Nathan Rabin's Happy Place by the numbers

Many websites feature frequently updated lists of their most popular content. I know they did at the A.V Club before I left. These lists are processed very differently by readers and writers. For readers, they’re a list of what’s already proven popular, and consequently must be worth their time. 

For writers, they can feel disconcertingly like constantly updated referendums on your worth as a human being. I knew that once the Pandora’s Box of knowing how popular my articles were was opened it could never be shut and I would end up caring about page-views and popularity way too much, to an unhealthy and almost pathological extent.  

If I wrote a piece that generated lots of traffic, I felt a surge of excitement and validation. If something didn’t do as well as I had hoped, that excitement was replaced by clammy feelings of doubt and insecurity, trailed by self-doubt. What if I’m not good enough? What if I can never put up the numbers I’m supposed to? 

So when I left The A.V Club for The Dissolve I never looked at the analytics. In a possibly related development, I was eventually fired and the site went under shortly afterwards. So as I stated in an earlier blog, I realized recently that I do not have the luxury of ignoring analytics and page-views, especially as I try to get the small, fragile business that is Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place off the ground and onto solid footing. 

Looking beautiful, baby! 

Looking beautiful, baby! 

I’ve been looking at the analytics for the site way too much, and since most sites keep readers abreast of what articles are performing the best, I thought you might like to look at the ten most-read articles in May, which will be the site’s first full month in existence. May isn’t even over yet, but the site has already wracked up over 130,000 total page views. Is that impressive? Christ, I hope so. If it isn’t, please don’t tell me. My confidence is very fragile. 

1. 4600 Lukewarm Takes #2 Suicide Squad 

2. 3242 Control Nathan Rabin: The Do-Over 

3. 3206 Lukewarm Takes #1 Batman Vs. Superman 

4. 2766 More Like Sucks Citizen Donkey Balls 

5. 2591 Control Nathan Rabin: Christian Mingle 

6. 2456 Control Nathan Rabin: Hillary’s America 

7. 2417 Nathan Rabin’s Literature Society: Mayte Garcia’s The Most Beautiful 

8. 2389 Happy Motherless Day!

9. 2024: This Looks Terrible! Paulytics 

10. 1790 Sympathy for the White Devil 

Suicide Squad did well in part because people love to make fun of that movie (including me! Man that movie blows!), but also because it was fresh content the day the A.V Club ran the last My World of Flops entry and ended with a link to this site. The A.V. Club is an extraordinarily popular website, so that gave the site a big boost, which I really appreciated. 

Lukewarm Takes and Control Nathan Rabin have quickly emerged as two of the big anchors for the site, in part because I’m covering big, big movies for Lukewarm Takes and because Control Nathan Rabin finds me in my professional sweet spot of writing about things that are terrible. I'm hoping that My World Of Flops, which will return this Tuesday (I just finished the first entry since I learned the A.V Club was cancelling it, which felt both exciting and right, and a little bit scary because I feel like there's a fair amount riding on it, after the long, weird journey it has traveled over the past decade) will be another anchor for the site, running every other week.

Yet I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by some pieces I didn’t have terribly high expectations for, like “More like Citizen Sucks Donkey Balls”, a goof on contrarian clickbait and the idea of “boring” that I published as a lark but that has kind of gone viral and has, at this point, been read far more often than a Star Wars: The Force Awakens  Lukewarm Takes entry I thought would do better than it has. It's almost as if The Force Awakens has been written about a lot. 

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at how well some of my more personal writing has done. A “Big Whoop” blog about being motherless on Mother’s Day seems to have touched a nerve and found an appreciative audience, and another “Big Whoop” column on Rachel Dolezal similarly proved unexpectedly well-read, although I suspect that has a lot to do with the provocative nature of the topic. If nothing else, it makes me optimistic about the Rachel Dolezal entry in Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place Literature Society. 

I want this blog to be an ongoing chronicle of what’s important in my life, and right now a lot of that is running a site and operating a small business for the first time in my life as a 41 year old after twenty years of imagining that I didn’t have the skill set or gifts necessary to do either. So I’m learning on my feet and learning by doing and you guys are letting me know what about the site appeals to you, both directly, through comments and commentary, but also in what you’re reading and liking and passing around. 

Perhaps that's one of the oft-overlooked aspects of being a Juggalo. Maybe there was part of my brain that looked at J and Shaggs and thought, "Huh, maybe I could run a successful small business for weirdoes as well!" 

Because you guys are a huge part of the site. You make this a Happy Place, I just provide the Nathan Rabin element. And even this early in the game I’m faced with tough choices about how best to allocate the site’s somewhat limited resources (basically my time and energy) and how best to grow it creatively and commercially. ‘

Needless to say, this is at the core of my brand

Needless to say, this is at the core of my brand

I love The Weird Accordion to Al, for example, and I think it’s a unique column that’s important to the site’s identity and personality, but they also lag far behind other pieces page-view-wise. I totally understand why a 1000 word treatise on “Such a Groovy Guy” or “Mr. Popeil” might not connect to a mass audience, but I’m hoping the column’s audience finds it, because it’s a total labor of love and at this point I’ve wracked up a pretty nifty backlog. 

Analytics also tell where traffic comes from, and I’m pleased to see a lot of people are like me. They log onto Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place every morning and take it from there. So about a third of the site’s traffic comes from people coming to the site, a third of it comes from Facebook and a third of it comes from Twitter. So if you see me aggressively pushing my pieces on social media, some times several times a day (in the morning and late afternoon, generally), that’s because that’s a huge part of what draws traffic to the site. And if you want to share the love, my God, I would so appreciate that. And also I believe in the site. 

So far I feel like I’ve done a good job of producing a large amount of content on a daily and weekly basis (14 to 16 new articles a week) without being overwhelming. And since the site is funded through Patreon now instead of advertising, the site’s future isn’t as directly linked to page-views as it might otherwise. Yet I am still very intent on expanding the site because it already feels like the best possible use of my talents. In a perfect world I’d love to make it a full-time gig and not just an obscenely but satisfying labor-intensive side gig. And if I was able to support my family with the fruits of my labor? So much the better! 

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