The Magnus Archives wrapped up with a truly epic finale
Time Team is coming BACK and it’s going to be on the internet for all of us to enjoy
David Attenborough survives and, going on the assumption that he has a new show out, thrives
The guy who founded the We Rate Dogs Twitter account started a charity providing financial support for shelter dogs with complex medical needs, so they’d be more attractive to potential new owners. I can’t tell you how wonderful the 15/10 Foundation’s Twitter feed is, and how much better you’ll feel if you look at it
The Ever Given got stuck in the Suez and I know it was terrible for the economy et cetera et cetera but it was also ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS
Football didn’t come home but the idea that it might was quite nice (in the spirit of focussing on the good stuff, let’s not dwell on the racism or that bloke who stuck a firework in his arse)
While we’re on the subject of contests won by Italians… Eurovision came back! And Måneskin took their place as the world’s best rock band, Under 25s Category.
I’m staying in for new year’s eve, just to be on the safe side – although I’ve realised my favourite bit of NYE parties is getting to chat to my mates and cuddle with the hosts’ dog(s), so I’m not bothered about missing General Revelry. Last new year was difficult because there was no option but to stay indoors; this year I’m grateful to have the choice. And I choose to sit in my socks, eat panettone with my grandmother and think about all the books I want to read next year!
Seriously, though, I have a good handful of titles I cannot wait to dig into. I fell off the blogging wagon a little this year, but I hope to continue with book recommendation posts in 2022. A few titles I haven’t gotten around to enthusiastically recommending yet are Queenie, the Six of Crows duology, Robin Ince’s The Importance of Being Interested, Hitchhiker’s Guide (which I’d read once before but it’s like a good wine, it just improves with age), The Starless Sea – wait, I might have written about that. I can’t remember. 2021 had some really shit bits, but it excelled itself book wise. I was going to say it excelled itself film wise, but I’ve only been to the cinema once since Covid started and nearly all the films and TV shows I’ve seen were released ages ago. I liked, um, the animated Netflix one where Tim Minchin voiced a koala.
I just remembered that I almost went back into education to study film. Ha!
What were your highlights of 2021? What are you hoping for as we head into ’22? I’ve got a few modest goals – sort out my sock drawer, finish reading a copy of Frankenstein my friend T leant me on Halloween, get to the end of the academic year in one piece. I’m looking forward to some really mundane things, like Peaky Blinders coming back, new leaves on the trees on my uni campus, new Stiefvater novels, my fourth Covid jab. Ooh, I think there’s an extra bank holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee. I’m not sure if it’s a pandemic side effect or if everyone does it at some point during their twenties and the pandemic’s amplified it, but I’m far more interested in little things these days, things I used to consider insignificant. I saw a cool looking bird the other day. I’m not sure if pre-pandemic Francesca would have spent so much time trying to identify it on the RSPB website (consensus: male chaffinch, possibly). So, yeah, more books and more wildlife in 2022, I guess. Oh, and some of those shows that were originally scheduled for 2020! I’ll believe it when the lights go down, ha!
Happy new year!
Look after yourselves, Francesca
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Let’s talk about fans. Followers. Subscribers. Readers, in my case. I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few years, I was chatting about it with a friend recently and I figured, let’s chat with the internet. In 10+ years of blogging and posting stories on the internet, and five working in marketing, I’ve noticed an interesting disconnect between subscriber count/newsletter signups/social media follows/Patreon members, and engagement. As in, they look like this:
It makes sense, right? In marketing, they say that if you convert 1% of your ‘leads’ into buyers, you’re doing well. There’s a whole funnel thing people go through between learning about you and making a purchase or, in this case, defining themselves as a fan, and you lose people at each stage of the funnel. So it follows that if you have 10,000 YouTube subscribers you probably don’t have 10,000 patrons. You don’t get 10,000 comments on each video. You can’t say you have 10,000 dedicated viewers. You might only have 10 patrons or sell 10 t-shirts and if that’s the case, you’re statistically doing quite well.
