It’s been a hell of a year for dead artists, democracy, truth, and corporate stupidity.
When I started 2016 I had a plan. I would complete the manuscript for Writing Without Bullshit, HarperBusiness would publish it, and I’d use the bullshit in the election season to promote it. I had no idea that this crazy election would make people calling bullshit on candidates as common as fruit flies in a compost bin. When CNN’s Fareed Zakaria calls one of the candidates a bullshit artist (can you guess which candidate?) — well, let’s just say I don’t stand out quite as much.
Writing Without Bullshit got great reviews (29 of 33 Amazon reviews are five stars). And the blog continued to reach its audience.
Tale of the tape on the withoutbullshit.com blog
My blog generated 662,000 views in 2016, down from 972,000 in 2015. One really popular post from 2015 accounted for the difference. When I started this blog, I never imagined that it would generate over 1.5 million views in its first two years.
This year, 60% of my traffic came from the U.S., with significant contributions from the UK, Canada, Singapore, and Australia. People from 216 different countries viewed posts.
About 27% of the views came from Facebook, with 15% from Google and 3% from Twitter. Thanks to a post by Sarah Silverman, 5% came from whosay.com.
So far, 6,500 of you have visited my book page and 1,800 have gone on to Amazon. I also sent 900 people to snopes.com.
Reflecting on the top posts of 2016
I made 284 posts in 2016, including this one. I posted every weekday. Writing every morning is ritual, a pleasure, and a way to keep my analysis moving forward.
Here are the ten posts with the most traffic in 2016, with some reflections on them. Six of the ten were timely “newsjacking” posts; four were evergreen posts from last year that ranked on search, indicated here by an asterisk.
*10. My cord cutting experience (and the bullshit that came with it)
8 June 2015
This post remains popular because of people searching for information about cord-cutting. The comments about how to stream the Red Sox have helped it retain relevance.
9. Lessons from the Dan Lyons HubSpot fable “Disrupted”
22 April 2016
I knew most of the people that Dan describes in this fascinating memoir, down to the reporters who wrote about HubSpot’s attempts to get an advance peek at the manuscript. The discreet thing to do would have been to say nothing. I’m not discreet. So I gave you a unique inside perspective on what everybody ought to have learned from this sordid tale.
8. Jeff Weiner’s creepy letter to staff about the LinkedIn acquisition
15 June 2016
When Microsoft agreed to acquire LinkedIn, all the CEO could share were platitudes. This is not what people want to hear when their jobs are either changing dramatically or going away.
7. How to be as clear as Elon Musk
21 July 2016
I’m not just a curmudgeon; occasionally I get to praise really clear communicators. Elon Musk’s statements about the future of his companies are a great example. This level of vision and clarity is unusual among CEO’s, but Musk is no ordinary CEO. Note the engaging and frequent use of “we.”
*6. Who’s better for the economy, Democrats or Republicans?
1 September 2015
An evergreen topic, and one that people search for — my post is on the second page of search results. I suspect that most people landing on this page get angry, because my point is that you can twist the data to show whatever you want. (Donald Trump has jumped the gun on this, claiming responsibility for good economic news even before he becomes president.)
5. Against Trump? Stop the futile stuff. Do things that matter.
15 November 2016
One of my principles is that if everyone is going one way, I should go the other way. In this case, it seemed like a lot of people were panicking, so I took a sober of view of what actually matters (and it’s not protesting the election). Since the election, I’ve seen a slew of great treatments of this topic, like this on Bill Moyer’s site.
4. Strange potential consequences of a Donald Trump presidency
9 November 2016
This post was successful because it came the day after the election, when everyone was in shock, and because it was contrarian, predicting neither doom nor revolution. People shared it over 3,000 times on Facebook. Even so, it is one of the rare posts that I regret writing. It made some people feel better, but the things I was optimistic about have faded in light of Trump’s recent statements and his choices for positions in his administration.
3. Apple’s Tim Cook shows how to communicate in a crisis
18 February 2016
This post, written just after Tim Cook said he wouldn’t provide a back door into the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, was one of my favorites. It was timely. It was controversial — saying you won’t help the FBI catch terrorists is a ballsy thing to do. And it showed, sentence by sentence, how Cook’s statement was short and straightforward, even in the midst of a media maelstrom. I am pleased that so many people have read this, because there is a lot to learn here. Here’s the moral of the story, from that post:
If you have to communicate in a crisis, use clear, simple, direct language. Use “I”, “we,” and “you.” Use clear analogies. Avoid jargon. Describe the impact on customers. And don’t hide who you are or what you mean.
*2. Donald Trump, memes, and the dangers of post-factual politics
19 October 2015
This post from last year is about a fake meme quoting Donald Trump as saying that he’d run as a Republican because Republicans are stupid. People find it because they’re searching for information on the meme. I used this post to make a point, but a lot of people seem to be missing that point. They think it’s “the kind of thing he would say” or they tell me in the comments that they actually saw this imaginary interview. I’m pleased that my post is raising awareness and sending people to snopes, but I can’t hold back the tide of ignorance. As Trump would say, “Sad.”
*1. 10 top writing tips and the psychology behind them
4 May 2015
I am amazed that this post is such an enduring source of traffic, accounting for nearly one-fourth of the views on my blog this year. It ranks in the top five posts on a Google search of “writing tips.” It’s on point for my message. This one blog post is probably selling more books than anything else I did in the last eighteen months.
Thanks for joining me on this ride. Look for more timely, useful content from me in 2017.