Sunday, December 30, 2018

The one word from Trump that reduced Mueller to blubbering jelly: The State of Blog V

      Even someone viscerally against the Orwellian abuse of language has to be careful the practice doesn't rub off. Troubled times tend to be absorbed by osmosis, resist though you may. 
      So as I contemplated today's analysis of the fifth full calendar year of the blog, my first thought was "Bad is good."
      Can that be right? 
      The bad part certainly is. 
      After four years of steady, double-digit growth, hit a wall in 2018. Things were clicking along, June, July and August all above 70,000 hits a month. Then the numbers stallled, and began to slide. By November and December, we were back in the 50s, and the average for the year was 65,893 a month, a couple thousand less than last year.
     What happened? It's possible that, having run out of things to say, I became repetitious and readers turned away. I certainly get tired of myself some days. Maybe the practice of reading for meaning has fallen from favor, and the time once spent here is now spent on Facebook watching videos of people in foreign countries being narrowly missed by careening trucks.
     Or ... speaking of Facebook ... someone working there, and at Twitter, might have turned a dial. The readership numbers are sluggish, they can't get airborne. Some days I can feel the weight, sitting on my back, as I vigorously flap. Mother Jones, in its state-of-the-publication report earlier this month (see, it isn't just me) blamed Facebook for fighting so-called "fake news" by muffling all news:
     And then Facebook delivered the sucker punch. This past January, Zuckerberg announced what amounted to the end of the “perfect personalized newspaper”: Facebook was pivoting back to baby photos. The algorithm would ramp up the number of posts from friends and family and dial way back on news. Not just the fake kind. Any kind.
     Today, you are far less likely to see posts from Mother Jones or any other publisher than you were two years ago, even when you’ve specifically followed that page. Facebook reach for most serious publishers has plummeted—so much so that some are even breaking their rule against disclosing internal analytics. Slate recently revealed that it sees 87 percent fewer Facebook referrals than it did in early 2017. Many other news organizations have taken a hit in the same r
     In that light, EGD's stumble is not only explained, but perhaps even a sign of strength for not being far worse. Hence my bad news being good. So it isn't quite in the same league as "War is peace."
     And besides, I've always insisted that this endeavor is not metric driven. Here is my chance to prove it. The blog as an outgrowth of my newspaper column, and an outlet for creativity. Not to mention a chance to do something routinely. I used to feel guilty of periodically filling a day by reposting old columns that are germane to this or that topic. But the Tribune reprints old John Kass columns in its actual newspaper, and they were shit the first time around. So nothing to feel guilty about. I certainly like reading them again, and I wrote them.
     So how was the content in 2018, to use a word I dislike ("content," though "2018" isn't high on my list either)? Three of my top ten all time best-read posts are from this year, led by this plea to help the Guildhaus, which got almost 10,000 hits (and, I should blushingly point out, raised $20,000 for the sober living facility in Blue Island).
     I believe it's been a varied, interesting year. In January, we gazed out this window in Paris and visited Belize to learn about the Mennonite community unexpectedly found there.  In February EGD ran a series of columns marking the auto show, including getting behind the wheel of a Bentley. In March we visited Mayan ruins one day, and talked tomato soup with the folks at Campbell's the next. In April, the Apollo 8 astronauts discussed circling the Moon, and by May we took in the Ivan Albright show at The Art Institute.  
     In July, I drove down to Granite City to hear Donald Trump speak, and I'm proud that, rather than regurgitate the preconceived notions I had brought with me, I talked to people and reported on what unfolded in front of me.
     We had dinner at Alinea, coffee at Caffe Regio in New York City, and hiked Stony Man Trail in the Shenandoah National Forest in Virginia. 
     Again and again, I kept up what I hope was a steady directed fire at the Trump abomination, brass rhetorical shell cases flipping over my shoulder as I tried to keep a bead on the slipperiest politician ever, jinking back and forth, emitting obscuring clouds of prevarication. Nobody is going to care about this blog 100 years from now—they barely care about it now, as I write the thing—but if anybody does, I hope it's because of the rhetorical ack-ack fire I marshaled in support of cherished American values, against the assault of the president backed by wave after wave of the defrauded dupes who'll back him to the end. 
     That's grandiose, and I apologize for it. Wherever the beating heart of significance might be, we are far from it. However. There is an EGD community, of sorts. Tate birddogging my mistakes every day, Grizz and Shari and Thomas and Tony and Paul and Sandy and Coey and Bitter Scribe and all the rest. Thank you reading this thing, and taking it seriously, and adding your own spin on the conversation. Thank you for course to Marc Schulman, at Eli's Cheesecake, who has supported the blog since its inception. Thank you to my bosses at the Sun-Times, whose complete indifference to this blog has been their greatest gift. Thank you to my wife for no longer suggesting that I just chuck the thing and go back to knitting.
     So in 2018, the blog, like the country, did not thrive, but it did, again like the nation, endure. And that is certainly an accomplishment. My plans for 2019 are to hold my position until relieved. Or, in the immortal words of Dr. Johnson: "I will be conquered; I will not capitulate." I suggest you do the same.


  1. Dude, I went into a minor panic here. I thought you were announcing the end of EGD. Whew (forehead swipe here). What would we do without you?

  2. I suppose I need to make sure I click the link to actually pull up your website. I use an RSS new reader app to read blogs, and I think you get a "hit" when it presents your post to me every goddamn day, but perhaps not? I'll endeavor to actually load the website each day to ensure you get a proper "hit". I love EGD, by the way, and especially appreciate your unrelenting exposures of Trump's....shit, I don't know, what the hell to call them any more....steaming piles of crap?

