Moving Forward While Looking Backward
Most of the other blogs I read have done some kind of year-in-review, best-of-the-year, and/or annual roundup in the past week or two. I was too busy between work and vacation to do such a thing before the New Year, but it seems worth it to put some time into assessing this project, where it’s been and where it’s going. So, while my focus is usually on 100 years ago, let’s zoom ahead and look at the past 1 year instead.
A year ago, this blog was so obscure that very few people knew about it who didn’t know me in real life. I set a goal to try to double the number of hits for each month, and, instead, I’ve pretty consistently quadrupled my hits per month every month this year. That sounds amazing, but it’s actually more a reflection on how few people read the blog a year ago than anything else. Not surprisingly, my hits mostly come from the US, but I’ve expanded to a number of other countries as well. Countries that visited my site 100 times or more this year include the UK, Belgium, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, and Russia. Australia and New Zealand are just behind.
A couple of things have contributed to getting me out of my ghetto-existence. One was simply finding other people who blog about early and silent film, and commenting on their blogs. A comment on a relevant blog drives a surprising amount of traffic to mine, even when I don’t have that much to say. Once I had made contact in that way, I started entering blogathons. I think the first one was a little over a year ago, actually. The posts I’ve done for blogathons have been consistently the most-read posts I write. Finally, I applied for membership (and was accepted) in CMBA, the Classic Movie Bloggers Association, a really good group of people writing about older film – most of it a lot newer than what I review, but still pretty much kindred spirits.
There are downsides to each of these. First, comments. I find it very hard to write comments that simply say, “Yay! What a good article.” I want to include some critical or contextual information that adds to what the blogger has written. It turns out some bloggers take this as an attack, rather than an invitation to open dialog. I still haven’t figured out the best way to negotiate this. Blogathons are great click-grabbers, but they often force me to devote time to things that are peripheral to the real purpose of this project. Many of them, of course, are about eras or subjects that just don’t fall within my scope (Clara Bow was only 11 in 1916, so I’m probably not going to join a Clara Bow Blogathon), but even when they do, I have to think about the themes I’m working on and how the timing of the event overlaps with what I’m doing. I probably participate in fewer than I could for that reason. And CMBA, fun as it is, runs somewhat against the nature of what I’m doing: where they are interested in “classic” movies, I’m interested in “historical” movies, and in movie history. They are similar concepts, but not necessarily the same. CMBA doesn’t actually prevent me from doing what I want to do, but sometimes I wonder if there’s a better forum for getting my word out.
Now, the content. A year ago, I mostly wrote entries of one or two paragraphs, with one picture (usually from Wikimedia Commons) and a little data at the end. As this year has progressed, I’ve found that I have more to say about even fairly minor short films. This reflects how much I’ve learned as a result of doing this project, and learning is at least 50% of why I’m doing it, so that’s a statistic I’m pretty happy with. But it does make keeping up the number of posts difficult. I started out with one-or-two-posts-a-day, and that gets more taxing as I go. I have developed a schedule that I’m relatively happy with: shorts on weeknights, a “feature” (broadly defined) on Saturday, and a “context” post on Sunday. Really, I’m more likely to post two or three weeknights a week than every night, and that’s not so bad. We’ll see how this develops, but I don’t want to burn myself out too fast. As far as pictures, I’ve gotten more comfortable with taking screen captures from movies (so far, everything I review is in the public domain), and pleased with the quality I’m getting, which is good, but again, it does add to the time needed for each review. I’m tagging more heavily and linking like crazy as well, which is part of my librarian’s way of doing things, but I don’t know whether it helps anyone but me.
