Who Reads What You Read?

At this time of year, I like to look back on the traffic to this web site and, more specifically, to the Speakeasy blog, and see what I can see. I think it’s fun to tell my readers in whose company they might have found themselves, were they able to look around and see other visitors. I also think it’s fun to know how many people shared their reading preferences. 

It’s a fascinating story this year (at least it’s fascinating to me). I hope you enjoy a quick look back, this time over two years: 2017 and 2018.

Overall, the web site visitor log increased over the previous year by 240%. Why? No clue, but far, far more people visited Tamarack Communication this year than in 2017. (The site has been operational since early 2015.) The audience also became much more diverse in 2018. U.S. representation dropped from 82% of total visitors to 65%. Canada remained steady at 8%, but this year Spain and China showed up! And both Australian and Indian visits doubled while UK and Philippines visitors grew in number too.

The number of visits to the Speakeasy, particularly, increased by about 60%. (Maybe I just posted more interesting articles this year?) But here’s the fascinating part: What did people read when they showed up at the Speakeasy? Now, of course, new articles are posted every so often, so the years do not exactly correlate. The fun discovery, though, is the articles that remain popular through time. You will be astonished:

  • The most popular article in the Speakeasy for the past two years was about the correct pronunciation of the smallest word in the English language: “a.” Last year 131 people read “The Word is ‘uh,’ not ‘ay.’” In 2018, 700+ people read that article! And here are two amazing facts about the article itself:

    • It was first posted in April 2015!

    • It hasn’t done a bit of good. More and more talking heads on TV seem to believe the word must be pronounced “ay” – I suppose to make it sound more professional or urgent? I just grit my teeth and remind myself that, when I get to heaven, everyone will pronounce everything correctly. 

  • Another article that continues to get attention is “Words for Counting and Measuring,” first posted exactly two years ago. This is the one that explains the difference between “less” and “fewer” and between “amount” and “number,” and it’s still being read (which is good, because most people still seem to think that “fewer” is a non-word and “amount” covers everything).

  • More than two years ago I posted an article called “Does it Jive or Jibe – Do you Home in or Hone in?” because I believe those word pairs are often confused. I suspect many believe “jibe” is simply a mispronunciation of “jive,” as “festibal” is an adulteration of “festival.” Not the case, though, as the article points out. In addition, “home” and “hone” are two very different verbs; let’s be accurate! More than 150 accessed that old article in 2018! 

  • In August 2016 I posted “Here’s the Skinny on TV Commercials.” That was fun, because I did my research simply by watching hours and hours of TV – from many different sources – and took notes on the commercials. (It is a little-known fact about me that I actually love the TV commercial. I think it’s a well-developed artform.) At any rate, more than 80 people read that article in 2018 – one, a total stranger to me, even left a comment.

  • One month prior, I had posted an article in tribute to the marvelous mind of my friend, Sharon Green, called “Myriad – Is any Word More Often Misused?” (That’s the one that drives Sharon nuts!) Do you know that more than 100 people still read that article in 2018? And well they should! People are still saying, “a myriad of options.” Wrong!

This year I have focused more on sharing good reading material, partly because I am hopelessly addicted to reading books, and partly because this was just a great year for the publication of important nonfiction (and some pretty junky stuff too). How Democracies Die, a book I believe needs to be read by all Americans – ASAP - was the second-most accessed article in 2018 (but way, way behind “uh” vs. “ay,” which is just inexplicable to me). My friend Skip Birong, of Skip’s Take on Things, left a most thoughtful comment about How Democracies Die.

Then there was the article I co-authored with my friend, Steve Leahy, called “Whom do you Trust – Really”? We offered a list of Americans we believed might be considered reliable, trustworthy thought leaders who could lead America out of this morass of polarity and near-treachery in Washington. We sought input from readers and updated our list according to that input. And you know what? Ninety people read the article, but only eight of them participated in the polling. When all was said and done, Bill Gates remained at the top of the list, with Madeline Albright, Michael Bloomberg and Melinda Gates close behind. Steve and I thought the list should have been shuffled many more times than eight, but what’re ya gonna do if people won’t play the game?

Finally, “Changing Minds – a Magic Wand?” got a lot of attention since its posting just this August. But it was kindly promoted by The Greater Sum – specifically my friend there, Anna Taylor. Only Anna herself left a comment on this article about a book by the famous Howard Gardner. (If you’re just not going to read it, I’ll tell you how it ends: No, there’s no magic wand for changing minds.)

So, how fares my latest post, called “A Fun Book for Everyone, unbiased and straightforward”? Hardly a ripple. Maybe my title is just too obtuse because, if people knew what was in this book, they’d want to preview it through my blog post and then get right online and buy the book. It’s about Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy, by Tim Harford, and it’s just the most delightful read! I suppose it was recommended to me by Fareed Zakaria of CNN’s Global Public Square, because I get a lot of my reading advice from Fareed. At any rate, I’m recommending that book to you as we close out another year fraught with political angst and tribal enmity. Read Harford’s book – get away from the craziness for a while!

Hope to encounter you here in the Speakeasy many times in 2019. (Remember: Read responsibly and have a designated bookmark.)