And what a wildly fun half-decade it has been. I love this site as a place of connection, reflection, thinking, stories, and ideas. I love what it has grown into. In the old days, this site had a green-and-yellow palette and copy-pasted links (because I hadn't yet figured out how to put links in the text: for example. See also my embarrassing call for help). Ten people visited Isak on its debut day, and that was mostly me checking to see if the site was still there. And possibly my mother.
Me and Isak have grown up a lot since April 2006 ... and a lot of growing has happened in just the last year. Here is my accounting of Isak's fifth year.
The Story: What Happened On Isak This Year
- "Choose Books: A Gift Guide for People Who Care About Stories" emerged in a second edition this year: expanded, updated, revised, and offered to you for free. Its 57 pages include hundreds of eclectic book recommendations for all kinds of people: sports fans, people going through hard times, children, politicos, wannabe cooks, and so on. It also includes an updated listing of "Top Ten Magazine Gift Subscriptions" and a brand-new section on great literary organizations for your gift donations.
- This year saw the introduction of Monet Moutrie as a media intern who, for four months, contributed the "Borderless" column about immigration and diaspora literature. A bright and thoughtful young woman with broad interests and a generous spirit, Monet made Isak a better website. I couldn't be more grateful to her. She has been, too, a good friend -- and all this during an outrageously difficult year for her that is, sadly, not over yet; just in the last few weeks, Monet's sister and nephew unexpectedly died. Please visit Monet at her own website, Anecdotes and Apple Cores, and share your love with her. She deserves champions.
- In addition to Monet's columns, Isak benefited from other guest writers, including energetic posts by Elizabeth Clark Appleton, Olivia Coleman, and Elizabeth Bovair, as well as pieces that elevate the voices of Nikki McClure, Micah Uetricht, and Lynn Powell.
- Other Isak contributors who deserve the utmost gratitude of you and me include Amy H., whose sharp-eyed copy-editing -- which she has, for several years now, voluntarily offered this site -- enabled me to preserve a bit of my dignity. I also get a lot of tips about must-read articles from a lot of you, especially Chris M. and Elizabeth S. (formerly Elizabeth Bovair, guest writer). Thank you, too, to the publishers, editors, authors, and PR people who send me fascinating reads, deepening my experience of literature and media, thrilling me to its possibilities. In the spirit of transparency (and FCC guidelines), see the right sidebar for a complete listing of where these folks are coming from.
- Isak Interviews debuted in August 2010, featuring original conversations with folks who are in the thick of literary culture. More than a rehash of things you have heard familiar names natter on about before, this series turns its attention beyond the bounds of the usual suspects and the usual issues. It is an occasional series that is committed to a dynamic exploration of ideas, craft, language, literature, and culture with the people who are committing their lives to it. Isak has published eleven interviews with -- if I may say so -- a particularly brilliant collection of people so far. (Got nominees for who else should be interviewed? Let me know: annaleighclark -at - yahoo.com. Be unafraid to self-nominate, or to offer to conduct the interview yourself.)
- Isak got critical love from Fringe Magazine in a quite thorough "blog review" by Nina Ignaczak. (Nina herself blogs at Place.) Isak was also named one of Largehearted Boy's "Blogs To Read in 2010," with a citation that's pretty damn flattering.
- Isak got a new url: you can reach this site by typing in either www.isak.typepad.com or www.annaclark.net. The www.annaclark.net domain name is useful to me because, for one, it is simpler to verbally give to other people, and for two, it is a bit of foreground work for a future, eventual, someday transition off of the Typepad platform.
Total unique posts, including this one: 3027
Number of unique posts in the past year: 432 (compared to 575 in 2009-2010)
Yearly average of unique posts: 605.4
Daily average of unique posts: 1.65
Total number of videos (in partnership with The Collagist): 21
Number of new videos in the last year: 9
New post categories in the last year: Africa, Science
Most common post categories: Book Reviews, Culture, Literary Life, Media, Poetry, Politics
More occasional post categories: Detroit Stories, Ecological, Health, Interviews, Isak, Poverty & Economic Justice, Prisons & People, Spirituality
Origin of visitors: 171 nations and territories (68 more than in 2009-2010)
Nation of origin of visitors:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- The Philippines
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Compared to 2009-2010, the top five nations are identical. The Philippines dropped, which bumped up France and Germany. Norway fell out of the top ten (and top twenty) completely. The emergence of Kenya in the top ten surely has something to do with writing more about, and from, that country, but I think I'm personally inflating the statistics by viewing my own site. Relatedly: the visitors who linger longest at Isak are from Kenya.
Nations that had exactly one resident visit Isak in the past year: Greenland, Malawi, Angola, Zambia, Liberia, Haiti
City of origin of visitors:
- New York
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- Washington D.C.
- Ann Arbor
- Some city designated as "not set" by Google Analytics
- Detroit (Finally! Where the hell were you guys?)
- Farmingon (MI)
In total, Isak visitors came from 6,996 cities in the last year.
Languages: Isak was read in 92 different languages over the last year. The top three were, of course, national variations on English, followed by, in descending order, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and Brazilian Portuguese.
