Monday, August 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm.

Adventures in self-publishing: Here’s what a month-old news site looks like

Last Friday marked the end of the first month since I started publishing SplatF.

When I launched the site in early July, I mentioned that one of the reasons I’m doing this is to see whether self-publishing online is a viable business. The answer is: I think it will be. But as I had assumed, it will take a while before my audience size and revenue are enough to support me on their own.

Still, the first month was a fun one. I wrote about 130 posts, had a great launch sponsor in Brightcove, and am now working to develop a few new weekly and monthly editorial features and get some ads on the site. The rest of the year should be very exciting.

For what it’s worth…

  • More than 50,000 people visited SplatF during its first month, generating about 90,000 web pageviews. Pretty tiny; that was a good day for me at Business Insider! But this was a brand new site with no slideshows, coworkers, Google juice, or syndication partners. I basically started up with an empty WordPress site and my personal Twitter account. This sort of undertaking feels both very cool and very humbling.
  • The most popular pages were the homepage (by far), a post about Apple degrading the user experience on its iOS devices, and a post about Apple’s iPad business growing to be larger than its Mac business for the first time in the June quarter.
  • The biggest traffic sources were direct, Techmeme (about 10% of visits), Daring Fireball (about 10% of visits including RSS traffic, I’m estimating), and Twitter (somewhere around 10% when you include apps like TweetDeck, I’m guessing). Search traffic started at zero and is growing, but I generally think of that as a total bonus. And, hey, I cracked the top 50 on the Techmeme leaderboard!
  • The two biggest days (by far) were July 26 and 27, when John Gruber / Daring Fireball linked to me. Shortly after he linked, 635 people were reading the site at the same time, according to Chartbeat — by far the 30-day high. And by my estimates, over those two days, Gruber sent about 5,000 people to SplatF who had never previously heard of it. SplatF’s RSS and Twitter follower counts jumped, and are now both about 1,000. The clickthrough rate on Daring Fireball has to be the highest in the entire tech press.
  • SplatF readers choose Google Chrome about 29% of the time, making it the most popular browser. Safari came in second at 27% of visits. Internet Explorer represented 6% of visits. Mac users represented 40% of visits, Windows 30%, iPhone and iPad were each around 10%, and Android was about 3%. Chrome OS sent 59 visits (0.09%).
  • I’ll keep a lid on the site’s revenue. But costs were low: Hosting was only about $15, the domain was $8, email and apps are free, via Google, and my biggest expenses were licensing software and a couple of fonts. I did all of the design and layout myself, and will be making some minor changes soon.
  • Several readers asked: Where is the comments section? For now — and possibly for good — I am not going to have one. There are many good arguments for and against comments, but I just don’t want them right now. My audience has done a great job interacting with me on Twitter and other places, and I encourage you to tweet and write your own posts about my articles that you agree or disagree with — there are many great publishing platforms out there.
  • Importantly, I am learning and having fun! While these stats are neat to look at once in a while, the single most important metric to me is steady, sustainable, direct traffic growth to the SplatF homepage. If I can build a steady, loyal audience, and eventually send a lot of traffic to sites I link to, this site should succeed.

So what’s next? I’m going to keep reading, reporting, thinking, analyzing, writing, and linking. I’ll be rolling out some recurring features soon, and will also be developing some new sites later this year. I recently set up SplatF accounts on Facebook and Tumblr, and will begin using them.

In the meantime, thanks for reading. And, as always, I’m interested in your thoughts and suggestions; get in touch.