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).
(This is probably the point at which I ought to mention that you can support this blog by kicking a few dollars my way via Ko-Fi or towards my web hosting costs. Either way, appreciated.)
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. That’s saying something.
With all the new books coming to my attention in recent weeks, it’s taken me a while to update the Map Books of 2016 page, but I’ve finally done so.
I’m also beginning to hear about books coming out in 2017, so it’s not too early for me to start working on the Map Books of 2017 page.
Some of you may have noticed the bestseller list on the sidebar of The Map Room’s home page (if you’re browsing on a mobile device, it’s at the bottom of the page). It’s based on Amazon and iBooks affiliate sales via this website over the previous three full months: right now it covers August through October; on December 1st I’ll drop August and add November, and so on.
A funny quirk of social media is that despite having more followers on Twitter than Facebook (4,100 vs. 2,400 at the moment), and even with Facebook algorithms that seem to reduce page views for any post with commercial intent (e.g. product links) so you can pay to boost it, The Map Room consistently gets twice as much traffic from Facebook as it does from Twitter. Go figure. (Google+ traffic is 10 percent Facebook’s; Tumblr’s is a rounding error.)
More books have been added to the Map Books of 2016 page: have a look. Some are available right now; others you’ll have to preorder. As usual, buying via this website helps support The Map Room.
I thought about doing a similar page listing map colouring books for adults, but it seems redundant when you can just refer to the colouring books tag (or the coloring books tag, if you’re going to be insistently American).
A few more books have been added to the Map Books of 2016 page (for which I have relied upon reader submissions, as well as shameless cribbing from Bert Johnson’s indefatigable posts to the Washington Map Society Facebook group; he often tracks upcoming book releases).
Rather than doing a gift guide to map books for the holiday season, as I’ve done in previous years (2015, 2014, 2013), I’ve created a Map Books of 2016 page, organized by month, that I’ll be updating throughout the year as new titles are announced. Possibly you will find it useful.
In March, 30 readers supported The Map Room by contributing a total of $332: 10 contributed $62 via buying me a coffee and 20 contributed $270 to my web hosting fees. My thanks to you all for your support.
The most popular post in March: Map Colours and Colour Blindness. Coming a close second: Super Tuesday Results by County.
March’s bestselling book (as determined by orders via this site’s affiliate links) is, by a large margin, Gretchen Peterson’s City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults (see post).
Just realized that today marks The Map Room’s thirteenth anniversary. (There was, of course, the 54-month interruption between June 2011 and this past January, so it doesn’t mean thirteen continuous years—unless you count the occasional map posts on my personal blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. But I maunder. In any event, another milestone.)
In the 48 hours since I posted on how to support The Map Room, 18 readers have contributed a total of $166. That’s tremendous given the size of my audience: there may not be many of you, but you’re hardcore. The split between buying me a coffee (it’s a tip jar, actually) and contributing to my web hosting was 28:72. Contributions to the latter are sufficient to pay for 10 months of web hosting on my current plan; they’d take a big bite out of the additional cost of the upgraded plan, which I will now look into. I deeply appreciate the support. Thank you.
Here are two ways to support The Map Room, if you’re so inclined. You can contribute to my hosting costs ($10 minimum) or buy me the equivalent of a coffee ($2). Both methods use PayPal.
With online ad revenues a fraction of what they once were, I’m exploring other ways of making this project economically viable; these are two of them. (I’m also contemplating Patreon, but not yet: I need to rebuild the audience a bit more for that to be worth doing.) Your support is not at all obligatory but would allow me to dedicate more time and effort to The Map Room and upgrade my hosting package to something more robust.
It’s also deeply appreciated. My profound thanks to those who have contributed so far.
I’ve been told that scheduled maintenance will be taking place on my server some time today (1 March 2016) between 7 AM and 9 AM Pacific Standard Time (10 AM to noon Eastern, 3 PM to 5 PM UTC.) A brief period of downtime of up to 30 minutes (but usually less than that) is expected.
Thanks to a surprising number of links about city maps waiting in the queue to be posted, today’s blog posts will have cities as their theme.
The place needs decorating and a new coat of paint, there’s still a ton of things to do to make it feel like home, and more than a few glitches that still need fixing, but it looks like the structure will stay up and keep the inside dry and warm. Time to open the doors.
In other words: welcome back to The Map Room.
It feels good to be back at this.
Things seem to be up and running. Let me make a few test posts to see if everything is working properly.