RIP Writers’ Websites?

Reading & Writing

(My photo shows the cemetery where most of my family is buried)

I’ve been blogging since (I think) 2006, starting on the site that preceded this one. It might have been earlier – the old site was far more complex and had revolving views of nighttime London built on Flash (remember that?), but was too difficult for some readers to load, so I eventually simplified the site.

Since that time social media has exploded, and after we hit Peak Website many readers realised they were taking on too much. It’s no surprise that TikTok caters so well for shorter attention spans.

Now it appears we’re not visiting writer websites as much as we used to. I came off Facebook owing to privacy issues, and use Twitter regularly (and Instagram very occasionally, although I find it utterly uninstinctive) but I’m starting to think that most writer sites have had their day.

I kept moving forward from the carefree early posts that consisted of dance routines, jokes, puzzles and clips through to the longer more serious pieces I wrote for research, and had a lot of fun doing so.

It’s been good to me too, providing me with the basis of several books – regular readers will find that ‘Peculiar London’ owes its origins to a number of articles extensively reworked from the yeast mother of the site’s London posts.

Times change, though – some of the old content on this site has corrupted and videos have timed out, but there’s quite a bit of information in the various sections. I looked around at other writers’ sites and many of them have slowed the posting of fresh content to a trickle, while some have stopped altogether.

Personal issues have not really stopped me from blogging, but now I’m thinking of closing the site. I wonder if another simpler UK-based platform would be better. Any suggestions will be welcomed. It may be that I just use Twitter for announcements and make life simpler for all of us. I’d happily reclaim my leisure time…

Do writer blogs still have any purpose? Are there easier ways of providing readers with information? Let me know what you think.

61 comments on “RIP Writers’ Websites?”

  1. Stu-I-Am says:

    Of course you must do what’s right for you. But you seem to be under the illusion that this site is all about “information.” It’s about you (okay— and maybe a touch about us) which is why we keep coming back, And btw–you’re not like other writers, other than you also put words on screen. And this is not like other writer’s sites. But if you would rather keep more you for you, that’s both understandable and selfishly, dispiriting. I, for one, would miss it terribly.

  2. David says:

    I’ve been posting since 2008, but I’m sorry to say that the days of the long-form post has now past. Most readers now only want to engage for a very short time. Many of my regular readers who engage by leaving comments tend to be from an age when books were read for pleasure and younger participants tend to be few and far between.
    I use WordPress which is now transforming into a platform which is harder to use and eventually I’ll stop using.
    Unfortunately Facebook seems now to be the de facto choice for those willing to engage with the writer.

  3. Ken says:

    As someone who works in the tech space, I’d advise to never give up your own piece of the internet. You don’t want to be left to the whims of an uncaring, all powerful algorithm.

    I’d recommend embedding your social media into your site. Fairly straightforward process

  4. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I would miss it.
    Stu has explained why.

  5. David+Ronaldson says:

    Some writers plough their soulless corporate furrows; you’ve managed to convince us that you may a care a jot or two for our thoughts, even when they rocket off at tangents. I’m always delighted on mornings when I’ve checked my work emails and then discover you have contributed a new post here. As I have said before, I really don’t want to sign-up for the Sun’s Dream Team as a space-filler, so please keep up the excellent work.

  6. BarbaraBoucke says:

    What if you did this a bit more like Twitter. You could post a photo or video with a few words as you do on Twitter. Then we could add our thoughts, memories, book references, etc. as we do. I have noticed people commenting here at different times who don’t always comment, but apparently do read this blog. Twitter is not a wordy place. People click
    “Like” or “Don’t like” and are off to something else. But that, to me, is not really communication. In the end, however, you have to do what is best for you. I can learn to begin the day with Twitter, after I’ve taken care of my cat and started the coffee maker.

  7. Stu-I-Am says:

    Forgive me for the presumption — if the blog has become too much of a chore or a burden then by all means stop it. But this post (to me, at least) has the whiff of some discreet throat clearing followed by suggestions from your publisher(s) and possibly agent, that you might more profitably spend your time attempting to attract new readers elsewhere — especially those who might find the blog as presently constituted a bit off-putting. Again, this is just me. You can certainly continue to use social media to feasibly attract the potential “drive by” reader, but IMHO, the blog has value in quite possibly bringing them into the fold of the faithful, which would appear to be more profitable in every respect.

