We've grown a great deal from the day of Isak's debut post (which saw a grand total of six visitors the first day---most of those visitors being me, checking to see if the site was still there.) Literary and media commentary remain the focus of this space, with interests in creative nonviolence, culture, and politics regularly making appearances.
This past year has been a big one for this website. It saw a complete re-design and re-organization of information, drawing from an Isak reader survey that many of you were kind enough to fill out. My opinion? This is way, way better than the narrow blue/red/white format we inhabited for so long; our current space is much more spacious, and better suited for images and video. World, anew.
There was also the debut of our first Choose Books: A Gift Guide for Those Who Love Stories this year -- 53 pages of original book recommendations designed with readers of varying tastes in mind. More guest bloggers contributed to Isak, including thoughtful pieces from Elizabeth Clark Appleton, Ben Haack, Anne O. Fisher, Kristina Schmidgall, Phillip Holden, and Robin Black (whose remarkable first book is published today!).
I also started doing video book reviews in the last year, mostly in conjunction with The Collagist; for me, this has been an adventure in breaking out of my comfort zone and experimenting with new ways of engaging in literary dialogue.
Another new feature: You might notice that I've put up a 'Donate' button in the right sidebar. As I mention, I edit this site at a loss of both time and money; I receive no funds in ads or kickbacks for links, despite having offers. It is my pleasure to do this; I believe in this space as a project. It is difficult for me to imagine my life anymore without Isak as a steady rhythm through it. Time and money-wise, though, it can be challenging to sustain. Certainly it is limited in how much it can grow, despite my vaulting ambitions. If you find this site valuable in anyway and are moved to contribute a donation in support of it, I would be so grateful. A few of you blessed folks have already been kind enough to do so ... it means a great deal to me.
Speaking of gratitude: I owe special thank-yous to those of you who have made above-and-beyond contributions to the site, including those of you who share ideas and links (especially Chris M. and Mike I.), and to Amy H., whose volunteer copyediting permits me to blush less often than usual. Thank you, too, to the publishers and editors who send me fascinating reads, deepening my experience of literature and media, thrilling me to its possibilities. In full transparency, these publishers and editors are listed in the right sidebar.
What else is to be said about the state of Isak? Lets get down to the facts. I offer this anniversary accounting of Isak--inspired by The Complete Review's fascinating annual report as a tactic for reflection,
Total unique posts, including this one: 2596
Number of unique posts in the past year: 575
Yearly average of unique posts: 649
Overall daily average of unique posts: 1.78
Number of original videos since first one went live on 04.17.09: 12
Most common categories of posts: Literary Life, Media, Politics, Culture, Book Reviews, Poetry, Creative Nonviolence
More occasional categories of posts: Health, Ecological, Prisons & People, Poverty & Economic Justice, Spirituality
Besides the homepage, the most popular page to visit on Isak in the past year was this rather recent one on Ai's death, followed by my post on Hurricane' Katrina's fourth anniversary ("Only Four Years Ago?"). The third most popular post is the follow-up on Ai's death that questioned the dearth of media coverage on her passing. My review of Alice Walker's The Color Purple, originally written for the National Book Foundation, rounds out the top four posts of the year.Visitors and Traffic:
Links: 101 sites link to Isak, according to Alexa
Origin of visitors: 103 nations
Nation of origin of most visitors, in descending order: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, the Philippines, France, Germany, Norway, and Italy.
Visitor frequency: The majority of visitors are, unsurprisingly, first-timers. Two-time visitors are the next most common frequency of hits, followed by you loyal set: visitors who have made 201+ visits (third) and 51-200 visits (fourth).
Most common traffic sources: Search engines (55.57%); referring sites (35%), and direct traffic (9.42%)
More specifically, the most common traffic sources are, in descending order: Google, Google Images, direct visitors, Facebook, and Yahoo.
Traffic rank in the U.S.: 428,245, according to Alexa
Selected Feedback from This Year's Reader Survey:
- "What keeps you returning to Isak?" -- 77.8% said "I'm just curious what Anna is up to"; 74.1% said "I like the eclectic mix of news and cultural analysis"; 48.1% are "interested in Detroit and Detroiters"; 40.1% said "the social justice content."
