I’ve followed your popular, The Lefsetz Letter, for many years. I’d subscribed to your email newsletter after I’d first heard about you through the Pho List, a long running private listserv about copyright, where discussion is heavily weighted toward the music industry. Whether the list members were supportive or not, your posts were certainly a hot topic for some time. Yes, for those younger folks reading this, we’re still communicating using old school email and listserv technologies instead of Secret, Yo, Snap Chat and texting.
Because I’d originally subscribed to receive the your blog by email, it wasn’t until years later I clicked through to the “Archive” page on your website, which is really the homepage of your WordPress blog. Even though your actual homepage is a splash page with two links (above); one for clicking through and registering to receive the blog posts by email and the other to view the posts in blog format.
It’s been this way for many years and my guess is that’s the way you prefer it, despite a very public “noemail” campaign by iBiblio.org Director and UNC Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science Professor, Paul Jones, who will only respond to those who connect with him through social media and not by email. He deems email to be an archaic format, which has long outlasted its usefulness.
While Professor Jones presents frequently on why email is a relic of the past, it still seems to have a place in this world for you, although less than a quarter of your readers open email related to the music industry. To bolster Jones’ #noemail crusade, I found this research report by Palo Alto-based technology market research firm, Radicati online, which states North America accounts for only 14% of global email accounts. Estimated growth of email accounts is only 7% -– from 3.1 billion in 2011 to 4.1 billion by year-end 2015. Compared to Asia Pacific, which accounts for 49% of all email users and Europe with 22%, we here in the USA are not reading email as much as we once did. While corporate email is growing due to low cost cloud based services, personal email is declining while instant messaging is growing by an estimated 11% from 2011 to year-end 2015.
Despite these numbers and Jones swearing off email, companies like MailChimp, Constant Contact and iContact thrive on the reliance of marketers to send email. But 19% of all email received by corporate email users is spam or “greymail.”
MailChimp publicly post their industry benchmarks, which show average campaign rates by each industry using their service. Email seems continues to have a place in this world, albeit a smaller one. It has certainly taken a back seat to social media. According to the report, social profiles will grow from 2.4 billion accounts in 2011 to 3.9 billion by year-end 2015.
MailChimp’s industry averages for Music and Musicians show a 22.49% open rate with a 3.03% click through rate and a low 1.08% soft bounce rate. A little less than a quarter of all those who receive email coming from the music industry click through to open and read the message. Only a small percentage of those people convert, but it seems they do read these messages given the low bounce rate percentage.
Sure, while Paul Jones may decry email for its quaint antiquity, Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft still support their popular email services and MailChimp, Constant Contact and iContact have created multimillion dollar businesses around email marketing. However, like snail mail and the music industry at large, email has been impacted by new technologies, which means that your stubborn reliance on email as a medium can be equated to the music industries failed resistance to digital downloads.
You are arguably one of the most well read music industry bloggers in the world. Your posts by email reach many certainly reach many of your readers, but are they reaching as many as they could? ts pretty clear by the way you’ve setup your homepage that you prefer readers subscribe to your posts by email. Given the numbers above, have you started to think about when you’re going to expand your digital horizons?
Many (including me) admire you for keeping your Lefsetz Letter blog simple. In it’s plain style, it’s certainly unique. There are no bells and whistles. No images or advertising. It’s just plain text. The only links you post are generally to Spotify and YouTube content. And, you’ve managed to consistently deliver under the 1,700 words Buffer has analyzed as the best length for a blog post. In this day and age when there is a battle for our collective attention to media messages, your long posts aren’t as novel as I thought they might be, but your reliance on email to deliver your messages could very well be.
I’ve written to you on occasion in response to your posts, but you’ve never replied to me. I’m not in your inner circle and those are the people who seem to get your attention. Since I don’t know if you read my email replies to your posts, yet you sort of force me into your reliance on email (yes, I know there is RSS, but I don’t sub to RSS like others do), I thought I’d write this post instead.
First, I consider myself and others will support that I’m somewhat of a WordPress expert. I have been working with WordPress for 9-years. I just so happened to check my WordPress.org profile, which says I joined in February 2005. Just a short month before your first blog post in March 2005.