  3. And a huge thank you from us to you. Your loyal readers are loyal for all of the reasons you mention as your reasons for continuing to share your thoughts and brilliant writing with us every day, as god damned as some of them may be.
    I'll be here and at your column for as long as you are. I start every day with EGD. It is the second thing i do every morning. I look forward to the opportunity to learn, think, or just be entertained.
    Looking forward to 2019 and EGD.
    Sorry for the length. As a great writer once told me: Everyone wants to write. Not everyone should.

  4. I'm impressed that 1) you were honest enough to report your diminished numbers and 2) those numbers held up in the face of Facebook's onslaught. Lots of blogs have suffered from Facebook changing the rules. It's scary that one company can have so much power, and that pasty-faced creep Mark Zuckerburg is starting to look more repulsive in every picture I see of him.

    You are a good, honest, original writer with a finely tuned sense of life, and anyone who finds their way to this blog is lucky to do so.

    Oh, and thanks for the personal shout-out.

  5. Whoa, don’t go down that path! The J.Kasses and the Jackkass-in-chief must not be allowed to wear down your spirit. Your words are needed by, not only those who care; but also those who need still to be awakened to what is being done to their freedoms. Myself, l’ve been around here nearly eighty years and am fascinated by your adventures in and around this world. Hang in there and stay strong, please. Tom S.

  6. If it weren't for your anti-Trump nonsense you'd have 200k hits a month. Your best columns are about everyday stuff that we'd never know about, how pencils are made, different restaurant reviews, pigs blood was one of my favorites, life in leafy Northbrook. If you'd stick to that you be 100x further in life. I almost didn't finish reading this blog when I read Trump, you have a pathological hate for the man. BTW he just called a truce with China on tariffs. From my understanding American products are taxed 44% going into China and their products are taxed 4% coming into our country. WHAT MORON negotiated that trade deal and do you think Hillary would have fought China about the tariff disparity? Nope. She's bought and paid for like the rest of the establishment. Do you believe we'd be closer to a peace deal with North Korea under Hillary, ending the 27k soldiers that would be overrun in the event of a war? Do you think the soldiers that were pulled back from Syria getting us out of that brutal civil war would be home now for New Years if Hillary were president? Try to point out the good things that Trump does and I might even start buying the paper in 2019. Also, when's the next book coming out it's been a while since you wrote one. Drunkard is in my top 5 favorite books ever, You were never in Chicago is in my top 10. Newspapers are in trouble buddy you need to crank out a book every year. Don't fret about 67k people coming to your website. There are bloggers that would give their left you know what for that kind of traffic. Maybe you need to get out there and sell some banner ads? Anyway, Happy New Year Neil.

  7. Best wishes and we look forward to this each day.

  8. Keep up the vitriol aimed at the traitor in the White House. You actually give voice to my thoughts.

  9. Congrats on another year. Favorite EGD columnist!

  10. I have but four blogs bookmarked for daily perusal. Two are local, one is private, and one is yours. My favorite writers and journalists can be counted on the fingers of both hands...and most of them have either died or are just fading away. You are one of the few who is not only still alive, but still productive and prolific.

    Five full calendar years of EGD is a milestone and an achievement that is certainly worth noting--and definitely worth celebrating. Mazel tov, zei gesunt, and l'shona tovah, boychik, and thanks for the honorable mention. Some monarch once observed: "It's good to be king." An ordinary shmuck like me can only say: "It's good to be noticed."

  11. I look forward to EGD every day,, but it seems that it doesn't appear as much as it used to on my Facebook feed.

  12. I look forward to reading EGD every day, your columns are interesting, knowledgeable and brave!

  13. Thanks for being there for us every day. Even the repeats are appreciated. And thanks for welcoming me into the community. I was a bit late to the blog party, although I've been reading your Sun-Times column since Christ was a kid. And, a special thank you for taking aim at the lying Liar in Chief, and the liars who lie to defend him. Keep him in your sights -- we got your back.

  14. I think this is one of the better blogs. I like reading about your sons. And you write about topics that I would never have given any thought to. As for Kass, I don't know that they reprint a lot of his columns. I don't know that they would stand the test of time. I think the Royko columns that get reprinted tend to do so. A few months ago the paper reprinted a column about the national anthem that could have been written last year with all the Kaepernick nonsense.

  15. Thanks for writing this everyday. I go to it everyday and read through the whole column almost everyday. I have it loaded on my phone so I assume when I go to your EGD your receiving a "hit". As long as you keep writing it I'll keep reading it.

  16. You and this blog should be regarded as national treasures. Oh, and that "anti-Trump nonsense?" We need as much of that as you can deliver.

    A very happy New Year to you and your family.

  17. I didn't used to know what a blog was. Now thanks to your daily exertions I find one indispensable.


  18. As I hope I've mentioned before, this is among my first reads every g-d day. Without question, your writing is the main event, but the contributions of your commentariat are a major draw as well. You can be proud of the quality and thoughtfulness of the remarks from (most of) your regular readers. It exceeds that of much of the others on my customary rounds.

    So thank you to our host, and thank you to my fellow guests. Happy New Year!

  19. Keep up the good work, Neil! I don't often comment because I don't feel that I can rise to your level of wit and insight. But I appreciate EGD nonetheless. Scribe on!

  20. Thanks for a great year Neil... you truly help me get through the days. Happy New Year!

  21. Congrats, and know that we'll be here reading as long as you're here writing.

  22. This blog is a great distraction from the madness and I appreciate the view of the world through Neil's eyes. I've learned a lot about subjects I haven't considered before, and I love the older columns. Thanks.

  23. I've never commented before but just want to say thank you. I read this blog all the time and thoroughly enjoy your wonderful writing and your insights on matters both great and small.

  24. Thank you everyone for reading all year long, and for your kind words here. Happy New Year. Let's make the most of it.


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