Tired blogger in search for salty licorice

Sometimes when researching some arcane topic for this nine-year-old series of weekly essays, I get tired. No, not ‘tired of,’ as predictive text tried to anticipate. Just tired, much as political commentator Ronni Salt says in the ironic intro to her Twitter/X page – ‘I used to investigate stuff but got tired of it.’

While Ronni Salt continues (see The Shot), today I’m declaring this the penultimate (second-last) weekly FOMM. Don’t all go ‘Nooo’ at once. Nine years is a good innings and it is starting to feel like a chore. I am also finding myself repeating topics I have already vented about. The last weekly FOMM will be posted on September 1, which nicely coincides with a week away in Sydney without having to think ‘What will I write about this week and should I take my laptop?’)

The website www.bobwords.com.au will remain in place until the next web host subscription is due (November 2024).

It’s unlikely this is a complete end to my following current affairs and fulminating about this or that. A rogue column or two may sporadically emerge. You may find new songs emerging on our sister website – thegoodwills.com or on Bandcamp, as one sign of new-found liberation.

I decided to refresh my research into what I have been competing with for people’s attention. Not that Friday in My Mind counts as a blog – it’s too long, earns no money, is posted only once a week, has no ‘target audience’ as such and my attention to SEO (search engine maximisation) is fairly scant.

People find it by accident and while there are a few hundred who never miss it, there are those who have only read 6% to 10% of regular posts.

Nevertheless, I apparently have hundreds of followers on various social media portals. Given the sheer weight of blogs/rants which abound on social media, though, I suspect FOMM will, like the little list song from The Mikado, never will be missed.

Statistics on blogging make my head spin. Let me run a few of these by you (stats can be found on most online marketing company websites).

The global number of blogs is over 600 million (more or less where it was when I started in 2014), according to Firstsite.com. There are  32.7 million bloggers in the US alone and every day 7 million blogs are posted on the Internet.

There’s work in that ‘space’ for all those former newspaper reporters, that’s for sure. Most corporate, small business and startup websites maintain a blog and I assume they pay people to write them. Here’s one example, a website called Clever Girl Finance (Our mission is to empower women to achieve financial success). I started to browse through this website and realised it is based in the US. But it’s a good example of a professional website where articles are not only written but edited and fact-checked! (Who has the time for that, eh!)

I did also find this list of 10 Australian personal finance/financial planning blogs, few of which I have ever consulted, but it’s an interesting ‘space’ to investigate.

WordPress remains supreme among blogging platforms, controlling 43% of the world’s online blogs. But it’s a clunky app/programme. If your WordPress website is truly ‘broken’ you will have to pay an expert to fix it. Every time you update to the latest version, you should always do a backup, as WordPress itself advises. Updates have been known to ‘break’ websites.

OptinMonster, an online marketing company, is another source, among many, that periodically reminds readers of the powerful statistics behind blogging. For example, about 70 million posts are published each month by WordPress users (four or even five of which were mine).

Reader like commenting on  blogs – 77 million opinions every month. (My experience in the first year was that 95% of comments were spam. After I found out how to block Olga from Sweden and Svetna from Slovakia, legitimate website comments were few and far between).

The average blog post takes 3.5 hours to write, ‘they’ say. You could safely double that for FOMM, much of the effort going into fact checking and proof reading. (Yay me. ED) Even when this happens, occasional hiccups occur. Last week, I referred to a 23m wind turbine tower, the zero at the end having been whisked away by an errant August westerly. Thanks Randall for pointing that out. (Ed was asleep at the wheel?)

This statistic I knew about – bloggers who write articles of 2,000+ words are far more likely to have strong results. (I started with 1200 words and on occasions drift out to 1400 or 1500. Nobody notices.)

For a while I subscribed to platforms which encourage fulsome writing – Long Reads, Medium, The Big Round Table, The Atlantic etc. Without exception, I fell away from following them as my inbox became cluttered.

I should warn that some of these essays run to 15,000 words, so are best read on a tablet with an e-book reader.

The experts reveal that while 77% of people say they read blogs on a regular basis, 43% admit to skimming blog posts. The nature of online posts, many of which use bullet points, lists, videos and photos to convey their message, encourages this skim-reading.

OptinMonster came up with this reassuring statistic; that while  46% of bloggers edit their own work, 54% have editors or have at least shown their work to someone else to review.

Elsewhere, you will find statistics that suggest the average blogger will last two years before deciding they are scattering pebbles into the ocean and barely causing a ripple. They either tire of the work involved, become discouraged by the paltry income or (more commonly), move on to other things.

I have a couple of bloggers on my list of recommended reads who have been writing longer than I have and show no signs of giving it away. Unlike me, they have books to sell and reputations to uphold.

At this point, I have no thoughts at all on how to end this long-running column/blog other than to say the final episode will be posted next Friday. Suggestions welcome!

In the interim, you might like to delve into the FOMM archives, or better still amuse yourselves with this account of an overseas junket by a New York Times writer.

Here, to prove you can actually be assigned to travel to Finland to write about such things, is Mark Binelli’s lengthy investigation into the origins of salty licorice and why some people cannot be without it.

We grew up living down the road from a Dutch family who received regular care packages from home, including that peculiar sweet (I wouldn’t call it sweet. Ed) treat. It is definitely an acquired taste. The upside is you don’t have to share with others! (True love is also buying one’s spouse salted licorice when one indulges in their love of Rocky Road…Ed.)

(PS: the local sweet shop stocks mild, double and triple strength, and no, they are not paying me to write that).

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