This disparity not a big deal in the grand scheme of, you know, real life. Anyone can click ‘follow’ or ‘subscribe’ to a webpage, then never look at that page again. People can buy followers, too, and then there are multiple accounts run by the same person, bot accounts, etc. It’s just one of those things. So how do you differentiate between someone who’s clicked the follow button and someone who’s an engaged reader or viewer? When do you know that that person has become, for want of a better word, a fan? I have no idea how other creators decide, but I’ve figured out how I do it and since there’s a pandemic on and I don’t have a life anyway I’ve written it up. Before we start: I do sort of feel that a person has to identify as a fan or member of a fandom. It’s like gender. If someone says they’re a fan, they’re a fan. If they don’t, they aren’t. So when I’m saying ‘fan,’ I really mean ‘engaged human.’ ‘A person with ongoing interest in a creator.’ You can be engaged with a creator and not really consider yourself a fan of theirs. It’s up to you to wave your fan flag from the rooftops! Your choice to become an active member of a fandom and wear little pin badges proclaiming your fan-ness! I can’t believe I’ve drawn a link between fandom and gender identity. Let’s get on with this thing before I unwittingly insult a lot of people.
How I Figure Out How Many Readers and/or ‘Fans’ I Have
Let’s start with a story time and wind it back to 2012. My friends and I were in school. We were busy (12 classes on a timetable. How was that legal?!) but also not that busy. So if I tapped out a blog post, they would come and read and comment on it. A lot. We had some serious threads going on! You can still find them if you look, which I don’t hugely recommend as I was just as grumpy as I am now but also way more ignorant. Oh, the irony.
Anyway. As the years went by, my friends got busy with the real world and average monthly views dropped significantly but as they got busier, I got more serious about making money from writing. I realised that had I monetised the blog when it reported 800, 1000, 2,000 monthly views, I could have made, well, not a lot of money, but maybe enough to contribute to the domain names. Alas, the ship had sailed. A lot of those friends weren’t really readers, anymore, anyway.
How can you know that, though, you ask. Are analytics that good you can tell all your readers by name? No. No, they aren’t that good. I can see the country people arrive from. I can see visitors versus views, ie when one person comes to the site multiple times (I think it’s to do with cookies, though, so if you clear your browser history a new visit might count you as a new visitor, or if you’re in a private browser it might not count you at all. It’s not an exact science). You can see from these screenshots that the visitor/view count can, however, mislead or confuse you depending on which statistics you’re interested in tracking. In 2012, I had my best year for views ever. Almost 16k total views! That’s not huge for an influencer, but it was pretty big for 16/17 year old me.
2013 and 2014 look pretty low in comparison, right? Half as many views. But when you focus on the number of visitors I had from 2012 to 2014, it’s a completely different picture:
Although I had fewer visits in 2013 and 2014, the people who did visit came back multiple times. In 2012, it was mostly the same people clicking back lots of times. If you only care about view count, it doesn’t matter to you if 16k people click on your page once and never return. If you care about building a community, you’re likely more interested in who’s revisiting. So these graphs are a data-filled minefield! And maybe you can’t trust your stats if you’re not even sure what you want to track!
Another thing: I can see search terms and number of email subscribers and number of WordPress subscribers but I can’t see name, age, post code, etc. There’s no way of telling if someone’s a casual reader, or pops in twice a year, or reads every post as soon as I press publish. You could go by how many comments each post gets, but I’ll talk more in a tick about how that’s not necessarily a good way of working things out either. Essentially, unless you’re only interested in views or subscriber count, there’s no formula you can plug in. A over B minus C equals engaged fan, etc.
So here’s how I work it out.
I’ve been blogging since 2009. I post one to four posts a month, thereabouts. Back in the day I posted one to four posts a week (insane), but over the last four or five years it’s about one to four monthly. My rule of thumb for discerning a ‘regular reader’ is that they are anyone who leaves a comment, or does a reply to a publication post on social media, or drops me a message, or brings it up in conversation if we know each other in real life, every two-four months. Because I can’t discern ‘casual reader’ from ‘one time viewer’ from ‘very enthusiastic reader, essentially a fan’ from the analytics, I go by how often the reader actively tells me they’re there. And if you don’t tell me you’re there every quarter, or every 12 or so posts, I’m going to assume you’re not there and haven’t been since I last heard from you.
Does that sound too strict to you? Or not strict enough? I came to the ‘every two-four months or assume they’ve gone’ ‘rule’ by considering how I engage with creators, and assuming that the rest of the world acts in a same-ish way. Look, I used the phrase ‘rule of thumb,’ you can’t have expected lots of science. Maybe I’m the only person in the universe who engages how I do.