  8. Paul C says:

    Your blog was a lifeline during lockdown when working at home in isolation for over a year. Apart from the sheer pleasure of interaction I learned a great deal. and discovered wonderful writers and books. However, I totally
    understand your reasons if the blog must end.

    Perhaps a monthly newsletter issued to the email addresses of those who sign up. This may save you a lot of time
    and still provide your fans with their regular fix.

    If it is farewell then thank you and very best wishes for the future.

  9. Jo W says:

    Chris, this is your blog and of course it is up to you whether or not to continue. I will still follow you, be it here or on twitter, to infinity and beyond.
    I hope your next treatment goes well (recovered from pitching off the stool yet?)
    Now you and Pete, take care of yourselves and use your time as you wish. Big (virtual) hugs. X

  10. MartinT says:

    Sadness prevails at the thought of losing your blog. Please keep it going if you can.

  11. Jan says:

    Do wots best for you Chris.

  12. Alan R says:

    I totally agree with Stu-I-Am’s first and original post at 5:43 am.
    “I’d happily reclaim my leisure time…”
    As we get older and face new and difficult challenges, quality leisure time becomes even more precious. If there is something else you can do with your time that gives you more pleasure – I would absolutely and totally encourage you to pursue it. I look forward to your blog. You are interesting. I would miss it very very much if you stopped posting.

  13. I follow many woodworking blogs. Those guys get cranky under the pressures of keeping up content. I have always visited my favorite writers’ websites. The more active ones are very proactive in selling their own stuff online. The truth is that I get a sense of who they are, as I do with your blog. More than a few of them have shut down due to the author passing on. I keep simplifying my own tax preparer site as it gets too hard to keep it current.

    I suspect that most of them close down as the effort to keep them up becomes too demanding. We have been lucky that you chose to share so much of yourself with us. My Dad’s parents came from England. As Dad got older he got more “English” in the way he spoke to us. So your books have made me very curious about this land I have never visited. I keep Google going when I am reading them. I thank you for that. I will miss it all when you shut it down, but as they say, “That’s the way it goes.”

  14. Joan says:

    Chris you are one of the few author blogs that I read. I often don’t comment but always read and appreciate the other readers witticisms. I have learned a lot about London, and love your books and characters. Where else would I have learned about Egyptian Geese! Will miss you terribly!

  15. Martin Tolley says:

    As others have said. You MUST do what’s best for YOU. If you do stop we’ll all miss you. I’ll miss logging on first thing, looking for inspiration, stimulation, recommendations (to follow and avoid) and to read the (oft tangential) thoughts of other folk and chat with some of the regulars. The Futility Closet, and 3Quarks Daily are OK, but the community here is something special.

  16. Ian Mason says:

    I had a Tangent once. Orange it was. Made by Raleigh I think. Don’t know what happened to it, it’s been cosined to history.

    Stu’s first message says it all for me; we’d all miss these little chats if you retreated to the arms of Twitter.

  17. Roberta says:

    I had to quit Twitter because of regular rage, so I would miss your site very much. But who am i to offer advice to someone with limited energy and time, and someone whose next book I am always eagerly awaiting. Take a hiatus and see how you feel in a moth or six.

  18. Peter T says:

    We enjoy your blog. It is a selfless public service on your part. I admire your ability to produce an original piece for us every few days. I don’t know how you manage to do it. The only playback to you is any pleasure you find in delivering it. I doubt it sells any books; we’d all be aware of the new ones and buy them anyway. There’s always a compromise. We’ve discussed it before. Reduce the frequency to once a week or less or even take an occasional holiday from blogging. If you take a long break, ensure you have the email addresses of all who are interested to announce your return. Of course, if you write, ‘Feel free to talk amongst yourselves,’ we might carry on in your absence.

  19. Crprod says:

    I would miss it.

  20. Jo+e says:

    I don’t do Twitter, Facebook, social bleeding media or other writers’ blogs but I do enjoy this one for a number of reasons. These include recommendations of books and films, bits of information which I doubt I would find elsewhere, the exchange of views and of course the many bizarre and delightful tangents that everybody goes off on.