I founded WordPress Westchester Meetup in 2009 and then WordPress Chapel Hill Meetup in 2010 after moving to Chapel Hill for job at UNC. I’m no longer there, but that’s another story. I have also presented on WordPress topics at WordCamp NYC, Raleigh and Asheville. As you can see, I’m so engaged in WordPress, I build businesses on the platform through my company, Digital Strategy Works and this blog has been on WordPress as long as the Lefsetz Letter. As a WordPress expert, there are three things that irk me about your blog and I hope you address them. They are:
1. Your URL: http://lefsetz.com/
When you set up WordPress, you decided you wanted to front a “splash page” that drove some people to the blog and others to your mailing list signup form. Back then, we didn’t have as many available widgets in our WordPress sidebars. But you could have still put your mailing list registration form in a sidebar back then instead of in a page. It’s one-click to that page after landing on the homepage, but in today’s busy world, one-click is too much. Most sites now either have their mailing list signup just above or below the nav bar or at the top of a right or left sidebar.
You’re also still using PHP List, which is a mailing list software. Most web hosts now frown upon sending out an email list through their web servers because of the CAN SPAM Act. And, there is now a “whitelist” and “blacklist” of which hosts are being let through and which hosts are being targeted for spam. Reliance on PHP List instead of migrating the list to MailChimp or equivalent, who are “white list” providers, may be impacting the delivery of your message to your audience. It may not be, but it’s something to consider if you want to a. ensure your audience receives your emails and b. track open rates and unsubs. In fact, with MailChimp, you can even send out a weekly digest of emails published via RSS. You have it so people can only subscribe on your site to full post when it comes out, but some people enjoy weekly digests and that’s not an option. Additionally, it’s not obvious on your site where you might be able to unsub either.
My suggestion is to make your blog “archive” your home page and adopt a widget for your email subscription form in the right sidebar or in your site header. But, how do you do this?
Well, it seems when you installed WordPress, you uploaded WordPress in your “root” directory at your host, which is generally a folder named: “httpdocs.” Your URL resolves to: “httpdocs/wordpress” instead of just root aka “lefsetz.com/.”
If you were ever so inclined to fix this, you can simply edit your index.php file and change this:
** Loads the WordPress Environment and Template */ require( dirname( __FILE__ ) . '/wp-blog-header.php' );
** Loads the WordPress Environment and Template */ require( dirname( __FILE__ ) . '/wp-blog-header.php' );
This would then resolve your home page to lefsetz.com instead of lefsetz.com/wordpress. Anyone who types Lefsetz.com will no longer have to click on “Archive,” which is really a pain in the you know what. You say everyday that people “don’t have time,” yet you are a hypocrite by continuing to force people to one-click to your content from your “splash page.” For someone who crucifies artists on doing it right, you’re not doing it right yourself. Does it matter? To people like me, yes – it matters! A lot!
2. Social Sharing
There are NO social sharing icons on your blog. For someone who is so critical of artists who don’t use social media, you do not do it right.
What to do? Simple. Install the WordPress JetPack plugin and activate it. Then, connect it with your WordPress.com account by logging in, in the admin, with your WordPress.com user/pass. Access Dashboard > JetPack > Settings. Scroll down to Sharing. Turn it on by clicking “Activate.” Next, navigate to Dashboard > Settings > Sharing and drag’n’drop your social icons and click the check boxes to make them activate on your posts, pages and media (I have additional boxes for other post types), so that people who read your blog can share your posts in social media far easier than copying and pasting a link.
You’ll also be able to connect up with Google+ for your Google Authorship, so that your Google+ profile appears in Google search results. And, you’ll also be able to cross post into social networks without having to copy and paste links! Pretty awesome, I’d say.
If you activate Publicize, you’ll also be able to sync your blog with your social media accounts and cross post into social media. You can simply activate it in your JetPack Settings as well.
3. No XML Sitemap
You don’t have an XML sitemap, which can help your blog in SEO by connecting it directly to Google and Bing, who can then more accurately spider your blog posts while delivering analytics on keywords and other useful data.
Here’s what I found when I went to http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/sitemap.xml. A 404 Not Found error. Ghastly!
How does one create a sitemap? Simple, just download, install and activate All In One SEO Pack, the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress (downloaded over 19M times), from the WordPress.org plugins repo. It comes with a sitemap generator, but it’s core purpose is to allow you optimize the SEO of every post and page.
Once you’ve added your site, you’ll need to “Verify” the site (no screenshot provided) by linking it to your Google Analytics account or using All In One SEO site verification fields to enter in the string required for Google to see your site. Once it’s verified, you’ll be connected to Google directly. You’ll have to repeat this at Bing as well. Pinterest is also available.
An additional benefit of JetPack is activating WP.me, which is also located in the Settings panel. Using this integrated JetPack plugin will shorten your links. Shortlinks are certainly useful for those who don’t want to copy long links in a URL bar. I use a Bit.ly plugin to convert my links to that service, because I’m interested in managing my link sharing analytics with their analytics dashboard.
That’s it. I hope you’ll take this advice. If you need some help, let me know and happy blogging!