Slow Burn, Quick Conversions

Cranes dominate the City skyline at the momentIn the midst of the ongoing financial crisis it’s been satisfying to turn to a project I announced here a few months back for commentary and interpretation. As Ann Pettifor has been called upon for commentary by numerous conventional media outlets her blog, Debtonation, has really come into its own.

It’s a good case study of how the slow-burn of building up a body of content about a key but under-represented topic can suddenly turn into a serious number of comments and traffic. The commentary on the blog, based on many years of public commentary, was relevant as soon as it started appearing, but now that it covers the biggest news story of the past month it gets the attention it deserves. It’s still mainstream media appearances that drive much of that traffic (links from the Guardian, BBC, abc.net.au, et al rank high in the referers), but it’s the option of Stumbleupon and co. that allow that new audience to act as amplifiers and sustain that traffic. While the biggest days have come from radio appearances, the impact on traffic from a couple of stumbles is remarkably close to that from mass broadcast media.

Steve, Carl and I were talking at Social Media Café yesterday about the local peaks in attention that occur for musicians as a result of external events (press coverage, an opening slot with a big name, radio play) versus the steady growth in sustained attention that will come if you really engage with your audience. That’s not limited to music. It’s precisely what we’re seeing with this blog.

The content is distinctive and both timely and built up slowly. Arguably the key contribution a commentator can make at the moment is to ensure that considered and diverse voices are being heard by a large audience, but tying one voice’s contributions together on a blog allows the deeper engagement that will come with discussion and the space to make more nuanced arguments. The blog provides a forum to engage and to convert casual attention to sustained attention; RSS and email subscriptions provide a way to further engage and potentially mobilise them.

But perhaps what’s most helpful to remember here is that for the first few months traffic to the site was low. Clearly there was the beginning of an audience early on, but what has made this blog work so far has been the ability to quickly harness and convert a casual audience, turning it into subscribers, and allowing it to further amplify the coverage you’ve been handed.

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