For the past ten years, I have written this blog anywhere between five and seven days per week. For almost ten years before that, I produced regular content for the predecessor site to this one. When this blog was at its peak in 2013, I had 100,000 readers, regular appearances in media coverage, a number of TV opportunities, a literary agent, and a growing writing career in both fiction and nonfiction. None of that is the case today, and I don’t see a way to justify continuing to devote so much effort to this endeavor. Several recent posts had readership so low that I could have just emailed all of you a few bullet points and saved myself the trouble.
A number of reasons contributed to the decline, but a few are fairly obvious. First, I vastly underestimated the degree to which my readers cared about my work as opposed to simply hating Scott Wolter and America Unearthed. The (first) cancellation of that series in 2015 started the bleed of readership, and that downward trend never changed. Second, the transition away from an internet of articles toward a social media world of memes, videos, and pictures has further eroded interest in longer writing. Increasingly, there is no place for complex analysis. Over the last five years, I have tried many different strategies to expand my audience across many platforms and media, and nothing has made a dent. Even appearing on national TV did literally nothing for me.
I knew the end was coming when the hate mail started to dry up. In the mid-2010s, I’d get dozens of hate missives each week from apoplectic readers outraged at whatever it was I had said. The hate mail trailed off after 2015 and has largely stopped altogether. It’s a good proxy for disengagement as social media pushes people into bubbles where they may never encounter an unwelcome viewpoint.
On Sunday, one of my tweets had twenty times the number of readers as the weekly average for this blog. Overall, my tweets average around ten times the number of readers as my blog. However, that audience is almost all the same group of people, and it is not growing.
This past week, I borrowed a celebrity acquaintance’s 165,000 Twitter followers in an experiment to see if some higher-profile promotion could drive some more traffic my way and help to grow my social media presence in an effort to demonstrate to literary agents and media types that I have work worth representing. The results were beyond disappointing. The effort netted one like and somewhere south of 30 clicks. I had my largest audience since I was on cable back in 2013. And I got one like. Out of 165,000 people. I doubt I will get that kind of audience again, and it’s clear that I perform way below random chance outside the group that already follows me.
Whatever mysterious alchemy produces engagement, I don’t have it. Things haven’t changed very much since Nicole Kidman said in the movie To Die For that you aren’t anyone if you aren’t on TV.
The History Channel’s efforts to damage my career did not help matters. Leaving aside the time they threatened me with a lawsuit or the times I caught their employees posting inflammatory comments on my blog, their informal efforts caused real damage. My literary agent dropped me when he couldn’t get publishers to give me the time of day. The TV offers dried up next. I didn’t report every TV effort I undertook here on my blog. But I was under consideration for TV roles several times, and I shot a pilot presentation that impressed the producers enough to make plans for when the pilot was taken to series. The same answer came back every time: You can’t shop a show around in Hollywood with me in it because the bigwigs at A+E Networks and their corporate cousins (which include the Disney properties) decided otherwise. Sure, they could all be lying, but why would they all tell the same lie? I heard the same thing from the one literary agent since then who gave me any real consideration. If a book doesn’t stand a chance of finding favor with cable TV and Disney, then it might as well not exist.
I haven’t been featured in a news article in years, despite regularly doing interviews with reporters. I went from being quoted regularly in publications like The Washington Post and The Atlantic to being cut from the New York Times, CNN, National Geographic, and a list too long to name. The balance of effort to reward is far too skewed.
The trouble has always been that success isn’t an individual endeavor. It depends on having a network of people who are positioned to help you to succeed. That has never been me. It’s great that many people receive help and support from higher-ups that led to success. That wasn’t my experience. People tend to help only when they think there’s something in it for them.
So I got left with the aliens. Lucky me.
You don’t need to feel too sorry for me. I work all day at a dull gig writing backend copy for websites. I didn’t really want my legacy to be that I wrote the snippets of text that show up on a Google search for specific industries’ optimized keywords, but millions of people have read them. It would be nice to have a similarly large audience read something that actually had meaning.
The long and short of it is that I know what needs to be done for the next phase of my career, as much as I’m not enthusiastic about doing it.
First, unless and until more people read my blog or visit my website, posting nearly every day is not feasible or sustainable. There just aren’t enough of you to justify that. I won’t stop blogging entirely (and contractually I am obliged to continue efforts to promote my current and future books), but it can’t be as regular or as sustained as it has been for the past decade.
Second, since there are so few readers, having comments on the blog posts is increasingly pointless, especially when they are primarily the same handful of outspoken regulars making the same points over and over. The time it takes for me to read them and wade through all the spam (sometimes up to a 3:1 ratio) is a huge waste. Comments will remain open (with moderation) on this post, but I will be shutting them down soon.
Third, I will need to transition to more social media content, whatever that might look like. I’m not sure what it will look like yet.
Fourth, more of my efforts need to go into providing the best possible start to my new book—not the pyramid one, but the one after that. It will be connected to the upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary of UFOs in 2022, and it will need to be on a tight schedule to make the deadline. The first step is to devote the upcoming weeks to crafting a strong proposal.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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