Today marks The Map Room’s fourteenth anniversary: its first posts went live on 31 March 2003.
The general consensus is that the blog is finished as a medium, done in by the effective death of RSS (thanks to Google killing Reader), the collapse of online advertising (too many publishers chasing too few ads), and the shift in online attention from blogs to social media. Blogs aren’t as financially viable as they once were, if they ever were. Another portent: this week the blog advertising network The Deck announced it would be closing down.
In 2006, The Map Room was at what would turn out to be its peak in terms of attention and revenue, and I was looking forward to additional growth. Neither ended up occurring. Revenues stagnated, and I took a needed break in 2011. I returned in 2016, and over the past year this blog’s traffic has been stable at about a fifth of what it was at its peak. Google ad income is one-twentieth (Amazon income is more or less on par: you folks do like buying books).
Looking back on it now, for all the bumph about the long tail and niche blogging, this was never going to be a bill-paying operation. I’d frankly have to work a lot harder and more consistently for that to happen, and I’m not capable of that: my poor health is one of the reasons why I’m available to do The Map Room in the first place. (For example, I spent most of the last two weeks flat on my back, which is why posts have been so sporadic this month.) I’m not comfortable soliciting sponsorships or setting up a Patreon page if I can’t guarantee that I’ll follow through.
But that’s not to say that I won’t keep at this. I’ll do what I can, when I can. Fourteen years after starting this project, I’m still not tired of it. I’m still learning new things about maps, and I’m still enjoying myself.