Visitor loyalty: The majority of visitors are first-timers. Two-time visitors are the next most common hits, followed by the loyal set: visitors who made 201+ visits to Isak.
Audience snapshot (according to Alexa): "Based on internet averages, isak.typepad.com is visited more frequently by females who are in the age range 25-34, have no children, are college educated and browse this site from work." This embarrassingly mirrors my own profile.
Links: 94 sites link to Isak (7 less than in 2009-2010)
Average pages viewed per visit: 1.25
Most common traffic sources: Search engines (47.52%, down about 8% compared to last year); referring sites (37.95%, up about 4%), and direct traffic (14.53%, up about 5%).
More specifically, the most common traffic sources are, in descending order: Google (organic), direct visitors, Google.com (referral), Facebook, and Twitter. Yahoo and Google Images fell off the top five traffic sources this year (they're now #6 and #7, respectively). Direct visitors moved up and Twitter emerged as a top referral source (directly related, I'm sure, to the fact that this is the first full year I've had a Twitter account: follow me at @annaleighclark). Rounding out the top ten traffic sources: Google.co.uk, Typepad.com, and Bing (organic).
Most common browsers used to access Isak: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and Opera.
Most common mobile devices used to access Isak: iPhone, iPad, Android, iPod, and Blackberry.
Top queries used in search browsers that find Isak (according to Alexa): Isak, Red Mars, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, The Michigan Daily, and Daniel Simon. How's that for eclectic?
Most popular posts: Besides the home page, the content most visited on Isak is mostly older stuff.
- Frida Kahlo, Resting in Peace
- Jean-Michel Basquiat: Catharsis (1983)
- Remembering Steve Orlen (1942-2010)
- Only Four Years Ago?
- Review: The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
- Poet Dean Young is Very Sick: Please Help
- Review: Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas
- Scott Pilgrim and My Precious Little Life
The most popular day to visit Isak in 2010-2011: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
What did I post that day?: I wrote about the National Book Award winners and posted Isak Interview #8: KL Pereira. But I think most visitors were mourning poet Steve Orlen with me, who I wrote about the day before.
The least popular day to visit Isak in 2010-2011: Saturday, December 25, 2010. Merry Christmas.
Selected Feedback from This Year's Reader Survey:
Note: the reader survey is still open and I still very much want to get your feedback on these ten questions. Don't let this status report dissuade you: what you think matters and will absolutely shape the future of the site. I especially want to hear from more critical voices. But in the meantime, as of today, here's the word:
Top reasons you visit Isak: (respondents could choose multiple reasons)
- I like the eclectic mix of news and original analysis (65.7%, compared to 74.1% last year)
- I'm just curious what Anna is up to (65.7%, compared to 77.8% last year)
- The literary content (60%, compared to 37% in 2009-2010)
- I like the "voice" of the site (57.1%)
- I discover interesting resources through Isak -- like a literary magazine I hadn't heard of before, or a new website (34.3%, compared to 22.2% last year)
It's worth noting that the reason "I'm interested in Detroit and Detroiters," while at 48.1% last year, dropped to 27.3% this year. "The social justice content" went from 40.7% to 24.2%. Among the other reasons you cited for visiting Isak, there were these:
- "looking for good reading ideas"
- "I like the emphasis on independent booksellers."
- "Always have good suggestions for new books."
- "to keep me up on insightful and social conscious aware subjects"
- "Content about women, international literature"
Time of day you visit Isak: Between 9am and noon (37.5%), and between noon and 3pm (34.4%).
Feedback on Isak's book reviews: (respondents could choose multiple reasons)
- Because of the reviews, I've picked up books I wouldn't have read otherwise. (35.3%, compared to 26.9% last year)
- I read the reviews regularly. (35.3%, compared to 30.8% in 2009-2010)
- I like getting a distinct and interesting perspective on the reviewed books. (32.4%, compared to 53.8% last year)
- I don't read many of the reviews. (17.6%, slightly less than last year)
- I wish the reviews covered more contemporary and just-released books. (17.6%, compared to 7.7% last year)
Among the other opinions you wrote in as 'other' about Isak's book reviews, there were these:
- "I really appreciate the insight and history in the book review on Isak."
- "Ideas for book discussions at the high school level"
- "I wish I had time to read more of them, because they're always so good."
- "They're fairly written and smart."
What you want more of: Literary coverage (58.6%), cultural coverage (51.7%), and advocacy coverage (34.5%). Among the other reader feedback on Isak coverage that you offered, there were these:
- "More conservative voices. Your site is very left-biased. What about your readers who voted against Obama?"
- "I'd like you to expand your thoughts/reviews with interviews of others & see you being a Bill Moyer type; next generation of course."
- "I like the eclectic feel of the site -- and while the slope can be slippery, I think the eclectic nature does allow room for more of the occasional heartfelt personal narrative, which makes for compelling and powerful stories...."
- "I like your takes on random cultural memes."
- "I'm really pleased with the mix that's there. I wish I had more time to take advantage of it all."
