Thursday, 31 July 2014

State of the Blog: New template and reader engagement

Thursday, 31 July 2014

I didn't get much feedback about DMD's new look from people here. This seems to be part of an ongoing change in visitor habits, as Twitter seems to be the preferred choice. Are comment areas doomed because they feel so isolated from the wider world? It's starting to feel that way, which is a pity. You can get into fun, in-depth, ongoing discussions in a well-moderated comments area, but obviously it needs someone to start the ball rolling.

Anyway, does everyone like the new template? Don't all shout at once. I think it's much nicer to look at and easier to use, but not such an enormous change that will frustrate people. It just does a much better job promoting the actual content, via the new Featured Content Slider, 'Read This!' ticker, and the outer columns of text previews. I'm very happy with it.

To go along with the new template, I've tried to shake things up with the type of blog posts that are published. There have been more early U.S pilot previews (months ahead of premieres, not days), and a few more article-style recaps on TV shows after they've aired 3-6 new episodes (The Leftovers, Halt and Catch Fire), plus a Talking Point with a voting poll ('Escapism vs Reality'), and one that's more a 'think piece' ('... will U.S cable's sudden love of anthology series last?')

If I'm completely honest, a big part of the reason for DMD's new look was to encourage change within myself, too. I've been feeling hemmed in by reader expectations and my own habits after 8 years spent doing this. I want to find new and exciting ways of blogging, and hope to regain some passion in the process.

Whenever I ask readers what they want from DMD, the consensus is always the same: more reviews of the things we like to watch. I'd love to oblige but "more reviews" = "more work for me", and "of the things we like to watch" = "not always the things I like to watch". And then there's the issue of many dramas being tough to review episodically, or TV shows being so popular that most readers get their recap/review fix from the bigger players on the web.

Generally, the reviews that do best are for British dramas/sitcoms less of my 'competitors' want to review, can be bothered to review, or even watch. Filling a niche market isn't always fun, though, and I've recently discovered that double the number of U.S visitors visit DMD than my fellow countrymen now! It's always been a 50/50 split, by and large, so it's interesting to see that divergence happening...

I guess I will just have to keep plugging away, seeing what seems to 'spark' with readers (in terms of blog traffic, social shares, and comments). But, at the risk of 'fishing' for a response designed to stroke my delicate male ego, I just hope regular visitors remember that blogs like DMD aren't written for money, they're written because of a genuine love of the subject-matter and a desire to communicate with like-minded folk. The best way to return that expression of love is by sending me money engaging with the free content provided.

I'll continue to do my best here, and I genuinely hope you'll continue to enjoy the daily output. Just, y'know, occasionally let me know you do, too... because without some discourse with readers, things can get a little aimless and my enthusiasm droops.