Offbeat Families post-mortem: feels, Facebook, and traffic is UP!?

Autopsy instruments by *Visceral Insoluble*CC BY 2.0
It's been almost a month since Offbeat Families published its final new post, and I wanted to share some insights into how things have been going behind the scenes.

Readers are still upset

We're continuing to get sad, hurt, and even spiteful messages from readers, which is completely to be expected. Perhaps less expected was that, in the two weeks following the shut-down of Offbeat Families, editors on Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Home reported that there were more comment moderation challenges on those sites, too — likely as reader resentments over the Offbeat Families shut-down got projected on the surviving websites. As one reader said on Facebook, "Is it really worth shutting down Offbeat Families and keeping Offbeat Home online?" Our one-word answer: yes. For a lot of reasons… yes.

I expect readers will continue to express hurt and dismay for the rest of the year, and I totally understand. It's hard when something you love changes. I hope people can understand the business factors that went into the decision, and maybe stick around for family content on Offbeat Home & Life, but ultimately I totally understand that folks are going to be frustrated and stop reading. And that yes, some of them will flounce. I see each flounce as a final love letter to a site that we all put a lot of energy into and cared about a lot.

Facebook has been weird

…or rather, even weirder than usual. We're keeping the Offbeat Families page up, mostly as a way to share links to the new families-related posts on Offbeat Home & Life, but also as a way to share posts from the Offbeat Families archive… and not only is the Facebook page thriving, but new people keep following it… despite the page clearly stating that there are no new posts. Weird!

There have been a few comments over there that made me realize that I'm not sure some of our Facebook followers ever really understood that Offbeat Families was a separate website, not just a Facebook page. I guess that misunderstanding is actually accurate at this point, because the Facebook page is going crazy strong despite the fact that we're only sharing links to old posts, and posts on other sites. Yet again, I'm reminded of the See it, click it lessons I seem to be learning a lot this year.

Also, worth noting but probably surprising to no one: the most vitriolic reader feedback has come through Facebook.

Traffic is up

Despite that fact that we haven't published a single new post in October, traffic is not only steady… but actually up:
offbeatfamiliestraffic3mo

Some of this might be temporary, with readers flooding in to "grief read" old posts. Some of it is because I'm making a point to link only our strongest archived posts on Families' Facebook page, and those are good for click-throughs. But a lot of it reflects the shifting world of content marketing, where new content isn't always as important as new links from social media like Facebook and Pinterest. Google will eventually start to penalize the site for not updating as frequently, so our search engine traffic will likely eventually start to fall… but the social media traffic to our archived posts is basically as strong as it ever was, and that's the bulk of our pageviews.

And what about us?

We're still in the process of getting Stephanie shifted over to her new duties with Offbeat Bride (have you noticed all her new posts over there?) and Offbeat Home & Life (where she's mostly producing families-related guestposts). She was used to basically toiling in isolation over on Families, and it's been interesting integrating her into the existing sausage-factory editorial processes that Megan and Superman have established over the past 2+ years on Bride and Home & Life. I know at some point, Steph wants to write about the differences for her between working solo on a blog vs. working as part of an editorial team — which I think'll be a super interesting post.

For me personally, despite the reader hurt and challenges, I feel solid about this decision. Offbeat Families had a great run and produced some really life-changing posts. Its 2400 archived posts will continue to serve Offbeat Empire readers, albeit in a different way. I'm working today with Kellbot to get the homepage shifted over to an archived format, making it easier to browse the most popular topics, and find the existing posts most relevant to new readers. And I'm stupid excited about some of the stuff we now have time to work on… like maybe finally publishing an Offbeat Families book, featuring an anthology of some of our most-loved posts.

…To the future!

  1. While I was upset that Offbeat Families fizzeled, I was happy to see that the work continues on my other favorite site now that I'm married (offbeathome.com). Stay strong ladies, it's hard after reading families for close to a year to know it's not there anymore.

    6 agree
  2. I really expected to feel more upset about the loss of Offbeat Families than I actually did. I LOVE that blog, but when it was shut down I was just sort of like, "Okay, well, it's served me well and I'm sure I'll still go back and reference old content time and again."