The best ways Isak can improve: (respondents could choose multiple reasons)
- Deepen the coverage of Detroit (34.4%, compared to 44% last year)
- Bring on more guest bloggers (28.1%)
- Host a regular columnist, who provides a different voice to the site (28.1%)
- Deepen the coverage of Kenya and East Africa (28.1%)
- Commit to a regular publishing schedule, especially for book reviews and longer essays (21.9%, compared to 32% last year)
Among the other narrative reader suggestions about how Isak can improve, there were these:
- "The guest bloggers would be great for more voices -- but perhaps as much for cross-pollination - that's often a profoundly fecund and unpredictable space."
- "Letting me teach less, so I can read it more frequently."
- "I sometimes forget to check in. Wouldn't mind being e-mailed from time to time."
- "-I've noticed that you've rated some comics and graphic novels on Goodreads and haven't seen any reviews (at least lately) on Isak. I feel like your coverage is very eclectic and would love to see more of the genre--only if you're interested in doing so, of course. -I also enjoyed Monet's coverage of immigrant literature and would love to see that continue. -Last but not least, more Kenya and more Anna! I think yours is not the typical personal blog but I am curious about how you're adjusting to life in Kenya."
Additional Selected Narrative Feedback from This Year's Reader Survey:
- "I like the coverage on older interviews and writers that maybe don't have something new coming out. I know of several sources where I can find coverage on new writers and work; I love the opportunity to read about Muriel Spark, A.S. Byatt and Angela Carter."
- "Honestly, I love everything you do on the site. I'm always excited when there is new content in my Reader."
- "I love this site. It's one of my favorite spots on the internet :-) "
- "The content you provide is unique and I think helps to illustrate the importance of literature and keeping the arts as a part of our life."
- "** Do the blog because YOU know what you need to say and why - don't do it for others because then you start trying to 'please others' & lose focus on who you are & what you want and need to say." (Editor's note: I am 100% certain that this comment is from my mother.)
- "2+ 2 = ?"
- "I've loved the correlations that you have written between Africa and Detroit (both on Isak and in the FreePress). Keep up the good work."
- "Isak is a well written and managed site. The improvements mentioned will keep the site fresh."
- Top Five Reasons to Pay for The New York TImes (3.25.2011)
- Virginia Woolf: Not As Dumb As You Thought (3.10.2011)
- Taking Space: A Risk (2.15.2011)
- Response to a Curmudgeon: 10 Points on Oprah and Charles Dickens (12.16.2010)
- Know Your Amazon (11.30.2010)
- Interesting Life (11.22.2010)
- Winner of the Wasserstein Prize? No One. (11.13.2010)
- Isak Interview #7: Daniel Simon (10.28.2010)
- Isak Interview #6: Asale Angel-Ajani (10.17.2010)
- Borderless: There Are Jews In My House by Lara Vapnyar (10.8.2010)
- Next in Translation (And What's Missing) (9.7.2010)
- Borderless: On Sandra Cisneros' Loose Woman (9.2.2010)
- On the Right to Vote, What's Next, and School House Rock (With Video) (8.18.2010)
- Story Review: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's "The Erlking" (8.11.2010)
- Book Review: Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (7.21.2010)
- The Big News (6.28.2010)
- Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (6.4.2010)
- Translating National Identity (2.16.2010)
- Book Review: Love and Rockets #6: Duck Feet (5.16.2010)
- RIP Alan Sillitoe (1928-2010) (4.26.2010)
- A Pulitzer Prize Examination: Part One and Part Two (4.13.2010)
- Review: The Trouble With Francine Prose (4.11.2010)
- Review: Dawn Raffel's Further Adventures in the Restless Universe (4.9.2010)
- Spring, Life (4.9.2010)
- Review: Bonnie Jo Campbell's American Salvage (4.8.2010)
I love making Isak. Five years into it, this has become a vital rhythm of my life and I'm not going to stop anytime soon. While giving the site a great deal of time and my own money, I have further kept my commitment to keep this site ad-free. If you find this website valuable, please consider making a donation to support it. All funds will go towards the enhancement of this site and its resources.
To those of you who have already donated to Isak: I am incredibly, dizzyingly grateful. Beyond the financial support, your moral support moves me. You have no idea.
- Someday, somehow, I'm getting off Typepad and moving this site to Wordpress. If any of you have made this transition, I could really use your advice.
- An e-newsletter! I've heard from enough people that they'd like to get content in their inboxes, and I've decided to make the leap. A succinct, smart e-newsletter will be delivered to you about once every three weeks, featuring key headlines from Isak that link back to the site, articles and news from my non-Isak media life, and brief pieces that you're not going to find elsewhere. Of course, your information will be kept entirely private, not traded or sold, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time. Given that this is the pilot phase of the newsletter, I will look forward to your candid feedback.
Want in on this new adventure for Isak? Sign up for the e-newsletter now!
- World, Anew: Happy Fourth Birthday, Isak!
- A Weekend in Boston; or, Happy Third Birthday, Isak!
- Back to Boston
About the Image: Anna, at the office.