Sunday, June 30, 2019

Here, eat your cheese: The State of the Blog, Year Six

     Last July, the newspaper sent me down to Granite City, to see Donald Trump give a speech at the U.S. Steel plant there. On the way home, I stopped for lunch in Dwight, a small town about 100 miles south of Chicago that turned out to have both an unexpected visitor's center housed in a refurbished vintage gas station, and a stunning bank designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1906 and still in use.
     I wrote a blog post about it, part of the carnival of quotidian essaying that is this blog, shifting from the important to the trivial, the current to the recycled.
    Neither news nor entertainment, fish nor foul, EGD wasn't a commercial endeavor, mostly, though it does have aspirations. And of course holiday advertising support from Eli's Cheesecake and its owner Marc Schulman, a tireless supporter of the blog since Day One. Thanks to him, and to all of you who ordered cheesecake. 
    For five years, the blog marched steadily upward. Readership grew. I imagined it become a Blog of Significance.
      Then this year Mark Zuckerberg turned a dial at Facebook, and readership fell 33 percent between August of 2018 and February 2019. Either that, or the public suddenly became indifferent, which is possible too. Though I do believe it is the former I like to think the quality, such as it is, hasn't suffered, but I'm not really the person to judge. And besides: the whole idea that good work is embraced while bad work is ignored is as baseless a fantasy as belief in faeries. 
     Besides Twitter has also closed down. Last year, I could get 100, 120 new followers a month. Lately I get none. My theory: people see the tweets either pushed by advertising dollars or sent by people with a million followers, neither of which describes me.
     I almost didn't count the numbers this year, but figured that would be worse. What's the point of being honest if you fall silent at bad news? 
    Bad news such as: in July, 2018, EGD had 75,928 readers.  That progressed steadily downward, lower and lower, month by month, until now, when June 2019 clocked in at almost exactly 50,000. with average of about 60,000 hits a month, putting us back to where we were in 2017. And a near-guarantee that next year will be worse.
    This, I believe, is where determination becomes a factor. Never never never and all that Churchillian folderol. 
    When we shift away from statistics, the picture improves. 
    In August, I started The Saturday Snapshot, using reader's photos to soften the weekend, both for the writers and, I hope, readers. Thanks to Tony, Tom, Nikki and all the regular contributors. We also marked Kitty's anniversary
    The blog carried all my columns in the paper, sometimes with sharper elements that the paper balked at, such as the Spanish headline on Friday's column. I won't run through all my favorites, though I have to mention the one in September where I featured women who donated their breast-milk to soften their grief after the death of their babies. In October, we hung out in Greenwich Village, at Caffe Reggio
     In April, I wrote a dozen pieces of a South American diary, including ones I was proud of on the tango as a guide to life, and a charming cheese shop. 
     Through it all, a steady fire directed at our president and the quislings and lackeys who support him, such as November's "Bias makes you stupid." For that reason alone, I think the blog is worth doing. Not for its limited and dwindling scope now, so much as to tell people in the future that we pushed back. In case they care.
    Which they might not.
    This is the place in the first draft of this report where I pressed the back of my wrist to my forehead and complained of being tired. But luckily I looked at past year-end summations, and noticed I was doing that during the blog's go-go sophomore year, when the numbers were zig-zagging skyward. So dispense with that.  Nobody likes a complainer—well, except for Republicans, who seem to love their whiner-in-chief, for reasons I can hardly fathom.
     I think that sums it up.  Wherever the beating heart of the internet may be, this ain't it. 
     But we are not without pride, and like to run a tidy shop ourselves. The cheese store in Necron, Chile wasn't Kraft Foods, either, but its proprietor still served up a delicious slab of fresh cheese for my two dollars. I try to do the same. Thank you for finding your nourishment here, and I'll hope to see you often in Year Seven. 




  1. One of the first things I do every morning is read your blog. I’m grateful I can count on your being there.

  2. We are very fortunate to have you describe the events outside the bubble we live in that we’ll probably never see as well as the ones we see every day and would not take notice of without your bringing them to our attention in detail. Thank you!

