The Art of Sustaining a Still Popular Website in an Age of Social Media

Part 4.) Traffic and Capitalism
the penultimate, and most actively tangent-pursuing, section of

Traffic? Viral? These are profoundly negative phenomena outside of internet usage. What about the internet makes popularity this negative?

Could it be lack of capital gains from this type of real estate? Anecdote: Travis Chambers of says that the top 5% of Youtube ads– with millions of views and thousands of shares– make several tens of thousands of dollars. 1% profit?– that’s not very much. That’s insect-sized profit. Microbe-sized profit. Virus-sized. makes no claims to virality. Millions of views?– that would overload our hosting, slow down the time for every page to load. We don’t want that.

We are not viral. But we do sustain our traffic.

After that popular X-mas day in 2012, we have mostly published weekly. And our peak in daily visits since then was almost 600 hits– occurring during Fan Voting for our inaugural fiction contest, the Summer of 2013– and then a few hits shy of 500– Summer of 2016– most recently 456 visits– September 2nd, 2019. These twice-annual contests are our key to obtaining new visitors at . Offering semi-pro cash prizes to winners and runners-up brings exponentially more submissions to our contests than to our unpaid posts in-between the contests. Though submitters not selected are unlikely to return, the sixteen finalists we do publish annually bring their own networks to the site– who become our targets for retention.

Fan Voting begins this retention process. For two weeks, the poll is open, until the day before winners are announced. Voters do not need to register or sign in– though that would give us their email, for almost all sites the most widely employed strategy for bringing visitors back– and they may vote as many times as they care to, unlimitedly. Almost 600 hits in one day of Fan Voting. However, yet another strategy for boosting traffic is employed. Every vote redirects from the poll to the What’s New publication scroll.

For fresh content appears on that publication scroll everyday of Fan Voting, our most compelling content of the coming season. Retention. No click necessary, you true Lovers of Literature need only scroll to the end of that publication. And there– of course– you will find several links: to our “books and bona-fides” homepage, more original content, and back to the top of “What’s New”.

But what if we start thinking abstractly. How does traffic, itself, start? What makes traffic happen? Let’s start with the phenomenon known as rubber-necking.

Paralleling road traffic to internet traffic, whenever one person spends a great deal of time in one place while everyone else is cruising by, those people cruising by slow down to look. This slows down everybody else, who then stop to look all the more, only to find out what they’ve been slowed down for. In theory– and as this parallelism swiftly breaks apart, in theory alone– it only takes one person to start some substantial traffic. This is clearly myth. Anecdote: I was noticing– I believe in the Summer contest of 2015– some unusual numbers during Fan Voting. My stats page would show 30-odd site hits for certain hours, while only registering one unique IP address in that hour.

Wait, I’ll break this down before explaining its significance– as some of you fantastic Lovers of Literature may not yet be hip to this internet-lingo-jive. Hits, visits, and page views mean number of clicks, which are then tallied by the statistics software hourly, daily, and then by any combination of days. Tallied in the same manner are unique IPs, or unique Internet Protocol addresses. These addresses are individual networks that are accessing the site– so, understand it as separately paid for internet bills. The 4G on your phone has a different IP address than your home internet. One way of thinking about unique IPs is as how many people are visiting the site. This, however, soon becomes very complicated. If a single server, network, or IP address plays host to an entire hotel, there could be 50 people all hitting us from the same address– or a-hundred-and-fifty. And digest this one, if I’m riding on a long-distance train, the IP address updates every certain number of miles, changes to several different networks. That item means a single visiter could register from– just guessing, now– fifteen or thirty IP addresses in a six-hour trip between D.C. and New York City.

Anyrate, ignoring the possibility of an entire hotel surfing through in the same hour, my anecdote means that one person– undoubtably an author, or one of the finalist’s mom– was voting for themself almost thirty times an hour. But if we’re getting 300-600 hits each day of fan voting, was this person actually spending ten hours a day voting more than every two minutes? No. Eye-strain and Tendonitis– not worth it for a cash prize of 75 bucks.

Believing that one person can cause the significant traffic at our level is poor reality checking

But let’s continue this road-to-internet traffic parallel along a more productive path. How about Rush Hour traffic? What causes this type of traffic? From Boston to D.C. , from Mexico City to Bogota, Moscow to Chongquin, and from YouTube to , two elements cause Rush Hour: multitudes moving at the same time, and multitudes moving in the same direction.