    I think that the archives that are built there are extremely valuable. I recommended them to someone yesterday, in fact. So yes – keep pinning and FB posting! There's still so many people out there who could benefit from what you've already got running.

    Have you discussed on OBE your theories *why* advertisers weren't as interested in OBFam? I've been curious.

    2 agree
    • My primary theory has always been that the "mommyblogger" market got over-saturated with non-pros willing to exchange blog placement for product samples.

      Put another way, most businesses aren't willing to pay for placement on a parenting blog because there are so many hobbyist parenting bloggers who undervalue themselves — they've inadvertently undercut the market for paid promotional placement.

      Also, Offbeat Families readers weren't big spenders when it came to sponsor products, and had even been known to be hostile toward services and products they felt were too expensive. The few sponsors we DID get didn't always have great results (and sometimes even had negative experiences with crabby commenters), so we didn't have many repeat sponsors.

      5 agree
  3. What I've learned the most from this change is how few crossover readers there are across the Empire. As someone who reads all the sites, but participates the most at Offbeat Home & Life, comments like "Is it really worth shutting down Offbeat Families and keeping Offbeat Home online?" are surprising to me, though I'm sure not to you.

    I think you covered this question when you posted about reader survey results last year, but do you find that Offbeat Families readers were least likely to go to other sites? It seems a common track to "graduate" from Bride to Home (and/or to Families), or to branch out to either from Home depending on marital status, but not so much the other way. I could also be vastly overestimating how many people look at the other sites at all, since I like to bounce back and forth and CLEARLY my way is always right. 😛

    12 agree
    • What I've learned the most from this change is how few crossover readers there are across the Empire.

      Then it might REALLY blow your mind to learn how many readers don't even know we publish multiple blogs.

      5 agree
  4. I get why the blog wasn't worth the time for something that wasn't paying off. I am a not for profit co-ordinator, so I reeeaaaaally get not wanting to pump something out that is amazing and just end up tired with no financial gain to show for it, since everyone loves your great thing- as long as it is free.

    But I also have to say I really miss it and don't find a fit with offbeat life at all. I really want to, but I feel like its so all encompassing (ie LIFE) that it really rarely resonates for me on a regular basis, its just so all over the place.

    Is it a lifestyle blog? Not really because its not a particular lifestyle. Is it a "cool stuff" blog? Sorta kinda, but not really. I guess it just feels like to me you had to stop something with a very targeted niche, that is otherwise not represented online- and are focusing on something with a very broad niche , aspects of which are already better represented on other blogs.

    I will repeat, that I totally understand why, and am glad you are able to focus your awesomeness in a direction that is lucrative- but that direction leaves me (personally)behind with nothing to read on the regular from your empire, after I have been following you for six years, it still gives me the sads :(. I will hold out secret hope that one day OBF will again be awesome, like a creepy ex that won't accept a relationship is over 😉

    20 agree
    • I feel similarly. I gave money to OBH to show support, and still check in every day, but find myself feeling less and less attached overall because I miss the identity and family stuff that was what I felt really connected with. I identify with having an offbeat family, but not so much with having an offbeat home OR life, does that make sense at all? 🙂

      I'm still giving it time. Like making new friends at college, or updating my wardrobe, hopefully it'll feel more like home or a real community for me…and if not, I guess I'll have to go somewhere else to get that.

      12 agree
      • Honestly, the "feel" of offbeat life has changed for us "lifers" since the shut down of families too. It did feel cohesive, but things are definitely a bit different. With the addition of the family posts and the new "where are they now" from previous bride couples…it kind of feels a bit like a mash-up of those three empire sites. But, I understand why it's happening and I trust the empire team 🙂

        Sometimes things change, so I'll just change right along with it!

        10 agree
        • I agree that OBH&L feels a little different recently. For me, it is primarily the addition of the "Where are they now" profiles, since they are (obviously) all married people. There are two things I appreciate most about the Empire – the diversity of it's community of readers, and the creation of a drama-free space. (Note – that's even more of a draw for me than the content itself!!) But I'm absolutely convinced that as all the changes settle a bit, a new balance will be found!!!

