The recent update [EA · GW] to the EA Forum prompted me to look at the value of having my own separate blog.
In this post I'll provide basic metrics from my site and talk about whether I think having a separate blog makes sense or if it's redundant with the new EA Forum.
I started Veg-EA in early 2016 to combine my interests in animal welfare, veganism, and effective altruism.
The first posts looked at the value of donating to your local animal sanctuary or wearing more durable leather shoes. As I learned more I shifted into environmental ethics, consideration of insects, and wild animal suffering.
Metrics and Popular Content
From the start of my blog in February 2016 to the current date (November 24, 2018), the Veg-EA blog received 8,788 page views with 5,450 unique visitors. The bulk of my visitors were from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. (32%, 20%, and 11%, respectively).
Social media made up the bulk of trackable traffic sources, accounting for 40% of visits. Of that, Facebook was the top referral source with reddit playing a substantial but more minor role. (46% of traffic was classified as 'direct').
The most recent blog post was in June 2017. This is mostly due to pivoting to more creative projects and local engagement (I had recently moved to a new city).
I am not able to make a strong value judgement of having my own blog. I used a higher priced website/hosting service (Squarespace) which pushes the annual dollar cost of the blog higher. Though there definitely are other ways to have a similar quality blog with standalone domain (Wordpress, etc).
The more expensive blog option (around $110/year), and the relatively low number of page views means that I was paying around four cents per page view. That seems very high to me, though the cost would likely be a lot lower if regular posting was maintained as opposed to leaving the blog inactive since summer 2017.
I did successfully secure a spring communications internship at Animal Charity Evaluators. My blog was mentioned in the interview process and ACE's Facebook Page had previously shared two of my blog posts. Those two points seem like strong evidence that my blog was a relevant factor in obtaining the internship opportunity.
Is there a value in having a .com domain for a blog? This is more at the root of the question and I do not have strong beliefs or evidence either way. The 'personal branding' aspect of your own site, domain, imagery, design seems very positive.
For my audience (mostly vegans), "Veg-EA" sounds inherently appealing, even if they do not know what the "EA" stands for.
I am strongly considering deactivating my blog and moving the content to the EA Forum. This is largely driven by the blog's inactive state and that the current traffic is not enough to justify the service and hosting expense.
I do believe that depending on the nature of your writing or audience (more broad, outreach oriented or more niche, inwards oriented) a blog with its own domain and branding could have advantages one would not get from the EA Forum.
I would also make sure not to discount the career benefit of having a separate blog. The .com domain combined with professional looking design and branding may be helpful when applying for certain roles and in certain areas.
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this topic as I suspect many of you have your own blogs. What do you use to manage and host your sites? Do you feel good about your site metrics? Has your blog helped you out in your career or in any other way? Are you considering exporting your posts to the EA-Forum, why or why not?
As a side note: For LessWrong we built some scripts to automatically import old posts from someones RSS feed directly to their blog on LessWrong. We can probably slightly adjust those scripts to work with the EA forum, in which case moving over would be even easier.
I agree with part of the comment above. I think moving to EA forum can be very beneficial but it will definitely make us more conscious about posting - so we'll be afraid to publish anything unpolished and rigorously double-checked. Maybe this is good, because we shall publish mostly high-quality stuff but for newbies like myself I think the bar (at least from what I heard) is so high that I'd probably start my own thing on side.
Interestingly, I don't believe re-posting stuff here as link-posts will work well. I can already see the differences in traction with link-posts and standard posts. So I think what one can do is actually to publish more professional things here (things that one really needs to discuss) but leave simpler blogs for Medium/ their own blog.
Thanks for posting this, this is really helpful to me!
I don’t currently have a blog (well, I do, but not at all related to EA), so unfortunately I can’t answer your first three closing questions. However I’ve been planning on starting an EA blog for the last month or so and have been thinking about some of this stuff – particularly about just having my own blog vs. just posting to the forum vs. occasional cross-posting – so reading your thoughts from your place of much more experience was useful, thank you.
Are you considering exporting your posts to the EA Forum, why or why not?
Here goes in the hope of any slight value my answer might have, and because I’d be interested to know what others think, although it’s probably only relevant for those like me who are just starting out producing online content.
My current plan is to go ahead with making a personal blog, and then, if I feel up to it, cross-post things that I feel are particularly suitable. Your considerations about the career/image benefit, and being able to have a unified theme and all of my ideas in one place with its own identity, are definitely important reasons why I think this.
Another reason, though, and I’m not sure how much I feel like this is legitimate, is that a blog will have a lot less of a personal barrier to posting. Like I know that the Forum definitely encourages people to post relevant content however unpolished it is, but I also know that if I try to do forum posts only, then I will post a whole lot less frequently because, even though I know I shouldn’t be, I’ll be worrying about it not being good enough. And although one of the purposes of starting to write is for the results of others reading it (i.e. being able to discuss my ideas, present them more widely, if they end up being valuable then influence the thinking of others etc.), another purpose is for me to be able to practice writing and thinking and researching – so anything that makes me do that less will be less productive? And having a blog helps me produce content, I can always post it or a derivative to the Forum later once I feel more confident about it. But yes, I’m very uncertain on whether that is at all a good reason.
On a separate thing, when you are considering exporting your posts, you mean moving your previous posts to the Forum, yes? I'd be interested to know, do you think that the arguments in favour of (or against) that are in any way different compared to when people are considering where to post new content? Just thinking that I've seen in several places that people are in favour of cross-posting content to the Forum from blogs, and linking to interesting content elsewhere, but I've not seen discussion of whether it might be valuable for existing content producers to post their previous content on the Forum, although some of the same arguments in favour might apply. I suppose if people started doing that too frequently, then new content might get lost among it all?