Who Reads This Thing?

Among my other glories, I am an assistant ward clerk. This position of power and authority means that I get to stay after church doing paper work, and preparing tithing and other donations for deposit with a member of the bishopric. Yesterday, as we sat toiling away with the widows’ mites the Relief Society President and the counselor I was working with began talking about the ward’s upcoming talent show. They were bemoaning the lack of pledged participation thus far, and the RS president turned to me and said, “Well Brother Oman blogs, maybe we could have him do that on stage.”

I was suprised because neither our RS President nor this particular member of the Bishopric strike me as Internet savvy, blog reading types. And yet they knew about Times & Seasons and had apparently read it. I was surprised. I am not a blogger who suffers from a Big-Brother-is-Watching-the-Strenghthening-the-Members-Committee-is-Out-to-Get-Me style paranoid self-importance. (I have other forms of self-importance, thank you very much.) I am pretty sure that the only Church employees who read this blog are my father and co-workers that he sends links to. I am certainly not going to shift what I write here knowing that Larry Cluff may visit the site from time to time. (If you are reading this; Hi Larry.) Still, I was surprised because I had a sense that I knew what the T&S demographic looked like, and on this (as on so much else) it looks as though I am wrong.

Blogging is a medium that seems especially prone to internet triumphalism. When Trent Lott fell, the blogs declared victory and for a couple of days (eons in blog time) there were lots of predictions about the imminent collapse of the Mainstream Media. And yet the Washington Post arrived on my door step this morning despite PowerLine and InstaPundit. I have to admit that I have myself succombed to such musings in the Mormon context, imaginng the bloggernacle as coming to dominate the non-official discussion of Mormonism. Generally speaking, I try to step back, breath deeply, and think of a happy place when I have such thoughts. Blogs, I remind myself, have a fairly thin readership and Mormon blogs even more so. My bet is that the highest traffic Mormon blogs get around 2000 visits a day at best, and sizable percentage of these visits consist of obsessive people with internet connections at work who keep checking to see who has responded to their comments. Not that I am complaining. I am frequently as bored and obsessed as the next guy. Still, it is always fun to see the bloggernacle penetrating to unexpected people.

25 comments for “Who Reads This Thing?

  1. A. Greenwood
    August 1, 2005 at 11:56 am

    When our bishopric came over to meet us, Sara volunteered the information that I blogged on Times and Seasons. I shot daggers at here with my eyes and then one of the counselors volunteered. ‘O, I’ve read that. It’s . . . interesting.’ I told him we were in perfect agreement on that score.

  2. August 1, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    Nate, maybe the T&S reader profile differs from the DMI profile, but only about 10% of my “visitors” leave comments. So something like 90% are a vast “silent majority” who are unseen and unknown. While some may be surfers who stumble onto an odd site or follow a Google search on an unrelated topic, I think many are average Mormons who enjoy following the B’nacle discussion on a regular basis. Among this silent majority, T&S permabloggers may be something like cult heros. Have you considered putting out trading cards? If you don’t do it soon, the SMC might trump you with a deck of Bloggernacle playing cards, listing their 52 most wanted bloggers. ;-)

    What exactly do you think SMC staffers do all day? If people with regular jobs find time to surf the B’nacle, I imagine people whose job it is to actually read what Mormon busybodies publish find time to surf too.

  3. Nate Oman
    August 1, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    I like the idea of trading cards ;->

    I think that you are probably right about the reader to commenter ratio, although it is hard to figure out.

  4. Jim F.
    August 1, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    Like Nate, I’m not confident that a lot of people, on a percentage of the Church basis, read T&S, and I don’t worry much about who does. I’m skeptical that the SMC wastes much of its time on us, but I don’t know. Perhaps we are of interest to them. However, suppose someone discovers by reading T&S that I don’t hold opinions that match theirs. What’s the worst that could happen? It might be even less likely that I would be called to be bishop the next time we change bishops in our ward. Perhaps the chances I will be called to be a mission president are even slimmer. I’ll just have to go on teaching Sunday School, helping clean the chapel once in a while, . . . . What’s the down side?

  5. JKS
    August 1, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    What’s SMC.

  6. Kaimi
    August 1, 2005 at 1:13 pm

    My bishop in the Bronx casually asked one day if I blogged at T & S. He saw the site somewhere, and was surprised to see my name on it.

    However, he’s a 30-year-old internet-savvy engineer, so it wasn’t all that surprising that he knew about blogs in general.

    My former stake president in Manhattan has told me that he checks in regularly.

  7. August 1, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    In the past two months I’ve visited three different wards. In each case people I’ve never met before knew me from Times and Seasons.

    The readership of the bloggernacle may still be relatively small, but it’s growing quickly.

  8. Kevin Barney
    August 1, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    Another possibility is that your RS Pres. learned you blog from a conversation with Heather and has never laid eyes on T&S.

  9. August 1, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    I’ve had two people ask, upon my introducing myself, if I’m the blogger at Times & Seasons. Both of them are professional men, in their late-40s to early-50s, who have never commented. (One’s in the foreign service, the other’s a government economist).

