Colin Randall writes: it is not just Sunderland AFC that knows the meaning of struggle. Salut! Sunderland has its moments, too. I am talking readership levels. Victory – and defeats for those who remember them – in the Wear-Tyne derbies always boost numbers, though not as much as they once did. So do John McCormick’s statistical epics on relegation prospects among the bottom eight (or so) clubs. When Monsieur Salut, John or deputy editor Malcolm Dawson come up with a catchy headline, the effect can be the same because of the way website aggregators work. The common denominator, I am sad to say, is other clubs. We often draw big hits when the content, and therefore the headlines, mention them. Purely Sunderland-themed articles do not, with honourable exceptions, have the same effect.
This suggests we are not quite getting it right for SAFC supporters. Our Facebook group has more than 500 members but there are some days when we do not attract even that number of visitors to the site. Here, after John McCormick has set the scene, is your chance to tell us what it is we are doing wrong, what we should be more or better, what we should not be doing at all …
Do you remember Monsieur Salut’s posts towards the end of June 2011? SAFC were on the verge of signing Connor Whickham, Salut Sunderland was on the verge of reaching one million hits. We probably reached that milestone early in July but no-one was keeping watch so we don’t know exactly when, not that it matters.
Move forward a couple of years, to June 2013, and M Salut was posting again as we reached two million hits.
Why, then, you might be thinking, did we not reach the three million mark at the latest in June but, given the previously accelerating pace of growth, a lot earlier?
It took over four years for the first million hits but only two for the second. If we had retained that rate of progress we’d have hit three million a while ago. Why we haven’t is a mystery and we need your help in solving it – even if we do now find ourselves hobbling towards the milestone with hits, at the time of writing (Monday evening) on 2,957,063 – in other words fewer than 43,000 to go. Not a figure to be sniffed at – and we are grateful to attract such interest – but it just seems we should be doing a lot better.
— Colin Randall (@salutsunderland) November 4, 2015
So please bear with me as I use some graphs to show you what’s happened.
First up is a bar chart to show the hit totals since 2009. M Salut started his epic journey in 2007 but for some reason the stat counter doesn’t go that far back:
Our peak year was 2011, the same as Sunderland’s. Do you remember Drumaville and Sir Niall Quinn? We finished 10th that year under them, even after selling Darren Bent in the January. Ellis Short came in a few months later and soon replaced Steve Bruce with Martin O’Neill. Need I go on?
As SAFC have declined so have we. Is there a link? We now get about half as many hits as we used to. In 2011 there were rarely fewer than 1,000 hits per day and we passed 7,000 a couple of times. Now, unless we’re facing the likes of Man U or Arsenal, or we’ve done something like win our sixth derby in a row, we rarely pass 3,000 and the the number of hits per day is broadly consistent with the number of members on our Facebook site, which has just passed 500.
The football club, in contrast, doesn’t get half the crowds it got in 2011. There are more people going to the SoL now than there were in 2010-11. It might be a small increase but it is nonetheless a definite increase, and you might expect this to be reflected in visits to Sunderland fan sites and blogs. It isn’t, at least not in visits to our website.
Maybe fans are abandoning us for other places. Or maybe, as I suspect from my own browsing, fewer people are visiting fewer websites, and doing so less often. Are blogs suffering as small screens make it more difficult to surf and 4G or Wifi hotspots allow streaming, so that surfers spend less time on static sites?
Alternatively, are we doing something wrong? It might seems strange asking you – you’re here. But we’re sure you visit other websites, and that you have reasons for your choices.
What are they?
What’s good and bad about our site? What attracts you to it? What turns you off? What don’t we do that others do? We’d like to know. Let us have your comments, good and bad, and let’s look forward to that three millionth hit. at a guess, it will happen before the end of this month or in early December.
To mark the milestone, Salut! Sunderland will offer a prize to whoever comes up with the best response below – provided there is a reasonable response, that is. Be as critical as you like. The nature of the prize will be announced later.