- Most readers visit the site between 9pm and midnight.
- 26.9% of respondents said they picked up a book they wouldn't have otherwise because of a review they read on Isak.
- As far as site improvement goes, 44% would like to see the Detroit coverage deepened; 36% think the site should be better promoted; another 36% would like expanded multimedia features; and 20% thought a regular co-blogger would be valuable.
- "I like that the reviews appear when Anna finishes a book and feels like writing about it; and NOT on a regular schedule. Who the fuck needs a regularly scheduled book review? If I wanted that I'd go to one of the other places that already does it. What is nice about Isak is that there are only reviews of a book if it makes sense to have one - not because it is mandated. Also, I don't think Isak would benefit from having a dedicated book reviewer. That is exactly what Isak doesn't need - to become more compartmentalized and streamlined into homogeneity."
- "I always like a good debate. You, as one person, can only have so many points of view. A co-blogger who had a different worldview (perhaps more masculine, more conservative, etc.), but had the same core commitments (literature, Detroit, honest analysis and self-awareness) would push the site into even more interesting territory. Also, I liked the podcast, do more!"
- "Has a lot more insider feminist news than I need."
- "Let your sister participate. Or rather, make her participate. I think I could do something cool. Maybe I need to light a fire under my own butt. Let me know" -- From a reader whose identity is ill-concealed
- "I find the "committing to a more regular publishing schedule" hilarious. You are a blogging freak, just like me. But, really, blogs are hopelessly incomplete projects. What makes Isak almost perfect is its quirky passion, excellent writing quality and your obvious knowledge of the subject matter."
- "I would absolutely ADORE being able to e-mail this to another AND EVEN MORE TO WAKE EACH DAY TO YOUR LINK IN MY MAILBOX...."
- "I am middle-aged and my outrage circuits are tired. Cover some happy news from now and then. Even in Detroit there must be something to smile at."
- "I never really thought about ideas for improving the blog, but adding a media blogger (especially because of the state of the print economy right now) would be really interesting. I don't think "getting on top of breaking news" is as important, as long as, when you do get on news, it's well-written. I tend to think of Isak more like a opinionated mini-essay than a news source."
Personal Favorite Posts of the Past Year:
- "Books for Traveling: A Questionnaire" (04.01.09)
- "Problems with Louis Menand's Essay: 'Show or Tell: Can Creative Writing Be Taught?'" (06.16.09)
- "Michael Jackson: On the Uneasiness" (06.26.09)
- "What? Two Women Are Major News Anchors?" (09.03.09)
- "'In the Theater of Isak Dinesen'" (09.09.09)
- "This Just Seen: The Celluloid Closet" (10.03.09)
- "Let Your Nails Be Facts" (10.19.09)
- "Joy" (10.24.09)
- "Poem in the Woods" (10.28.09)
- "Cities, Newspaper, and a New World" (11.03.09)
- "Second Round for The Second Sex: A New Translation of de Beauvoir's Masterpiece" (12.09.09)
- "BOOK REVIEW: After Reading Moby-Dick: Or, The Whale" (12.15.09)
- "BOOK REVIEW: William Styron's Lie Down in Darkness" (1.11.10)
- "Katie Couric on Political Journalism and the Sarah Palin Interviews" (1.26.10)
- "The Deadliest Year for Journalists" (2.18.10)
- "The Little Golden Calf: A Letter from the Translator" (3.18.10)
- More multimedia features and guest writers
- A dedicated page, easily accessible from the homepage, that offers a library of all book reviews published on Isak (video and written)
- Getting Isak content available in a weekly email format
- Another, adapted, focused reader survey, to be used as a guide for future evolution
On this birthday celebration, I offer my thanks to all of you who share in it. You are amazing. Cheers to the next year of exploration, curiosity, and joy.
About the Image: At home. Back when it was summer outside. Making the magic happen.