The Blog of John Hewitt

Nostalgia Punches Me in the Face

John Stewart is Stepping Down

I just finished watching John Stewart announce that he is leaving The Daily Show. It was hard to watch him make the announcement. I am not a daily The Daily Show viewer anymore, but there was a time when I wouldn’t miss it. In a sense though, I had moved on, just as he plans to do now. His show became a challenge to watch, from both a perspective of time and of emotional fortitude. Stewart, and the show, are always funny and insightful. The problem is that no matter how on the nose his commentary has been, it really changed nothing. The world is not a worse place that it was in 1999. It is actually better. Unfortunately, politics itself is a carnival of angry voices and poor decisions designed to make us think the world is worse. That isn’t going to change. Stewart couldn’t make a dent in it. It doesn’t make me any less fond of his attempts though. Sometimes is the the attempt that matters more than the result.

1999

John Hewitt is not Stepping Down

Right about the time Stewart started hosting The Daily Show, I started poewar.com. I had been writing (about writing) on the Internet since 1993, but in 1999 I formally committed to buying a domain and making the effort to run a successful web site. Amazingly, I succeeded. At the peak of its popularity (2005 to 2009), this site averaged over 150,000 page views a month. There were less than a half-dozen writing sites that were bigger. I was close to becoming a full-time blogger. At that point though, I made a series of decisions about life and the site that started a slow decline in traffic that was helped along by forces such as Facebook, Twitter, and hackers. There’s a lot I don’t miss about those days, but I do miss the excitement of having a successful site.

I could easily make a top ten list of things you should never do if you’re a blogger, and they would all be based on things I have actually done. I have made a lot of well-intentioned mistakes, and a few downright boneheaded moves. Nonetheless, poewar.com persists. What was 150,000 page views a month now totters between 40,000 and 50,000, which is actually up from a year ago, when I hit a low of 18,000. I have slowly but surely been rebuilding. Recently I said I was going to stop doing a lot of things on this site (put that on the list of things not to do), but with a month to reconsider I am feeling like poewar.com might have at least one good run left in her.

Bringing Things Back

I don’t know if it is possible to climb back to the top tier of sites, but I am going to try a few things. Toward that end, the jobs section is back (after a long absence) and the freelance section is back (after a much longer absence).

Beyond that, we’ll see what happens. I still plan to put in a new section for my fiction, but that is going slower than I would have hoped. As for new articles, we’ll see what I’ve got so say (and about what). One thing I can guarantee though is a lot of parenthetical statements (because that is just what I do).

What I’m Reading

Kevin Kaiser over at The Write Practice has an article about The Secret to Having the Most Productive Writing Year Ever. I could use a most productive year ever, and I like the advice about specificity and measurement.

Jamie Gold, paranormal author tells How to Place Turning Points on a Beat Sheet. Pay close attention to the four major beats and the four minor beats.

Tom Johnson at I’d Rather Be Writing asks Why do we need PDFs? I’ve been trying to move my company off of PDFs for a couple of years. In my opinion, they were once a great tool, but they lead to book-style thinking. In most technical communication cases, books are of limited use and PDFs do not age well.

Anne Wayman over at About Freelance Writing provides 10 Ways Writers Can Beat Self Promotion Fear And Market Themselves. Self-marketing is always a challenge. The balance between getting your name out there and annoying the hell out of people is a delicate one. Often, you think you are being worse than you really are. Sometimes though, you really do annoy the hell out of people.

  • tomjohnson1492

    Hey John, just curious, but what did you do that contributed to your site’s decline? And why the change of mind to bring it back up on top?

    • So many things… probably the most completely boneheaded one was when I deleted my feed from Feedburner and lost the two thousand or so people that were subscribed at the time. Many other things, such as starting new sites rather than focusing on this one. Getting into business with Demand Media. Paying too much attention to stats and seo tactics rather than putting out content. The biggest thing though, would simply be inactivity. I was already slowing up, but over the past three years, I lost both parents and gained a pair of twins, and that just dropped my activity and interest to near zero. I seem to be coming out of that period a bit though.

      One of the things that got me interested again, actually, was watching how well your blog does, just plugging away, adding good content and staying relevant. Your site continues to do well in a fairly small niche. I looked around over the past few weeks and found that most of the blogs I considered (friendly) competitors back in the day have faded away. The ones that are still around, and the ones that replaced the old blogs all seem to be trying to sell something. That’s nothing against them, but so many sites have some sort of popup that I have to close, just to look at the content. I feel like there is room for a blog that avoids that sort of thing.

      • tomjohnson1492

        RSS is on the way out anyway…but still, sorry to hear about the Feedburner misstep.

        Twins must be a lot of fun.

        With the web, it doesn’t take much to jump back into people’s view. Post seem to have 2-day lifespans now, so once the post slides off the homepage, it then only appears to searchers on google. Trying to write for that google audience, rather than a direct audience subscribed to my site or following me, is difficult.

        Welcome back.

        • Thanks Tom. The twins are the best.

          Mistakes some and go. Feed readers are out, but most of my Feedburner people were getting it through e-mail, so it was like losing a newsletter. The good news is that I just figured out that I still have my actual newsletter, with about 750 subscribers, so I can rebuild from there. It will be interesting to see how many I have after they get their first newsletter in three years.

          • tomjohnson1492

            I’ve had a difficult time growing my readers who are subscribed to my newsletter. About 20 new people subscribe each week, and about 10-15 unsubscribe each time I sent a newsletter. I switched from Feedburner to Sendy for sending newsletters.

          • Mine uses tinyletter.

          • tomjohnson1492

            For each post, did you manually copy and paste your entire post into a tinyletter newsletter, or did you send out a conglomeration of post excerpts on a weekly basis?

          • I always tried to treat the newsletters as containing both content from the site, and some unique content. Sometimes I include entire posts, but I also would link to some things, and include a personal update. Much of the newsletter’s purpose was to deliver job links.

      • RSS is on the way out anyway…but still, sorry to hear about the Feedburner misstep.

        Twins must be a lot of fun.

        With the web, it doesn’t take much to jump back into people’s view. Post seem to have 2-day lifespans now, so once the post slides off the homepage, it then only appears to searchers on google. Trying to write for that google audience, rather than a direct audience subscribed to my site or following me, is difficult.

        Welcome back.

        • Thanks Tom. The twins are the best.

          Mistakes come and go. Feed readers are out, but most of my Feedburner people were getting it through e-mail, so it was like losing a newsletter. The good news is that I just figured out that I still have my actual newsletter, with about 750 subscribers, so I can rebuild from there. It will be interesting to see how many I have after they get their first newsletter in three years.

          • I’ve had a difficult time growing my readers who are subscribed to my newsletter. About 20 new people subscribe each week, and about 10-15 unsubscribe each time I sent a newsletter. I switched from Feedburner to Sendy for sending newsletters.

          • Mine uses tinyletter.

          • For each post, did you manually copy and paste your entire post into a tinyletter newsletter, or did you send out a conglomeration of post excerpts on a weekly basis?

          • I always tried to treat the newsletters as containing both content from the site, and some unique content. Sometimes I include entire posts, but I also would link to some things, and include a personal update. Much of the newsletter’s purpose was to deliver job links.

  • Hey John, just curious, but what did you do that contributed to your site’s decline? And why the change of mind to bring it back up on top?

  • Thanks for the shout out to my blog! I hope my beat sheets are helpful. 🙂

  • Thanks for the shout out to my blog! I hope my beat sheets are helpful. 🙂