    The thing is that although it’s a blog it’s really also the Comments that bring people together. So it’s a fine thing, this site, and you’re keeping a small band of supporters very happy.

    One suggestion a while ago was going to be that you donated the site in your will and Stu and Snowy and Jan and Helen and Peter and Paul and Jo and Barbara et Al would keep it going. Perhaps taking it in turns to be blogger. Then everyone else can go off on one about wartime bunkers under Dollis Hill. Maybe that time has come early?

    So you see there is a responsibility to this rare and lovely community. As ever there are a number of useful ideas above and I imagine many more available. Helpful and supportive.

    Oh and the other thing is if you pack it in we’ll

  21. Helen+Martin says:

    I do almost nothing on Facebook and have never tried Twitter, let alone any of the other sites. The people on this site have become the people down the street and we enjoy finding out things about them. Speaking of Egyptian geese, are they still around or did they leave for good?
    We’ve had some great times and you have been so generous to us all that it will be a terrible wrench if it ends (or perhaps a good hammering), but you’re entitled to a life and we will live with it. It won’t stop us from buying your books.

  22. H says:

    For your sake and well-being, choose what is best for you. Would it be helpful if you blogged less frequently?
    I thoroughly enjoy your writing—your intelligence, sense of humor, insightfulness, honesty, unique points of view—and selfishly want you to keep blogging. I would miss this part of life that you have created. Yours is the only blog I read.
    I, too, love London.

  23. Richard says:

    After 10 years of daily posts on my language blog, I shut it down without regrets. I sensed that I had grown too predictable and that my dozen or so regular visitors had become annoyingly bumptious. Fortunately you are refreshingly unpredictable, Chris, and I trust that you’ll do whatever you damn well please.

  24. Marty says:

    I agree with Stu and many others above. I also can’t help but be moved by the way everyone wants what is best for you, Chris, while at the same time they recognize they will miss your blogging.

    Whatever you decided to do I will recognize it for what it is: a gift, reaching out to your readers with appreciation, love and respect.

    Do what you wish. We will be there.

  25. Eleanor Massey says:

    I love your blogs and Bryant and May books, Chris, but fully understand the difficulty in keeping them up. Look after yourself and keep well,
    Eleanor Massey

  26. mike says:

    It would be a sad thing to lose the blog, but understandable.
    Guess I might have to examine Twitter.
    Do what you feel is best for you and good luck and happiness

  27. Vic says:

    The decision is yours to make and it should be done totally selfishly. After all you have given us Fowlerites so much there must be no regrets. Of course there will be but let them be ours and not yours.

    I have to admit I follow your blogs almost daily in a relaxed and leisurely manner. It is the leisure time that is so wonderful. Freedom. Well up to a point….it’s the wife you see!

  28. Paul C says:

    Thanks for mentioning The Futility Closet, Martin – a gem of a website !

  29. Martin Tolley says:

    Paul C, my pleasure. I meant to say in that comment that I like the idea of a periodic newsletter as you suggested.

  30. Mary Ann Atwood says:

    Stu clearly states our sentiments. I peruse your blog every morning, pleasantly surprised by the frequency of your posts. As stated by many others, do what is best for you. We’ll survive by rereading and rereading and rereading your stimulating stories. Carpe diem.

  31. Gary Locke says:

    I would miss this blog terribly but, like so many others, agree that you should do what is best for you. You’ve brought us joy and insight. We’ve no right to be selfish.

  32. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Twitter only allows you 280 characters. I can almost guarantee that there far more than that associated with this blog.

  33. admin says:

    Stone the crows, or ‘Jetez les pierres aux corbeaux’!
    Thank you all for your kind words. I had not expected anyone to post an answer, but it’s the sort of difference that will keep me going for a while. I’m finding it harder to work now but will keep going as long as I can. I agree that Twitter is not ideal, and I’m never going back to Facebook, but the WordPress platform is definitely unwieldy. I’ll have to find a designer who can reimagine it in simpler form.