When publishes weekly, we always post on a Sunday, and usually around 3 p.m. But within this dependability, the hourly highs of our weekly traffic consistently occur Mondays from 2 p.m. Eastern Standard lasting well into night, and Fridays 10 a.m. Eastern till noon or so. Western Hemisphere workdays. Multitudes moving at the same time.

Now, what can be drawn from this microcosm of when applied to Global Capitalism? Boredom, the chief impetus for surfing the internet– real surfing, not Social Media monitoring, as this is non-stop– among Western Hemisphere workers is highest just after the beginning of the work week, and, more briefly, a short time before it’s end. Now, how can this conclusion be applied for humanity’s advantage? Once the work is underway, there is a substantial pause in motivation, before continuing the work throughout the rest of the week. And as an end to the work nears, this motivation briefly slows, then reinvigorates to finish the work. Doubt not, I profess no aim to increase productivity, better motivate workers, or minimize internet surfing in the workplace. I do own the website these workers are wasting time on. Those aims are the opposite of my ambition.

Entirely the opposite, my aim is to advantage humanity.

Free-time, the other primordial currency of 3rd-stage Capitalism, is invariably wasted– well, with exceptions like you Lovers of Literature cultivating your tastes at — wasted buying things you don’t need, contracting wrinkles on an overly crowded beach, or primping to impress your makeup mirror. is the only major internet site that won’t waste time with anything other than opinions. Learning, Arts, Drama– to a lesser degree Sports– Literature beyond the crop of the month, and Music still relevant decades after release, any online form that widens the scope of your temporal and frontal lobes, these are truly not wastes of free-time. But this free-time not wasted rarely equates to monetary gain for its creators. Short of “the Heart is a Lonely Hunter” being selected by the Opera Book Club and “Juno” nominated for Best Picture, worthwhile pursuits for free-time are not overly profitable. People simply prefer to spend their capital reading about Outer Space or socialites in prison– and nothing is wrong with that, nothing. Nothing is wrong with wasting free-time, whether buying things you don’t need, contracting wrinkles, primping, or reading guilty pleasure trash– it’s your time, and it’s free. And as to wasting money– well, it’s only money.

But the other cause of Rush Hour traffic?– multitudes moving in the same direction? An analytic figure and a human-to-human question both prove illuminating: my “Top Referring Domains” statistics, and asking “how did you hear of us?” when we confirm receiving a submission. Between open and close of the reading period for this last Summer’s contest, 278 visits were referred– or linked to us– from sites I know to announce contests and calls for submissions. And, in asking our submitters human-to-human, only occasionally will she, he, or they say “a friend,” or even “internet search.” The vast majority reply, “Duotrope,” “Freedom Through Writing,” “Linda’s Comps and Calls,” or similarly. I attribute daily spikes in traffic during our reading period to announcements from these lists. Multitudes moving the same direction.

Finally, internet gridlock. In utter sincerity, gridlock is what Capitalism wants– and it is a good thing. Capitalism thrives most vibrantly in two environments: developing markets, and large populations. United States and China have the populations, and largely for that reason are the twin powerhouses of global Capitalism; India and Ethiopia are the two of the most rapidly developing– top places where the powerhouses are investing.

Now translate these factors into internet use. When are there large populations developing new ways to access the internet? New gadgets for millions on the same day, or on the same eight days? Twelve-hundred visits on one X-mas day. Nothing spells out Capitalism with an upper-case C like gift-giving Religious Holidays.

Speaking of gifts– and here’s a tangent that’s closer to utterly adjacent– how about the greatest gifts humanity has received from itself since fire: .

Sue Gardner, former executive director of the Wikipedia foundation, expressed the organization’s mission in the following way:

“Wikipedia’s job is to bring the sum total of all human knowledge to everyone around the world in their own language.”

Advantage?– humanity.

So, surf through one last time, you Lovers of Literature, for this Autumn’s final publication,
the conclusion to
The Art of Sustaining a Still Popular Website in an Age of Social Media
as we address the undeniable opposite of macro-Capitalism
Sustainability not only at

Start with Part 1. of the Art of Sustaining a Still Popular Website in an Age of Social Media

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