          The broadened focus of OBH&L doesn't bother me at all – I'm kind of excited that there seem to be more daily posts (shift from 2-3? am I making that up?). Feeds my addiction 😉

          Also noticed the cranky commenters. Sheesh! Hope that goes away real soon!

          Would love to see more offbeat style and fashion posts… including plus size fashion… Would those make more money for the blog, too?

          9 agree
          • For those looking for more plus sized fashion, have you SEEN volup2 ? Its freaking amazing, and their facebook posts are my go to every morning for body positive news and events!

            2 agree
        • This is really helpful feedback. We'll be cutting back on "Where are they now" posts, which seem to be muddying the water. Thanks, guys!

          One thing that's important to note: Offbeat Home & Life is VERY MUCH a reflection of the community that reads it and contributes to it. If you wish we had more posts about ______, then we'd LOVE to see your submission about ____! http://offbeathome.com/submissions

          Oh god, and this reminds me that it's almost Reader Survey time…. aka "All The Editors Crying Non-Stop For A Week" time.

          5 agree
          • Unfortunately I'm woefully uninformed when it comes to these two particular areas… so I hope some of the fabulously amazingly dressed folks will help me out! (Or I'll just end up submitting a gazillion "reader advice" questions).

            1 agrees
          • I kind of like the Where Are They Now posts…maybe you could run them on Offbeat Bride?

            11 agree
          • We run Where Are They Now on Home because we've always envisioned Home as the place where Offbeat Bride readers "graduate" to… and I like the Where Are They Now posts as a way to show that.

            That said, I'm hearing loud and clear that weekly is too frequent for those posts, and that maybe we need to play with the format a bit so they feel less like a personal profile. We're working on it!

            5 agree
          • Hey All, I am a newer reader to the Empire (so glad I found it, by the way), so I don't have the missing-Families-feeling that others do.

            However, and I'm sure the editorial staff have or are already knocking around this idea, it seems that this is an opportunity for the "families" portion of "life" to become more focused. OBF was very focused on parenting whereas "life-families" is very general. Perhaps a dedicated topic schedule can be established (every Monday is Parenting Monday or first week of the month about parenting).

            I totally sympathize with where the Empire is coming from. I am one of three full time staff members at a non-profit art center. I know that when something isn't working, it can't be supported at the cost of the other ventures.

            If we want the content to be free on OBF, the capital has to come from somewhere, and that's advertising. If the dollars from that aren't there, then we the readers have to be willing to step up and pay for it (which I totally would), like how my art center has members and donors that support us.

            I guess my real point is this: the transition is not that long ago, instead of being upset right away, why not wait and see where this new path goes? It could end up being something that is more cohesive and relevant with other content thereby making it more meaningful all around. I have seen it to be true in my life way back when I was an art student: my most valuable insight about my artwork came from listening to critiques of other artist's work.

            1 agrees
          • I know this comment is way late, but since I'm here, I just wanted to mention that even though I don't usually know the couples from their OBB posts, I also like having the "where are they now?" posts on OBH (mostly because after my wedding I basically never returned to OBB).

            I think sometimes they're just not as "super magically awesome" as some of the other posts and so "just awesome" suffers by comparison. So in summary, maybe reducing the frequency is the ideal solution.

            2 agree
      • I'm here in this thread too. I started long ago on OBB, I've read OBH&L since it started, and started reading Families when I was thinking of getting pregnant, and quickly got hooked by the more talkin' bout the people/relationship aspect of having a home/life Families provided. I'm not much of a "stuff" person, I quickly learned DIY-anything wasn't my thing AT ALL after buying a house and having a wedding, so I find myself skipping over a lot of the stuff posts (I consume mostly via RSS, which is why I happily jumped on Tugboat to pay for all my sins). One thing in particular that I feel like OBF had more often was advice-asking posts. I love reading what people have to say for "I am dealing with this kind of sticky situation, please help" type posts. I like stuff that seeks to engage me, which I felt Families content tended to do a bit more often. For example, I loved the various introvert advice posts over the past week or so on OBH&L.