  34. BarbaraBoucke says:

    Needless to say, I had to look up the expression “Stone the crows!”. When one comes across someone who writes, or acts, or sings, or ….. and that person is willing to take the time to communicate – genuninely communicate – with those who enjoy his or her work – then I feel as if we are the ones who have won the lottery. I probably didn’t word that very well. Take things one day at a time and take care of yourself first and foremost. That’s what’s important.

  35. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Since WordPress is open source, you should be able to easily find someone to modify it to your specs. You might also want to check out Wix, Squarespace and Weebly, although they do charge — Weebly being the least expensive of the three. You have only yourself to blame for the regrets (supra) bordering on anguished. Simply put, you have spoiled us.

  36. Mirjam Beddig says:

    Yes, writers’ blogs do still have a purpose… I use yours for getting entrance to a different world (yours) and occasionally for book recommendations. Twitter is definitely not enough! If you do not enjoy writing here any more, you should stop, because probably no one pays you for it. 😉 But as for the question if writers’ blogs still have a purpose… yes, of course.

  37. Jo+e says:

    So there we have it. I’d never come across The Futility Closet, Barbara hadn’t heard stone the crows and Mr F never knew how important and how loved his blog was. I think the case is rested m’lud.

    Anyway now I’ve got to look up up what a Wix and Weebly are. Sounds like a good name for a pair of Egyptian Geese? Honestly Stu, what are you like?

    And where is the cemetery?

  38. Hazel Jackson says:

    There is so much jostling for our attention these days on line. Maybe if you wrote a weekly article or anecdote about a specific element of London Life and/or History, just one topic each week, and posted it out around the same time each week, it could simplify the workload but maintain the contact. Sunday evening I have found a good time.

  39. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Jo+e Jo, while ‘Wix’ and ‘Weebly’ may be fine pet names for a pair of geese (although I very much doubt CF’s feelings for them extend to bestowing pet names, if they’re still around — at least not that can be uttered in polite company), as you may know by now, they are software packages or apps, if you will, to build websites.

  40. snowy says:

    Well that didn’t last long, did it. You could have wangled yourself a months blog-holiday until the 14th July and the new book hit the shelves.


    I had written a reply before the latest news and since I’ve typed it, it would be a shame to waste it.

    “…the old site was far more complex and had revolving views of nighttime London built on Flash (remember that?)…”

    Yes I bloody do, it was at the peak of the ‘Flash Rash’ when web designers decided that what everybody really needed in the ‘instant information age’ was websites that ran 20 times slower, it was horrible. [I bypassed it by means to dull to explain.]

    “Now it appears we’re not visiting writer websites as much as we used to.” “…but I’m starting to think that most writer sites have had their day.”

    Hmmm… this is difficult to explain, because it revolves on a very fine distinction.

    There are two forms: ‘a website for a writer’ and ‘a website by a writer’.

    The first is by far the most common, and the most dull, but at the usual rate of one book a year it can only have a very finite number of posts:

    “I’m writing a book!”
    “I’ve written a book!”
    “Buy my book!”
    “Buy my book – now in floppy covers!”
    “I’m hawking my book around the shops, if you don’t buy some I’ll start going door-to-door and make you buy it!”

    A lot of writers felt they needed a blog or were pressured into having a blog to shift copies by dim-witted Marketing departments. This was never ever going to work. A website with no new content attracts no visitors. A website with no visitors sells no books.

    There were a few blogs written by authors for their own pleasure/amusement, this is a badger of a different stripe. It had repeat visitors, an interesting post would be shared out to new potential readers, new website readers might chance a book if they like what they read. Did it sell many more books? Probably, both those of the author and also the many other authors recommended.

    The former were entirely artificial, they still exist mostly run by publisher’s marketing departments as part of the advertising mix, they are largely pointless. The latter are fun places where new things can be tried, an incubator of ideas, a place for bits of writing that fit nowhere else, a place to share interesting things, etc, etc. All in the name of fun, and every body needs a bit of fun.

    “…some of the old content on this site has corrupted and videos have timed out…”

    Old content that has become corrupted can be restored from one of the monthly backups, there are backups? [A question that expects the answer no], external links failing is a part of dynamic content, it even has a name – “link rot”, it is to be expected and not worried about. [There are ways for the reader to rediscover the content, but most are never that interested enough to bother.]