I think I’ve mentioned before that at the beginning of this project, I thought it would be “no big deal” to watch every available film from before 1912 in one year, then just focus on the year itself. Well, I still have hundreds of un-reviewed movies to watch from before 1900, let alone 1910! But, 1915 was such an important year that I’m glad I let myself get caught up in it and reviewed so much from it. I think that will probably continue in 1916 and 1917, with older movies coming in piecemeal, because there’s always something you find later. As far as the Century Awards, this approach has worked well. Last year at this time I was scampering to watch “important” movies from 1914, because I didn’t have much ready to nominate, but this year there’s just a few outliers I’d like to get to (and a few “lost” films that I have to let go).
I may shift format a bit when it comes time for the Century Awards themselves, this year. Last year I waited until the day of the Oscars, and posted one an hour (some were pre-written). It was a big day for clicks, but also exhausting. I may try stretching it out over the weekend this time, or combine a multiple awards into single posts, or something else to take the pressure down a notch this year. We’re only two weeks away from nominations, by the way, and if you want to nominate a movie from 1915 in any category, just let me know in comments or email.
Well, all in all, it’s been a great, productive year and I’ve learned a lot and “met” (online) a lot of great people. Let’s look forward to another great year and all the surprises it will bring.
Happy New Year! You do great work, and glad more people are discovering it. Thanks also for taking part in our blogathon this year and for your visits and comments at my blog, always appreciated.
Thanks, Kristina! Your Blogathon was especially fun, since I only had to watch 50 seconds of film, then figure out what to say! Hopefully I can come up with another such example this year. What I enjoy at your blog is seeing all of the old B-movies I loved as a kid treated as “classics” in their own right.
Pope, it’s great work you’re doing here, and I’m always impressed by the frequency of your posts. Interesting pope, I enjoy hearing people tell about how they blog, what they measure by, etc. (I never look at the hits on my blog .. maybe I should start keeping track of this sort of thing?) As for film images, I hear you, doing all that can be quite time consuming – I think it’s good to have illustration though!
I’m interested that you brought up CMBA – I was thinking of joining, but was ambivalent because their readership/coverage seems a bit different from mine. Also, I think I missed their latest intake round, oops.
I will be interested to read your 1915 awards!
Thank you! I still enjoy it, however mixed my feeling may sound. I’m an obsessive statistics-watcher, though in the end it doesn’t matter. In all of May, 2014, I only had 65 hits, but that didn’t stop me from posting or learning about movies. I still haven’t gotten into making gifs, like you or Fritzi at Movies Silently – I assume that’s even more work than screen caps.
Last I heard, you were up for consideration this round at CMBA. I’d like to see us expand our focus a bit: we do have at least two other silent movie blogs (Movies Silently and Silentology, maybe there’s a couple I’m forgetting), but you look far more at non-US movies than any of the three of us. I’d really like to see “classic” start to mean “international” in general.. I like to point out the irony that there are multiple CMBA blogs devoted to Hitchcock, but NOT ONE that focuses on Kurosawa. I mean, come on! Is there any doubt which is the better director?
The awards will be fun this year. Last time I had a hard time filling the categories, this time it will be more about find the best of several good choices.
Yeah, 1915 has a lot of good choices!
GIFs and such: I have all my macros set up in PhotoShop so it’s quite a fast process, but obviously it’s more time-consuming than just including screenshots. But using them cuts down on my need for description, which is great because I’m not a fast writer. 🙂
Yes, the CMBA do skew very American in their coverage, which is cool but not my primary film interest. I did approach them a while ago about joining, but they weren’t taking applications then. Maybe that landed me in the queue, though?
Kurosawa is great, I agree!
Congrats on your blog success this year. Quadrupling site visits is an impressive achievement!
What I find interesting about your blog is the number of films that you’re able to find and watch. I used to think there wouldn’t be very many of these films, but you’ve proven me wrong.
Happy blogging to you in 2016!
Thank you! As I said, it’s partly just starting from a lower number in the first place. I don’t think I’ll be able to repeat the accomplishment this year (but we’ll see). Yes, there really are a lot more Century Films than we realize – and more each year! Before we know it, “Gone with the Wind” will be a century old, and then we’ll really have a legacy to talk about.