As you might know, generating a growing audience online is hard work. Writing the content has little to do with that hard work, and is in fact probably a distraction from the thousand and one tasks, trades and optimizations needed to involve more people in reading your work. If you're the sort of person who cares deeply about the content, you're also probably not cut out for the sausage-making details and compromise involved in building an audience. There are always exceptions, often very successful exceptions, but this seems to be the way it goes for the most part.
Needless to say, I'm not cut out for sausage-making and compromise, and have never more than dabbled on the optimization side of things. I'm more interested in building an ongoing conversation and repository of information to better engage those folk who have sparked an interest in healthy life extension, in directing advocacy and volunteerism to the best present ends, and in providing an example for others to follow.
However, it's hard to argue that there would be any net loss if the audience were much larger. Traffic to Fight Aging! has been roughly static for a year or two now, and I can't see it growing further through what little time I have to be proactive. With the ebb and flow of ourside events, sure, but that's no way to build a readership. So, a few axioms, which you can take or leave as you like:
- Breadth of readership will help to grow the healthy life extension community
- Breadth of readership will bring more support for initiatives like the Methuselah Foundation
- Breadth of readership will not happen through my efforts
- I'm certainly not going to change the way I write to gain readership
- Breadth of readership is more important than control over content
Or I should say the illusion of control over content. No-one really controls text that is placed online; intellectual property is more a set of narrowly observed manners in this environment. As I see it, I have a few choices here:
1) Join a well-trafficked, established syndicate
For example, Seed's ScienceBlogs, which I passed on back when they started up. The downside there is that they own your content completely, putting their copyright on it, or such was the case when they were trying to recruit me. It's more of a newspaper-columnist relationship than anything else. The inability to change your mind later about your writing, or engage other efforts in parallel to gain readership, is a big disincentive.
2) Open source your content
Remove any copyright or copyleft and let anyone do as they will with it. I suspect the net effect here would be zero. Those who were going to use my content already are, and they are largely a collection of spam machinery that provide zero value to my goals. It takes work to obtain readers, or indeed to make the world aware of your existence - it's far from the case that simply opening up the gates will do anything.
3) Deal with the Devil
The few entities who would be easily approached to take on the sausage-making are in the "anti-aging" marketplace. While the nature of digital media means that someone, somewhere is at this very moment selling magic potions and faery dust by reworking my posts on legitimate longevity science, I don't wish to be proactively helping that cause.
4) Find a better syndicator
The ideal for me would be to hand off content, but not ownership of that content, to a non-devilish third party who simply goes ahead and uses the content for profit in the traditional audience-growing fashion. Meanwhile, I'll sit back here as I've always done, writing on the topic of longevity science, aging research, and the work needed to make it a reality. All very hands off.
Now, of course the issue with #4 above is that it requires many of the same skills and initiatives as does growing your readership in the first place. If you're the sort to have easy access to syndication offers, odds are you're not the sort to need them.
These are all things I'm chewing over as I look at the past years and contemplate the years ahead. Comments are welcome.