strong, durable core to the sector.
2) ten bloggers have published for less than one year, which appears small compared to the numbers that have existed for 1-4 years. If representative of this field, it could be an indication of a slowing to the rate of blogs being started, or a choice made by new writers to join existing on-line platforms.
The single-handed blog is the most common approach taken to publication, involving 83% of respondents. But another strong feature is light footedness, with over one-third of respondents having pieces published on two or more site types. The figures beside the arrows in the diagram below show the number of bloggers involved in both types of blogs. Included in those figures are eleven bloggers who are active in three of the blog types and one who publishes on the full set.
There does not appear to be any relationship between length of time blogging and type of site the blogger contributes to. For example, writing for professionally published websites is as much a feature of very new bloggers’ writing as it is more established bloggers. Essay and specialist blogs are very likely to be single-handed, with collaboration more often a feature of topical blogs.
The most common and the median frequency of publication is ‘more often than monthly but less than weekly’. Over one-quarter of blogs are ticking over, with new material published less often than monthly.
Looking at the features of those blogs publishing most often (more than weekly and daily), the following is apparent:
- blogging duration: more likely to be blogging for 1-2 years; less likely to be in the first year of blogging. Otherwise, there is no strong association with blog age.
- blog type: more likely to blog on multiple sites and to contribute to professionally run websites
- blog content: surprisingly, topical blogs are not much more likely to be publishing at the more frequent end of the scale than the average for all blogs.
Those blogs ‘ticking over’ (i.e. publication less often than monthly) are associated with:
- blogging duration: less likely to be those newest to blogging (two years or less)
- blog type: less likely to contribute to professionally run websites
- blog content: more likely to be essay style blogs.
Twitter is the dominant platform or method for publicising blog posts and is considered the most effective way of drawing an audience. Facebook is second for usage and effectiveness. The other digital media are all out-performed by direct contact with readers.
Looking at the combinations of publicity methods used by bloggers, almost two-thirds use one or two (e.g. twitter and facebook). Nearly one in ten bloggers employ five or more methods to help get their writing known.
The survey also asked about the number of social media posts made per blog post. Three-quarters of respondents make four or fewer social media posts. Only 5% of respondents report plugging new material ten or more times on social media.
In our digital age, asking how many views your blog gets daily, is probably more intrusive than enquiring about the blogger’s age and not far from asking their salary. Nevertheless, 84 respondents supplied figures.
There is a broad base of low activity blogs (under 25 views per day), with an even distribution of sites in the low-middle readership range. Six sites sit clear of the pack, attracting over 1,000 views from readers per day.
The profile of blogs at the top end of readership (over 250 per day), compared to the rest, includes frequent publishing of new material (more than weekly); being longer established (five years or more); featuring topical material; and collaborative exercises (although single-handed sites remain the most numerous).
To gauge how on-line traffic is shared between blogs of different sizes, I have made some assumptions about actual daily views from the ranges offered in the survey. I have taken the mid-point of each range as the actual figure, except for the <25 (assumed to be 24) and >1,000 (assumed to be 1,000) ranges. Summing up the figures, there are about 15,000 views of these blogs daily. At the very least, 40% are visits to the six biggest blogs.
If the assumption about the average actual readership of the six biggest blogs is raised to 2,000 per day, the % of views those blogs account for rises to nearly 60%; at 5,000 it exceeds 75%. No more than 5% are visits to the smallest 33 blogs.
By combining this data with my categorisation of blog types, I have been able to derive estimates for how many views each type of cricket blog gets daily. According to this calculation, topical blogs get just over one-half of all traffic, generated from one-third of blog sites. A similar number of essay style blogs attract one-quarter of daily views. The traffic to the other categories is in line with the number of blogs of that type.
We know from the first post in this series, that many bloggers write for the pleasure of writing. Readership figures are not their priority. Nevertheless, I have looked at one other traffic statistic: views per post (derived from questions about daily views and frequency of posting new material). At the low activity end of a wide spectrum of readership, bloggers posting frequently (more than weekly) and getting fewer than 25 daily views are probably getting 50 views per post. To many familiar with the scale and reach of the Internet, that sounds paltry. I prefer a different perspective: prior to the Internet, how easy would it have been to find 50 people to read something on cricket that you, an unpublished writer, have penned? Pretty tough, I think.
This post has attempted to let the numbers tell the story of cricket blogging in 2014. In the next article, I will present bloggers’ own views of the state of cricket blogging, as well as their future aims.
Note: post updated to include analysis and chart of blogs and estimated daily views by blog type – 7 November 2014.