Tuesday, April 30, 2013

After Dark, April 30, 2013

Moving beyond Cyber-serfdom
Wherein I share secrets about "us"
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Anyone who has failed (rather publicly) on their Indigogo or Kickstarter campaign, anyone who has loudly voiced their fiscal woes and missing audience, anyone who is in and around theatre (or journalism, for that matter) and is tired of being a cyber-serf can take what they can (and want) from CharPo's secrets.

Firstly, internet (and theatre) are not for the faint of heart or the impatient. (For the rest, you can substitute "theatre" or "journalism" for "internet".) I have been doing work on or near the net for 20 years - from moderating discussion boards at the Mirror (Babylon) to my own site on Geocities, to the creation of the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia, to this site (with stops at MySpace, Facebook, podcasting, Twitter and Vine). There was only once when money was to be made and it was when Quebecor leased the Encyclopedia for their Canoe website (for $250 a month). After they opted out, I endowed the site to Athabasca University because a woman (now important in Montreal) sent me an email saying, "Why the fuck is X in your fucking encyclopedia and I'm not?" It was the first time I'd been insulted for doing volunteer work. It was also when I decided that I would never embark on another internet project with collaborators unless the end result would be that everyone got paid.

It is being watched closely around the world as a possible solution to the woes of the internet/journalism.

The internet, as we have read, has created its own class system: a mega-rich one, a middle-class (like Marc Maron) and the serfs. (Again, if you are still substituting "theatre" or "journalism" for "internet" you're following my gist.) There is a huge part of the general population (ex-Napsters, illegal downloaders of content and those who assume everything on the net is either free and/or free of copyright) who rely on this third class for their entertainment and information. This is a done deal and perhaps an unchangeable condition; many now assume it has forced the net and its fiscal viability into paths we couldn't even imagine a decade ago. 

La Presse, here in Montreal, has created a new free app for iPad where they offer all content free. It is a brilliant thing and in its first days had 130,000 downloads. I use it each night when my Presse arrives automatically onto my iPad (like my Montreal Gazette of yore did to my doorstep). I know I am offering La Presse tons of information about me each time I click one article or ad rather than another. (It is information most of us give freely to Facebook where our return is what a "friend" thought of the latest sandwich at McDonald.) I also know that La Presse will eventually, through it's app, relay ads so specifically targeted to me that I will not be able to resist clicking on them. (An art Facebook - with its grinding, half-arsed mercantilism - has not yet mastered.) One other thing: the ads I am already getting on La Presse are already enticing me - vids for movies, for instance, and one ad I play with every night where you swipe across a pastoral picture to reveal what is missing from the scene: a car.

I hope La Presse+ works. It is being watched closely around the world as a possible solution to the woes of internet/journalism. 

So what about the rest of us who cannot bet the fiscal house on such innovation? We must use the tools at our disposal and they are numerous. (I talked about Twitter last week, for instance.) But we have to use them wisely and innovatively. 

I was listening to Marc Maron (again) and he was interviewing two guys who have had an hilarious podcast - Uhh Yeah Dude - since podcasting was invented. I downloaded their 300+ episodes and Maron is right: they're wonderful. They make not a cent except from live shows they do for their loyal fan base. Maron then made a crucial point: that it was time to shout our numbers (listenership, readership) out loud to let publicists, advertisers, etc. know that the paradigm has shifted - thanks to the internet - and that we are not your daily newspaper. 

If you read us it is because you are with us...not us buried in a pile of other stuff (like in a newspaper). If you are a seller trying to reach that very specific us, here is where you want to spend your dollars. Moreover, because of podcast sites like Libsyn or numbers apps like Google Analytics, we can define that "us" more clearly than ever.

That means 6454 different computers were used this month to view one or more articles on this site

Now the secrets...

As I already revealed in our (free) newsletter (subscribe hereCharPo, since it went to a single national site in January, has experienced phenomenal growth. (To respond to some recent trolling on this site) I can offer that the survey on the left of this page (about dance) tells you nothing about the size of our readership. Google Analytics (invisible coding on this very page) tells us that our unique viewers - each computer counted only once in a month - has gone from 2000 to - as of this writing - 6454. That means 6454 different computers were used this month to view one or more articles on this site (those different views are also counted and range between 5-7000 a week). Simply put - we have some 6000 readers who are coming to this site at least once a month to read about one thing: Canadian theatre. 

Now, that is where I will stop offering trade secrets. However, here are some more interesting - non-specific - facts. Our biggest readerships, in order, come from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. We have readers in every province and territory (except Newfoundland and that is our fault). Funnily, we also have a fairly large foreign readership (about 20% of the total). They mostly come from 46 of the 48 contiguous States and Great Britain. In order, again, the cities are New York, Los Angeles and London (UK). (And here's a really odd thing: this last month we had 64 unique readers in London. Which one? Both. 64 in London, UK, and 64 in London, Ontario.)

CharPo is only 30 months old. We continue to be patient. 

Yes, we have false pageviews too. That comes with the territory (and why we rely on unique viewers and not pageviews as our important number). False pageviews come from a reviewed theatre company who thinks that we will not notice when they simply reload a page thousands of times (and think we'll advertise on Twitter, as we do, that an article is "most read"). False pageviews also come from attacks, as we recently experienced from China. These two things - we estimate - have created about 20,000 false pageviews of our 270,000. They too, though, serve a purpose! They taught us about how internet numbers can be jimmied (like TV ratings numbers are still jimmied and reader/subscriber numbers for magazines and newspapers have always been jimmied).

You see, because no one really trusts anything (or at least everything) on the internet - real counting has become crucial. 

So what is required for cha-ching? Patience and imagination. (Journalists, theatre people...sound familiar?)

CharPo is only 30 months old. We continue to be patient. 

Hopefully, you will soon see our imagination at work. 

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