October 10, 2006

Revisiting the Blog Readership Cap

My previous post on the topic of a possible cap on readership at most atheist-oriented blogs generated several great comments and an excellent post by NonProphet at Beware of the Dogma. I've been meaning to take up the subject once again for some time.

NonProphet was absolutely correct that any discussion of a potential readership cap must start with the distinction between regular readers and periodic "stoppers by." Based on what I have seen at Atheism Online, I would estimate that there are roughly 100 active atheist-oriented blogs. By active, I mean blogs where a new post appears at least once a week. By atheist-oriented, I mean blogs where the primary focus is on matters related to atheism. The point is that those of us who want to read atheist-focused material have many sources from which to select. To give you an idea, I have about 80 RSS feeds in the atheism folder of my RSS aggregator. I probably cannot consider myself a regular reader of many of these sources, but I do attempt to keep up in a time efficient manner.

Regular readership will be limited by the number of people seeking out this kind of information and the multitude of excellent sources. Thus, it does make sense to think of a readership cap as applying to the regular readers. Of course, we can always hope to generate more interest by attracting people to atheism. This will be slow progress, but it may bring more readers for many atheist blogs. By making freethought more visible and attractive, incremental increases in the number of regular readers are possible.

It was the "stoppers by" category I originally neglected, and growth here is virtually limitless. Since all regular readers start out as stoppers by, this group cannot be overlooked. As NonProphet notes, we get many visitors from search engines or who follow blogroll links from other blogs. This has at least two important implications. First, the use of informative (and catchy) post titles should help since this is what will show up in search engines. Second, we should make sure that we maintain and update our blogroll links to reward those bloggers who we read ourselves and who remain active. This is how many people explore the atheist blogosphere. We can improve their experience by pruning links to inactive blogs.

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