Where do you find 3,000 readers?
I admit, the stats page on this site fascinates me. I’m perpetually startled by what people find interesting, and what they comment on (not much, admittedly), and what they read without leaving any suggestions or thoughts. It’s both disturbing and validating that so many hundreds of people come by each week to peruse my thoughts and see if I measure up.
But today, I happened to do the math (even though I’m not good at it), and I discovered that I’m about 3,000 visitors away from doubling my readership from last year. This would mean getting another 1000 readers in the next week, and rounding up another 2000 for the month of December. This is quite a bit better than my usual numbers (after only two years of blogging at WordPress.com), and it probably won’t happen.
But what if it did?
In today’s modern market, one usually finds readers through word-of-mouth, through the work of publicists and advertisements, and prominent placement of your books on shelves in bookstores. I can’t afford a publicist or ads. I can only generate word-of-mouth if my readers find my work compelling. And I can comment on other people’s blogs to generate link-traffic back to my website.
It is, in essence, the model that we ask students to follow. We want them to be compelling writers, whose work is sufficiently interesting that more than just Grandma and Daddy want to read it. We want them to be wide-ranging readers, who connect to more authors and more ideas than just the ones we present in class. And we want them to be thoughtful contributors to discussions that range widely over a variety of subjects — not just at the Thanksgiving dinner table, but around the world.
And yet, how often is it that we tell students that they’re just not ready for the big time? How often do parents tell us, “our kids aren’t really ready to be online in that way yet.”? How often do administrators say, “it’s not yet time.”
Two years of writing, of commenting, and communicating with fellow teachers and educational leaders, and I’ve grown an audience of not quite twenty thousand visits, and maybe a thousand regular visitors. I wasn’t starting from nothing, because I had decades of writing experience before that. Yet I think there’s a lesson to be learned here.
We have to teach our kids how to write for audiences. We have to help them find an audience that hungers for their sort of work, and we have to teach them how to be true to their own voice while still providing meat for that audience to chew on, mark, read, learn, and inwardly digest (and yes, I’m quoting the Episcopal prayer for honoring Scripture, but this is IMPORTANT.)
Because if a kid can build an audience, a kid can create a platform from which to launch himself. That kid can go to college, or start a business, or network a pathway to success.
Ultimately, that’s way more important than if I can get three thousand visitors in five weeks. How do we communicate — to parents, to administrators, to colleagues — the importance of getting a (digital) stage under our kids, and a (digital) megaphone into their hands?