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23 Years of Bluegrass on the Web - Some Observations

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Cybergrass 23 Years on the WebI've been posting bluegrass articles on the web longer than anybody and in the 23 years of doing so (we went online September 9, 1992), I've seen some interesting trends. Over the years, this site has carried profiles, events, news, obituaries and editorial content on a very broad array of topics. In over 10,000 articles run, there have been some interesting readership results. I track article readership, links, and such with a Business Intelligence tool that allows me to perform various analytical analysis and it is always a fun exercise to see what lies in the data.

As I begin my next year of operation, it is interesting to reflect back on where I have been and some of the highlights of that journey. Readers and fans provide a unique insight into the bluegrass community and what's important to them at any given time. Of course anything bluegrass related captures their interest, some topics do better than others.

Editorials that I write have always seen a significant readership. I try and be on topic to things I'm aware of in the industry. One of the biggest was our series on education that covered press release content and style, photography, graphic software setup and such. The article that still reigns at the top was one written ages ago and has been updated twice (and is out of date again) on ripping your vinyl records to digital format for computers, CDs and such.

Articles with the lowest readership, with one exception, are those concerning the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). The annual Awards Show results and webcasts always peak on our dashboard graphs but the rest of the articles and press releases I run chart significantly lower than the rest of the content. Maybe its because much or our readership audience are not members of the association or, the same material is covered by so many that volume dilution takes over but, whatever the cause, IBMA articles don't have much interest.

Band announcements always capture the readership interest. Anything that changes the makeup of a band, their sponsors, label changes, management and other operational changes are always of interest to our readership. For example, yesterday's story on Junior Sisk captured more readership than both of the IBMA related articles combined. Fans always want to know what their favorite artists are up to and the readership on these respective articles certainly confirms that.

Obituaries are not a big draw and I've cut down on running them. While there is certainly some readership concerning them, unless its a major artist or unusual circumstances, readers indicate that their interest isn't in these dark articles. Certainly the loss of Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and a few others captured reader interest but not so much for lesser artists even if their contributions were significant to the music I love and enjoy.

If the readership likes a band, it doesn't matter how many the awards or the headline stature of the artist, they flock to the articles regarding these bands. It is always a fun matter to watch who wins awards and who captures the most readership interest. There are projects and groups that aren't at the top of the charts or the awards but manage to capture reader interest. The disconnect is often surprising. When a group spikes on our dashboard charts, you'll likely see them on the SPBGMA ballots later in the year.

A feature I ran for ages was the Lo-Fi & Monaural audio bites and sample tracks. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) put an end to that but there was definitely a positive and measurable impact on sales. I always linked the album being covered to the Cybergrass account on Amazon so I could correlate clicks to the soundbites, the Amazon site and sales. I never understood how something that increased sales could be outlawed but it happened. I was the first site with an Internet music license through BMI (ASCAP declined our request) and I paid a lot in royalties. DMCA cut off that revenue stream for the artists, labels and producers. But, during its day, the album promotional articles were at the top of our readership numbers. I eliminated all music on the site when DMCA was written as it was no longer affordable and the tracking work increased. It wasn't worth it anymore. Most all music sites today are silent whereas, before DMCA, they were royalty paying and sales enabling ventures.

The adoption of embedded multimedia content has allowed sites to offer content that is carried remotely. YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud and other forms of content can not be carried on websites without the need to carry the content themselves. This has been a giant step in the promotional road for artists and labels. Music Video content, video announcements, track-by-track coverage and more can easily be carried today using these services.

One area where that is growing today is where bluegrass touches other areas of the music. Articles like the recent Ola Belle Reed release announcement, The Chuck Wagon Gang articles and similar announcements always have a large spike. The recent coverage of Song of the Mountains change was a recent series to do so.

The journalistic journey through the bluegrass world is always informative, fun, exciting and as the site's motto implies, Where There's Always Something New in Bluegrass! I've only touched on a few of the interesting aspects of this website. There are many many more. As in previous years, I'm always looking towards the future to see what's around the next bend. The ride continues!

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