    “I wonder if another simpler UK-based platform would be better.”

    Oh Dear, you had to ask that…

    *dons codpiece fashioned from AOL cds*

    ♪ Nerd up! It’s the code word – No matter where you say it – You’ll know that you’ll be bored witless in about 15 seconds. ♪

    UK-based…, physical geolocation beyond a few points of law is of no consequence… unless you are planning to do something very, very naughty. [But if I remember correctly the current web-host is blocking updates, so a change might be not a bad idea.]

    Platform, strictly you are not on a ‘platform’. The blog exists within a CMS, which is sandboxed in a VM which is running under an OS on a physical server on the west coast. [But I have a horrible suspicion it’s being run as a concurrent process – which is bad… another reason to consider changing the hosting company.] Or to put it another way you are ‘self-hosting’ and can configure it as you wish without being confined by a platform provider.

    So….

    Hmmm….

    Without knowing the full SP, or what exactly is giving you grief, these points are only general. [More detailed advice needs more info! Re-theming only changes the look, not the way posts are created.]

    Options:

    Stick with the current CMS, ie. WordPress. Upgrade to the latest version – this will give you the new WYSIWYG editor, [and fix all the security issues that exist in the version in current use – 4.9.4 is practically neolithic…] Get a man in for this given the hosting issues…

    If you don’t like the new editor, there are options to add different/simpler editors with reduced features, or try out the mobile editors designed for tablets instead, available from the iTunes store.

    As you self host, you can replace the CMS, with something else and import the old content. But I wouldn’t suggest it, lots of work to import the old data, it will work differently and you will have to spend weeks learning how to run the new software.

    Nerd out!

  41. Helen+Martin says:

    We watched The Queen’s Garden tonight (Buckingham Palace) and the bird that was returned to repeatedly was an Egyptian goose with her charming goslings. Perhaps that’s where Chris’ geese came from and perhaps that’s where they are.
    Snowy seems to have some good advice there (as usual), Chris, but I hope the computer stuff doesn’t take you away in disgust.

  42. BarbaraBoucke says:

    Thank you, snowy! I actually understood – with my non-technological brain – what you wrote. My brother is very patient with my periodic questions and explains things so that I understand them, so I appreciated how you wrote what you wrote. I’ve only been with Chris’s blog since about October 2020, so I missed all the early posts. I think I looked back at one connected to Gilbert and Sullivan, but that’s about all. What you said about other authors’ sites/blogs is often true. This is what I wrote – this is the next book – pre-order it here.

  43. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Suggestion: you might want to get in touch with Modern Tribe (https://tri.be/) developers/designers and pick their brains about what mods you’d like for WordPress — assuming you want to stay with it — and whether they’re both feasible and robust enough to keep you from scaring your neighbors every few weeks. They have a good rep working with WordPress and particularly in the education space. As for a backup plugin — presuming you need one — I suggest UpdraftPlus (https://updraftplus.com/?afref=154). But as with snowy, I’m also ‘flying blind’ about what you’re finding particularly “unwieldy” about WordPress. There are certainly simpler ‘platforms’ but the choice always boils down to the functionality you want. Anyway, glad you have now allowed most of us to exhale — at least for the time being.

  44. Susan Drees says:

    I am a relative newcomer to reading your blog and discovered it through following you at Goodreads (US).
    I have enjoyed being able to follow you, and your long term blog readers. While I enjoy being able to check in with you from time to time about Bryant & May and life. But obviously the decision must be yours. I’m glad to see your comment that you are planning to continue for a while. All the best.

  45. Bruce+Rockwood says:

    I regularly read your posts and value your commentary as well as discussion of your books in progress. It gives me insight I need On your side of the pond. I don’t use Twitter or Instagram at all. Reading longer texts helps me in ways that short form cannot, and we could use more of a world where people take time to reflect. Your blog supports that. Thanks.

  46. Wayne Mook says:

    Hello sorry I’ve not been around much of late, but I have been reading. Once or twice I went to make comments and the old computer crashed.

    I’m in the group that would miss your blog, but as said if you feel it’s too time consuming so be it, but I am glad you have decided to grace us with your wisdom and spirit.