  3. Thank you Neil. And, for what it's worth, I'll be here as long as you are. It has been a wonderful time.

  4. Still doing well and keep on keeping on...

  5. If you keep showing up every day, I definitely will. Wouldn't miss it! If I go on vacation, even for several weeks, I come back to see what I've missed.
    Thank you!

  6. Maybe you shouldn't tell your loyal readers to take their business elsewhere . There are only so many sycophants.

    1. I don't, generally, FME. You're a sui generis exception. Jerks aren't welcome and never were. Sorry if that describes you, hurts your feelings or, obviously, both. Actually, not that sorry. Scram.

  7. With newspapers in decline, the Times shrinking to a size that would fit in my mailbox, even on Sunday, you provide the intelligent and off the beaten path stories that keep our interest. Better to be John McPhee than James Patterson. Thanks for the effort, Neil.

  8. There's a reason this is almost always the first place I go when I log on. Keep doin' it, Neil.

    And don't get too upset over Facebook causing a plunge in your numbers. That algorithm tweak, whatever it was, affected everyone. (Including right-wingers, and boy, did they ever bitch and moan about it!)

    One of the things I dislike about the digital age is how we're at the mercy of things like Facebook algorithms and Google SEO protocols. I feel like we're all primitive worshipers of remote and capricious gods, trying desperately to appease them.

  9. I’ve followed you here for most of the ride and look forward to beginning my morning with EGDD. Since leaving Chicago last August you have been an important touchstone to my hometown. Keep doing what you do so well.
    Bob Y.

  10. May not be the most popular, but it's one of the best! I see you more of a cult-like following. Like Tom Waits or a fine bottle of wine. If they want Boonesfarm, they shall go elsewhere.

  11. I am with Paul Fedrick, as long as you are here then so am I. I frequenty share your blog on face book. Or retweet on twitter. How ever I don't have many followers on either site to make a difference. I am not new to your columns and have been reading the blog since you started. I always find you have something interesting to say.

  12. Since I failed to mention it at the time, this would be an appropriate moment to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your phenomenal postings from the far southern reaches of the lower hemisphere. I was so grateful to learn much about a place I will never be able to experience myself. I look forward to reading every goddamn day, but never more so than during those particular goddamn days! Thank you, Neil.

  13. been reading your column for years and just recently stumbled across the blog. i will of course continue lurking on line

  14. One of the great things about reading your blog is not knowing what the subject is going to be. It's like a Kinder Egg, you know it's going to be a treat but there's always a surprise. Thank you for your intelligent and informative writing every goddamn day, and another thanks for posting my photos. That's a fun treat seeing them here.

  15. Hope your good following gets gouda & gouda.

  16. Neil's daily enterprise passes the test posed by Virginia Wolfe in describing the modern essay. "The principle which controls it is simply that it should give pleasure. It should lay us under a spell with the first word and we should only wake refreshed with the last."


  17. Since receiving "You Were Never In Chicago" a few years back, I have been a faithful reader of this blog, first as a lurker and then as a poster. I spent a while lurking because I wanted to get "the lay of the land" to speak...and avoid pissing you off.

    I've noticed how the average number of daily comments has declined over the last year or so, and it got me worried, because I assumed that also meant a decline in readership, along with the possibility that this blog might go away. Sorry to hear I was right.

    I'm now down to commenting in just four places, and this is one of them. Two of the others are local and one is a private board that I have been a member of for fifteen years. It, too, has lost almost all of its membership. People move on and change their habits, or become alienated for one reason or another. Some people just die. Too many of those lately...I'm at that age.

    I enjoy the variety and the diversity and the quirkiness of this place, Mr. S, and I believe that many readers and posters would feel diminished and have a sense of loss if it came to an end. I know I would.

  18. Long time reader, big fan. I stopped reading last year because of the paywall, I was so sad. Could the paywall be part of the reason? Recently, the paywall hasn't been an issue so I'm back with a vengeance. That light in the windows entry was amazing. Keep on keeping on! 50,000 ain't too shabby.


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