To break it down my consumer habits a bit: I don’t comment on every YouTube video I watch or comment on every blog I read. But when I think of the creators I like giving my time to, I might post a comment every third or fourth post (or comment on a comment). Sometimes I only comment once in a blue moon, because I don’t have anything to add to the conversation, or I’m not quite ready to start chatting to the creator. Sometimes it’s nice to just be a bit casual or anonymous, especially if the creator’s subject is something I’m new to, or if I’m educating myself about a topic. Sometimes, my way of engaging is to tell people to check out so-and-so (speaking of. Remind me to tell you guys how much fun this last series of The Magnus Archives has been). So I consider myself ‘engaged’ with a creator if I do those semi-regular, well, engagements. If I engage casually, maybe only commenting every few months, then I’m a casual reader/viewer. A fan but in a very relaxed way. No flag waving! It’s flexible, though. You can go back and forth between ‘casual’ and ‘active’ a lot over the years of liking something or someone’s work.
For example, I spent three or four months as a casual listener of The Magnus Archives, but then I joined a subreddit which I comment on sometimes and I’ve been nerding out about the plot of the final series with my friend and I wrote a script inspired by [spoilers] for my friend to illustrate, so now I reckon I’m a committed fan. Oh, and I’m telling you guys about it! So, yeah, I’m a member of the Red String Brigade as of the day I’m writing this. Will I always be this entrenched in the show? No. But I’ll always have a soft spot for the creators and the fandom, which seems to be stocked with very nice people. In the same way that I don’t listen to My Chemical Romance every day* but I do still retweet Frank Iero and keep half an eye on solo projects and merchandise. Many fandom friends from 2011 are still my friends now. If MCR ever comes out with new music, I’ll hit that order button faster than Biden re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement. I’ve spent months designing a jacket for their comeback show. ‘Being a fan’ is an elastic experience, like attending an exercise class. You can stop for a bit and then go back when you feel like it. Let the tide take you where it will.
None of this is designed to make you feel bad if you’ve been reading this blog for 10 years and you’ve never left a comment. You’re consuming entertainment, not applying for a mortgage. I do not need proof of your existence. Like I said, there are some creators I engage with rarely, if ever. Those I’m watching or reading because I’d like to learn more about a subject are more likely to get a quiet private message from me saying thanks for the info than they are a five paragraph comment, you know? Maybe one day I’ll start engaging more publicly or regularly, but I might not. I might not even send that private message; I’m not contractually required to. As a consumer I like to show my appreciation but I don’t like being made to feel obliged to do so. As a creator, I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to comment on every Tweet or blog post in order for me to consider them ‘a real reader.’ If you like the things I write on this blog, you’re one of my readers, as far as I’m concerned! Which probably negates a lot of what I’ve just written but like I said, these things are self-identified so really this rule of thumb business is just me being a giant Guessy McGuesser.
I feel like I’m going to get a question about books, so:
How does this work with books?
Shockingly, I do not know the identity of everyone who buys my book (please buy my book). My royalty statements aren’t through yet but they won’t contain a list of customer names. No one wants that much depth in their analytics… I suppose my only way of telling a casual reader from an engaged one is if they actively engage with the book after they’ve finished reading. For example if they hit me up in a private message, or leave a review.
So what have we learnt? I learnt that I wanted to put a gif of Klaus Hargreeves in a swimming pool below the paragraph about the tide and I couldn’t find a suitable one. Have you learnt anything? If you’re a consumer, how do you know when you’ve become a fan as opposed to a casual viewer? If you’re a creator and a consumer, how do you work it out?
Look after yourselves! Francesca
*I am listening to My Chemical Romance as I edit, though, ha!
Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my book, The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.
You heard me. I’d normally consider doing the Indifferent Ignorance awards, but I don’t feel like dedicating time to ignorant people… they are the reason I spent Christmas Day in tier 4. I’m also mindful that it’s important to count our blessings, not our curses, so in this post I’m going to share some of my favourite entertainment and arts discoveries of the year, plus a few personal/family highlights.
