Musuem blogs, even when they are one-directional (and have comments turned off), need to be measured differently. Jim Spadaccini and I wrote about this earlier in the year, but now with many many more museums blogging it is time for an update.
At the Powerhouse we’ve seen phenomenal growth in our blogs. This very blog, Fresh & New is one of the most popular parts of the Museum’s website (and it isn’t even linked from anywhere else on the site!), and the Sydney Observatory’s blog continues to grow well beyond the traffic figures of the pre-blog Sydney Observatory. (Our other blogs rise and fall much in line with the frequency of postings.)
But raw traffic growth is not a good measure. (And that’s not just because traffic figures are pretty rubbery these days).
In our paper Jim and I avoided site traffic and instead proposed that two better measures of success for museum blogs were citations/linkbacks and user comments. These captured the ‘interactivity’, the multidirectional communication, that most museums set up blogs to encourage and explore.
Web analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik has proposed 6 ways of measuring a blog’s success. He breaks it down to –
1) Raw Author Contribution – number of posts, length of posts, consistency of posts
2) Holistic Audience Growth – site traffic trends and RSS/feed trends
3) Conversation Rate – trend of comments per post
4) “Citations” / “Ripple Index” – linkbacks, how others discuss your content
5) Cost – total cost of running and posting to your blog
6) Benefit / ROI – including unmeasurable benefits
Kaushilk’s model fits the museum world particularly well because unlike many other business-style blogs, we are primarily about rich, detailed content – and we are using blogs to better, more widely, and more accessibly disseminate such content. To this end, his measure of Raw Author Contributions works well – and provides a metric to encourage continuity and consistency – something everyone struggles with.
Likewise, “citations” are easily explained to curatorial and research staff who operate in the academic world. Jim and I covered Conversion Rate and Citations in detail in our paper but if you already run a museum blog you may not have realised that Technorati has started expiring citations after 6 months. This can rapidly change your ‘authority’ rating if an old post has received a lot of linkbacks but your more recent work has been less widely discussed. As Kaushik writes, “I like this aggressiveness. Its a incentive to stay on your toes”. This again encourages consistency.
We are also, through our public programme and education areas, generally good at encouraging visitor interactions. Whilst this may not always transfer through to our websites, there are plenty of existing skills in our organisations in other sections and departments.
We are about to launch a new public facing blog for our Image Services unit which handles image sales and licensing as well as operating our amazing Photography Department who produce some fabulous, but rarely seen, images. In coming up with some measures of success for this new blog we have an added challenge – the primary content for the blog, images, will be stored on Flickr. Like the John Collier images at the Maxwell Museum, a large number of ‘visitors’ will only ever view the museum’s content on Flickr, not visiting the blog. In that sense, we are also going to be measuring image views by looking at the Flickr statistics as well.