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:
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!