    My mom started reading T&S recently, too, but she said she couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment. : )

  10. lyle stamps
    August 1, 2005 at 1:48 pm

    Nate: In this day and age, what self-respecting Bishop/Stake President doesn’t google people in his ward to find out more about them as part of his due diligence/studying out the subject before offering prayer to seek guidance and revelation re: callings?

    Hm…maybe some folks value their privacy too much to comment? I know some T&S posters are fairly private individuals in vivo; but via internet not as much.

  11. Greg Call
    August 1, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Coincidentally, just today an old mission companion’s email to me began with this:

    “Greg: Interestingly, I was recently told about this “intellectual Mormon website,” that wasn’t “as bad as Sunstone” (timesandseasons). Curious, I checked out the site and lo and behold, discovered your authorship of various articles written over the last few years…”

    Maybe that can be our new tagline: “Not as bad as Sunstone.”

  12. A. Greenwood
    August 1, 2005 at 2:15 pm

    “Not as bad as Sunstone.” I like it.

  13. August 1, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    Lyle: In this day and age, what self-respecting denizen of the net actually uses their real name to post?

    : )

  14. Prudence McPrude
    August 1, 2005 at 2:28 pm

    People who don’t use their real names are cowards.

  15. Wilfried
    August 1, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    I agree with Jim F: I think the readership is small. No one in my ward, stake or at BYU ever mentioned they read a post of mine. That can of course mean several things. My posts are totally uninteresting. People are unwilling to admit they read T&S. Or just nobody is reading indeed.

    But I had the pleasure to notice, a few months ago, that one of my students at the U of Antwerp, in a spring course on applied linguistics, pasted my (unique) picture from my T&S bio on a paper he handed in. A non-Mormon student in Belgium found me on T&S. That means word got around here. Pasting the picture was a silent hint of readership. For them I wrote my testimony. Perhaps T&S is doing more good than we think.

    And Mormon commenters should be aware of this.

  16. Jack
    August 1, 2005 at 3:00 pm


    SMC=Strengthening the Members Committee.

    Well, maybe some good will come of SMC lurking about T&S. It’s a good way to learn that there are a lot of well meaning folks out there who are sincerely trying to reconcile their personal beliefs with they find difficult about the church.

  17. JKS
    August 1, 2005 at 3:14 pm

    I think some of you might be surprised by who actually does read T&S. Whether its SMC, GAs, GHB, or our Heavenly Father ……..and I think we can all assume our Heavenly Father has read everything we’ve written, I would hope that we are aware of that fact and are respectful of his gospel and his church and his work and glory.

  18. August 1, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    I’d hope the SMC reads the blogs. If they read all the mailing lists back when those were big in the 90’s I’m sure they do the blogs. If I recall a lot of them are just missionary couples assigned to PR jobs. Reading blogs seems pertinent. I’d suspect they don’t read them that much. Most people just don’t think much of blogs. But I tend to think that they are becoming more and more important and influential. Not just in issues over the mainstream media. But just in terms of answering questions. Quasi-blog places like Ben Spackman’s pages on Mormonism, Jeff Lindsey’s stuff and then FAIR or even perhaps FARMS are pretty important. People google for answers and blogs often come up. I’m amazingly surprised when I check my logs and see how high I am for many questions people google. It makes me consider what I write a little more so as to try and consider how people googling in might view things. All this ties into my comments that people need to consider missionary efforts when blogging. (IMO)

  19. danithew
    August 1, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    The scary thing about blogs is that our future employers will probably google our names to see what comes up. It has become a standard thing to do. And for single people, it might be something your next date will do as well. So if you ever had an off day or wrote something really strange or even expressed a sincere (you’ve got the right) opinion … it could come up.

    I went to a family funeral some months ago and two of my uncles said they regularly read my comments. I had no idea they were even into the ‘Nacle. I really get the feeling that there’s a multitude of lurkers out there.

  20. August 1, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    That’s why it’s good to be self employed. (grin) Actually I’ve looked for employees/contractors by checking out blogs.

  21. jjohnsen
    August 1, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    I know I’m skipping the point of the post, but how do you perform a blog?

  22. JKS
    August 1, 2005 at 7:59 pm

    LOL, that is what I”ve been thinking. This lady might know you “blog” but she is not all that internet savvy if she thinks Nate can get up on stage with his computer and entertain anyone by blogging for 5 minutes.

  23. Jonathan Green
    August 2, 2005 at 12:24 am

    Twice this summer I’ve introduced myself, with a bit of expectation and apprehension, in wards full of network-enabled, digitally enhanced, trend-forward young professional Mormons. “Crickets chirping, tall grass waving languidly in the warm breeze” is a reasonable approximation of the response.

  24. August 2, 2005 at 9:58 am

    Yeah, Jonathon, I know what you mean. Trend-forward Mormons are always chirping. It really gets on my nerves in Sacrament meeting. And the languid waving is just plain obnoxious.

  25. August 15, 2005 at 2:23 pm

    Would you blog to country music, irish music, or what?

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