We’re back, baby!

, Canadian Atheist suffered a catastrophic hack that completely obliterated the site and destroyed all our old archives. We may never be able to recover them. We were hacked again and again , , and so on.

These repeated hacks, and the corresponding downtime and loss of data, did enormous damage to Canadian Atheist’s readership. Our readership dwindled to a fraction of what it was in our heyday, as we hemorrhaged readers month after month for almost three years. We hit our all-time low (readership usually dips during the summer months, which only added to our downward slide).

When I took over as managing editor , my primary goal was simply to stop the downward spin. I started making changes with only a very modest goal: Within three months, I wanted a month with more readers than the previous month. My pie-in-the-sky target was that within six months, we’d have a month with more readers than the same month in 2016. That target seemed almost ridiculous , because at the time, we were doing roughly half of what we had been doing the same time a year before. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a serious downward slide.

It turns out my goals were too modest.

As soon as I started making changes , we stopped losing readers every month, and started gaining them. And by as early as we were scratching at the first goal – we were just 509 short of . In April, we did it; we were 337 more than . That’s just barely squeaking past the goal, but remember we were starting from a consistent deficit of around half the previous year’s numbers every month going back as far as .

So I had to make new goals.

I decided that the new goal would be to maintain the previous pie-in-the-sky target – that each month would have more readers than the year before – for at least six months. And the new pie-in-the-sky target would be to have a month where we had double the readership of the year before.

And right away, wouldn’t you know it, we hit a little setback. we were 303 short of ’s numbers. So close! Close enough that if we’d published even just one additional article, we’d have done it easily. That was frustrating. And I knew we were just about to get into the summer slump. I started wondering if I’d been blinded by hubris after those early achievements, and set the bar too high.

You all proved me wrong yet again.

As of yesterday, we have achieved the new goal: to have a higher readership every month than the same time a year before for six months in a row. , , , , , and now have all had more readers than the same month a year before. That’s something we haven’t managed in at least three years.

So at this point, I think it’s pretty fair to say: We’ve stopped the slide.

But wait a minute. Here I am saying that we’ve already beat ’s numbers… but… we’re not even yet at the halfway point for !

The (revised) goal was six straight months better than the year before. But the pie-in-the-sky target was not just to beat the previous year’s score… it was to double it.

We did that . And given where we are at the half-way point , we’re probably going to do it again. It’s also worth mentioning that we were offline for the better part of a week in (for the hosting changeover), and we still came within spitting distance of doubling ’s numbers.

But what’s the point of me bragging over these numbers?

Well, to put it in simple terms: For almost three years, Canadian Atheist had been on an almost consistent downward slide in readership. Each month we were getting less readers than the month before, and only getting around half of the readership we’d gotten the same month the year before – and this was going on for years. It got to the point that CA was written off as dead by many people. I got handed the managing editor job because no one else wanted it.

I took on the job because I believed there was still a need for Canadian Atheist. I thought that all it needed was a little love, and a lot of technical work to bring it up to date to live in 2017’s web. I had several people tell me that I was wrong, that there was no way to save CA. One person even told me I’d just turn it into a “cesspool”.

But in defiance of their predictions, we’re now doing numbers we haven’t done consistently in over two years… and still climbing. And I’m not even halfway done adding new features.

At this point, I hope I’m not succumbing to hubris when I say: We’re back, baby. We’re not yet back to where we were at our peak five years ago or so, but that target is no longer a pipe dream. We really have a shot at doing it.

Thank you to all our readers – you are the standard that Canadian Atheist judges itself by. If we’re good, it’s because of you, your support, your feedback, and the quality, intelligence, and thoughtfulness of your discussions and suggestions.

Let’s see how far we can take this Canadian Atheist thing together, eh?

5 thoughts on “We’re back, baby!

  1. Thanks for doing all that you do. I read most every new post, so readership is somewhat based on the number of posts, so the number of posts will effect the readership, and must be included in any analysis.

    • Yeah, figuring out true readership numbers is really hard. Not impossible, but it takes a lot of work.

      For example, when posts appear on the front page in their entirety, a reader can read 3 or 4 posts but only be counted as a single page view. And the stats I’m looking at only count page views… they don’t count people who read the site via RSS at all.

      So I know the numbers I’m using are a massive underestimate… last time I checked they were an order of magnitude smaller than the “true” numbers. But they’re an easy and handy estimate.

  2. It’s great that the site is moving forward. New server, old content imported, as I recall, and ready to move to the future.

    I’d suggest we make some changes to the theme, but I think you have bigger changes in mind, so that might just be a distraction.

    • Not really! I do have big long-term changes in mind… but they’re really long-term. So it does make sense to fix up the theme, which has numerous problems (not least being a total lack of mobile support), and I intend to do just that.

      The plan right now is: First I need to fix up our email problems, then I’ll roll out the meta site (then probably some of the other stuff), then on the meta site I’ll preview and solicit suggestions for a brand new look. (But all that probably won’t get any love until December, because I’m pretty preoccupied with the holiday playlist now. And then, of course, December brings holiday family chaos, so I might not get much accomplished then either, but we’ll see.)

  3. I subscribe to the Atom/RSS feed, so my one hit accounts for many articles read. That said, when I see something interesting posted in my social media feed I’ll click through and read it on the actual site. So even this one reader’s stats are inconsistent.

    –Bob.

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