Things that blessed my ears in 2020
Lauv’s record, which I bought a copy of back in February or so, and kind of became the sound track to early lockdown.
Tim Minchin’s record. It’s… not his usual stuff. Some of the songs are sharp and sarcastic, but if you’re looking for more black comedy-philosophy, this album will disappoint. It’s mostly about how much he loves his wife and children. I cried.
The news my friend Tatchiana applied for a Master’s degree. MY FRIENDS ARE SO CLEVER YOU GUYS. I don’t even fully understand the topic she’s researching.
The Umbrella Academy put a soundtrack out and:
As well as re-entering the world of academia, Tatchiana introduced me to the Magnus Archives podcast and I guess I’m a fan of horror stories now? I’m kind of late to the party because it’s been running for years and finishes in 2021, but if you like a) creepy stories with the odd god that’s gross and really clever moment, b) short stories that slowly merge into one overarching Story and c) office politics, you’re in for a good time. (Aside: I realised partway through that Martin really reminds me of Arthur from Cabin Pressure. The programmes have nothing in common except that they’re audio, but I can’t unhear it. I don’t know if there’s a Venn diagram of Magnus Archives/Cabin Pressure listeners but if there is: do you hear it too?)
Things that blessed my eyeballs in 2020
I finally got around to reading the Noughts and Crosses series (or most of the series? There seems to be more books than I realised), and it is Very Worth the Hype. So’s the TV show.
I also got round to Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky. It’s very long and a horror novel – this is a theme – both of which usually put me off, but I really got into it. Brilliant last page too.
Bill Bailey in Strictly Come Dancing.
The news that my cousin and her boyfriend bought a house! A whole entire property in this economy. Epic.
Real Life Money by Clare Seal. It’s a memoir-advice book by the lady who runs the My Frugal Year Instagram, and it’s really interesting. If you’re at all into finance, money management and/or consumerism, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I don’t usually love memoirs, or advice-y novels, but this one is non-preachy, well researched and quite important in these uncertain times.
If you want to buy any of these books, by the way, I have a Bookshop account. Every purchase made through my little page earns me one fifth of a penny or suchlike. Am I being shameless? Um yeah, I don’t have a regular job as of Christmas Eve. I’m also on Goodreads if you want to see what else I’m reading and chat about books. One upside of lockdown was spending so much time reading and I am already planning my reading list for next year. So many books, so little time! Speaking of books, the prettiest thing I saw this year was:
My book coverrrrrrr. Also, you know, seeing the book available to purchase. I wasn’t sure it was going to be released this year – or ever – and I’m a tiny bit proud of the work that went into it. Not bad going for someone who spent their A Levels wearing a wrist brace and their early-mid twenties dealing with chronic pain, crippling anxiety and on-again-off-again depression, huh.
Things that blessed my ears and my eyeballs in 2020
The second series of The Umbrella Academy. I love it. I love it so much. It has everything I want out of TV, plus a Baby Pogo. TRULY WE ARE BLESSED.
Videos by A Small Wardrobe on YouTube (I talk more about Patricia’s channel and learning about minimalism here).
Videos by Annie, who posts as the Green Witch on YouTube. Sometimes the algorithm suggests videos that you didn’t know you needed. Annie has a witchy YouTube and a nature-y YouTube. They are both very peaceful. Taking 10 minutes to watch calm, nature-y has turned out to be quite good for my brain.
Schitt’s Creek. I know I know, I was late to that too. I cannot recommend a more soul-warming programme. Other TV I’m brilliantly late to: Derry Girls, Nighty Night, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Ghosts.
What have you enjoyed in 2020? You’re allowed to say banana bread and Netflix. You’re allowed to say ‘realising that the friend I checked in with during lockdown never checked in with me, and now I am disengaging.’ You’re allowed to say ‘not having a big, overwhelming Christmas.’ What are you planning for new year’s eve?
Jut kidding, mostly. I’ll probably have a bath, pour a wee drink, watch the clock to ensure this hellscape actually ends, and get my beauty sleep. I’ve got things to do in 2021! Nothing ostentatious, of course. My plans are mostly to read a lot and maybe bake some more banana bread. But I may as well do them on a full night’s sleep, especially as there is literally nowhere to go. I’ll talk more about that (my plans, not tier bloody 4) in my next post. Probably.