    Well I meant to comment on vampires, 125 yrs of Dracula, 100 yrs of Christopher Lee and Nosferatu plus the Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer is doing the rounds at 85 yrs old. i’m with you the original Nosferatu is the best, a plague like figure of shadow and animal like face, but those hands, they look massive, as you see the shadow its the hands that then come into shot reaching out. I’d also give Bela Lugosi great credit, again he has fascinating hands, sadly cut twice, by Laemmle and then in the 40’s re-issue, I read they only cut the screams from the soundtrack in the 40’s, only, the soundtrack to a film especially horror is of paramount importance. Although i’m not sure look at the butchery meted out to Frankenstein and King Kong.

    if you carried on the SF from Roofworld, I think urban paranoia would be a main issue, The Sandmen is the closest to Roofworld, the kids who rebel in what feels like a near future setting. I also think techno thrillers would have played a part. (when ever I hear of this sub-genre I’m reminded of Wallace and Gromit and the techno trousers, if it was the 90s whey would be techno-techno-techno trousers.) I’d love to read a variant of High-Rise by you.

    Glad you got out to the sun, Morocco looked lovely, sadly no moles though. I managed Portugal, I stepped into the med in April upto my ankles and that was enough. Everyone there especially in shops wore masks, when i came back to Manchester it was a bit of shock as very few wore masks and it’s even worse now, (here’s a cheery though free covid tests stopped 1st of April, by the 29th weekly UK covid related deaths 1248, following week 6th of May 838 last weekly UK figs 20th May 614, well it looks like it’s over, only hearing from friends, people who haven’t had it seem to be getting it. Still Boris knows best, lets draw a line under it, he’s very good at doing lines.).

    A lot of my relatives are in many of the cemeteries of south Manchester, even Southern Cemetery, which is mainly in Chorlton close to where Chortlon and the Wheelies started. On of the Yorkshire ripper victims was found near the cemetery just across the road where my aunt lived which was just up the road from Cosgrove and Hall’s studios. If your ever near sale Water Park, the Waterside Arts Centre houses the Cosgrove and Hall archive.

    Current odd food, Vimto flavoured candy floss, it’s sweet and tastes of Vimto as a Manc that’s all I need.

    By the way this blog brought me back to your writing and so has contributed to sales, I’d have probably missed Hot Water. I must sit down and read it, but I’ve just started Rivers of London which was tipped on here by a number of punters. So far so good. I also finally managed to buy a copy of Menz Insana, my wife has of course read it before me and says she really enjoyed it.

    Wayne.

  47. BarbaraBoucke says:

    Wayne Mook – You’re back! When Chris posted the photo of his turnips (and turbot) meal in Barcelona, I thought – Where’s Wayne? Nice to read all you’ve been doing.

  48. BarbaraBoucke says:

    Not Barcelona – Morocco!

  49. Nell says:

    Reading all these posts must be more work than writing one. I haven’t commented before but want to take this chance to thank you for so many hours of pleasure, surprise, interest and just fun of reading your books and posts. I was so happy to find this site when I finally did! Some of us still like to read more than a few words and find the post-literate format of most of the internet to be, at the least, really annoying. Reading your posts brought me some reassurance that complete sentences aren’t dead yet, and that it’s not peculiar to think in paragraphs. At the same time, you are going through such terrible personal times that it seems totally selfish to demand that you keep this up for people like me.

    Whatever you decide, I want to thank you for being you and sharing your world with us.

  50. Speaking as a content strategist and content marketer, a website that bears your name is a gold mine. You’ve built an SEO treasure from years of blogging so I’d urge you not to close down your website but just to leave it up there. It will reap rewards for years to come. Trust me, I have been blogging since 1999 but the difference between you and me is that I shut down my website which I regret till this day.

    Weeks ago, I stumbled on your blog and was delighted to find it. I quickly added you to my feedly feed. I miss blog like yours; people who write for the joy of writing and not caring if it hits, gets you money or traffic. You write for the joy of it and I enjoy what you do. I’m getting so tired of listicles, posts disguised as marketing – I hope you do continue blogging, but of course do what’s best for you 🙂

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