thoughts on over 15,000 community members…
Mike Ward (pictured here on the left) from Brunswick Maryland became this website’s 15,000th member on May 6th and just three days later he posted his first blog. Maybe having 15,078 members (as of today) doesn’t sound like much to you compared to say…Charlie Sheen’s 3,880,360 Twitter followers…but in the world of roots music I think it’s mighty impressive. In a slightly twisted context, two weeks ago when both Steve Earle and Emmy Lou Harris released new albums, neither of them were able to sell more than 13,000 albums the first week out.
I found out about Mike Ward because every Tuesday and Friday I get the No Depression newsletter delivered to my inbox. And here is what was written today:
It’s been more than two years since we went from a print magazine to this new whatever-it-is format online. If you’ve been around for that whole transition, you’ve probably read before about how we had no idea what to expect – whether anyone would join the ND community, what they would do when they got here. We weren’t sure if and when, and from where, the great content would come. But now, nearly two and a half years later, we’re reaching more than 90,000 unique readers every month and last week we welcomed our 15,000th member.
Shortly after this site went from a .net to a .com, and Kyla wasn’t able to continue paying the writers if she was going to keep ND alive in an internet configuration, I dipped my toes into the waters and began commenting on posts every now and then, and eventually putting up a couple of my own. Although I took writing classes in college back in the late sixties and early seventies, it was never a serious endeavor and I didn’t expect that anyone would care to read what I would have to say. When Kim sent me a message on May 14th 2009 asking me to become a featured contributor and post on a more regular basis, I was knocked over. And if you think I’m kidding about how honored I was to be asked and what it’s meant to me, I’ve kept the message…here it is:
You’ve been pretty active on here, full of respectable opinions and good sentence structure, etc. If you’re willing to blog a little more frequently, like maybe once a week or so, I’d love to add you to the list of Featured ND Writers. What this means is that basically your blogs will always appear in the Featured Blogs space – people who RSS that, who want to only receive blogs from ND-sanctioned writers, will get everything you say, in all its glory.
Of course since there’s no pay structure, you’d be agreeing to blog more frequently for free. So take it or leave it, but hopefully you’ll take it. We could use a few more folks with reliable ears and keyboards, who are committed to blogging regularly. What do you think?
This weekend will mark my two years as an active community member and contributor, and everything I’ve done here has been nothing but a labor of love. Like most of us who hang out on this space, the magazine that Grant and Peter founded some sixteen years ago was our touchstone for the passion we have for a particular type of music. And it was consistently well written, researched and produced by people who have much better skill sets than I, and who were able in most cases to earn a living pursuing their passion. That the magazine was not sustainable was never about a lack of readership or commitment, it was simply economics that killed it. And it is missed dearly by many.
I like that Grant still posts here (he’s been a bit dormant lately as he is moving a home and business, living out of boxes) and I also miss the words and writing of Peter, who doesn’t seem to come around anymore all that much, if at all. He’s distanced himself from the site, and a few months I noticed a Facebook post to a mutual friend of ours where he wrote that the website has become “merely a shell” of what the magazine once was and he’s chosen to move on. I can understand that feeling.
The internet is a cold medium and although bytes might be stored forever, posts and articles and comments and videos and music and ideas are viewed quickly, often processed unconsciously and speed past us without the opportunity to digest as one might do with a book or a magazine. My children were raised on computers and connectivity, and for them this is their Walter Cronkite, Ed Sullivan, Cousin Brucie, Twilight Zone and Howdy Doody. They don’t seem traumatized, they each have a vast wealth of knowledge that goes far beyond mine at their age, they have huge collections of music that they devour endlessly and they’ve each taught this old dog some new tricks.
So while we might mourn the loss of words on paper, and miss the magazine that spawned the seeds of this community…Kyla and Kim in particular should take comfort in knowing that their hard work and efforts to keep this all together is not only appreciated, but it’s important work. No Depression may have started as an idea from Peter and Grant, turned into a brand name or commodity that represents what we call roots music, morphed into a website and book-azine…but at over 15,000 members and 90,000 unique readers each month….its now a community.
And Peter was wrong…this website is not “merely a shell”…it’s a whole new thing.