        6 agree
        • We're actually up to doing almost as many advice posts on Home now as we did on Families: http://offbeathome.com/filed/advice We always did 2/week on Families, and we're now doing 1-2/week on Home.

          (Interestingly, Families was sometimes criticized for too many advice posts.)

  5. Was I sad when Families shut down? Yes.

    Did I sent an extremely urgent share-my-pain email to my best friend in all caps? I will neither confirm nor deny.

    Did I look at the facebook comments and get completely horrified? YES.

    I couldn't believe how rude some of the people were! I mean, sad, I get, but angry? They got to read an awesome blog (and they can still read it, there just isn't new content) at NO COST TO THEM. They were getting it for free. Why do they feel entitled to it instead of just thankful?

    I just don't understand that mindset.

    Thank you for so many years of Offbeat Families, and I'm sure I will be perusing the archives constantly if/when I have kids 🙂

    <3

    31 agree
  6. I am also really sad about the demise of OBF, and don't quite think that OBHL fits me quite as well. I'm trying to get into it, but it just doesn't feel "right." I'm trying to embrace the fact, however, that the loss of OBF has shifted my attention more to mommyish, which is a really great almost OBF site. So for those of you feeling the loss, head over! (I don't work for them, I swear, I just think that those of us who need something like OBF are lost in a sea of typical-mommy sites). I'm going to try to stick with OBHL for a while, but it does feel a little to me like a site struggling with an identity crisis (is it a follow up to OBB? money saving life hacks? personal profiles of "offbeaters?" a place to get advice on personal issues like sex, birth control, etc? All of those are interesting to me, but I'm not sure I want to get them all from the same site for some reason).

    6 agree
  7. I am still processing the feels, but I love the change of the feel of the H&L blog, makes it feel pretty homey. I didn't visit it very often before and now it's my new landing of the 3 blogs. Thanks for making it homey for us Parents immigrants! <3

    2 agree
  8. What shall happen to the OBF Flickr group? I mean, I know it can probably stay up forever, but is there any point in contributing to it anymore? I do like to look at it and see cute kids and family photos, and get inspiration for styles and photo shoots. And pregnancy…and birth…and Halloween photos…

    • When Offbeat Families ceased publication, we switched the Flickr group to be private. (Private groups are not listed anywhere on Flickr, and you can join only by invitation.) Existing members are still able to view and contribute to the group pool, but at this point, no one on staff is monitoring the group and we're not promoting it anywhere. We may eventually delete the group completely, but for now, making it private feels like enough.

  9. Honestly the biggest change, for me has been that I click over to OBB after scouting OBE and OBHL because I feel like I am not done Offbeating for the day (the magic number of clicks is three, I guess?).

    5 agree
  10. Maybe it's because I'm in that magic post-college phase of "ANYTHING IN MY LIFE IS POSSIBLE" but the change in blogs hasn't affected me much — I don't *really* relate to any of them directly, but they all have equal potential to maybe someday affect me. That'll keep me reading just as much as before. I have to consciously not click on the Families link at the top, which is confusing, but otherwise rock on Empire!

    1 agrees
  11. Just chiming in to say that of course I'm sad part of it shut down, I LOVE the way you guys are handling it. I appreciate the explanations, the reasoning, the solution. And I'm glad that there are going to be more family-related posts on OBHome. I'm really interested to see where things go from here.

    8 agree
  12. Super late on this… Like SUPER. But I still feel the need to chime in with my… "whhhaaaat?! nooo!" reaction to finding out Offbeat families is no more.

    I totally get the buisness behind it, but as someone with a still fairly new kiddo (almost 8 months), I was just getting to a point where I was a) function coherently and b) felt like I could be a contributing presence on offbeat families.

    It was always my favorite, but without any experience I just lurked. I will miss it so much.

    It was the only place I have found that felt like a community more than just a blog. Most "mommy blogs" seem to be very focused on one style of parenting and that just isn't as fun or informative. 🙁

    1 agrees
  13. This one's for Stephanie: I wanna talk about that blog vs. editorial team post WRITE IT LETS TALK K?

    I don't even tell people I write a blog anymore, because it feels like the job changed. I run a business and I'm head of an editorial team, and the distinction is fascinating.

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