Building AWT: Lessons learned so far

It’s hard to believe that we’re already almost four weeks into the life of Apple World Today. In that short period of time we’ve written a lot of posts, made a few mistakes, and have started settling into a routine. I thought it might be fun to let you all in on how things are going.

It helps a lot to get “Fireballed”

Our first few days of traffic were beyond our wildest dreams, thanks to a nice little two-line shout-out from John Gruber. You won’t believe how that helped out. Thanks, John! Um, could you mention us again? Other sites brought us traffic those first critical days, but nothing like what we saw coming from DF.

Traffic isn't where we'd like it to be

I had hoped that Apple World Today would be able to capture about 20% of the traffic that we were getting at TUAW, and those early readership numbers lulled us into a false hope that we'd be there the first week. The numbers are now at a lower, but stable level, and I'm hopeful that we're going to see them start rising as more people become familiar with AWT. We're in it for the long haul, folks.

A lot of people want to write for AWT

To all of you who have written to us asking if you could write for us, thank you. Some day it would be nice to start going through those emails and grabbing experienced writers, but at this point in time it’s just the three of us and one wonderful volunteer (Alex Jurgensen). Starting in a few days, expect to see the first guest columns from some of our more generous Patreon supporters! Those folks are paying their way rather than being paid, for which we give our most sincere thanks.

We have the best commenters in the world

I'm not sure why, but commenters on the site have been amazing, staying on topic and providing good feedback. Not only are they making intelligent comments about the posts, but also giving us direction on things they like or don't like about the site. Keep it up, readers!

It’s great to be able to use the tools you want

One thing about writing for a “corporate blog” was that we were stuck using tools that were designed for use by a variety of blogs, not just one site. Here, we were able to pick and choose the tools that we wanted to use at launch, and if we decide that a tool isn’t going to work out for us, we’ll most likely move on to something better.

Examples include our use of Slack as our team communications tool, Stripe and Plasso for accepting direct payments from sponsors and donors, HootSuite to schedule social media for our sponsors and deal partners, and Squarespace as our supported content management system. And who can forget Patreon, our choice for collecting donations from readers?

That's not to say that everything is perfect with our new tools; we've run into some issues with the site crashing Safari on the iPhone 6 Plus in portrait mode, for example, and HootSuite was sending out empty posts to Facebook recently. But I don't think we would have been able to move so far so fast without these tools in place.

We’re niche, but we’re not that niche…

First, let me thank everyone who has become a patron of Apple World Today on Patreon. You’re definitely helping out and we need every cent! However, the folks at another shuttered AOL site have been able to reach all of their milestone goals while we’re only at 12.6% of our first goal. I think that’s because for most of their patrons, Joystiq/WoW Insider (now Blizzard Watch) was one of the only sites to provide the type of content they wanted to see. There are quite a few other places for Apple fans to get their fill of news, reviews, and other content, so some former TUAW readers may have just jumped to one of those other sites. We really do need your support, so if you haven’t yet donated through Patreon or the one-time donation link in the right sidebar, please do it now!

We have amazing sponsors

On the plus side, our sponsors have also helped out tremendously and we know we can count on sponsors coming forward to keep things going. If you're reading this and have a company that sells products or services in the Apple ecosystem, take a look at what we offer.

We need to grow our social presence

A small, but significant portion of our traffic comes from what we post on Twitter and other social networks. Some of the blasts are automatically posted thanks to HootSuite, but there's a lot more engagement when one of us just sits down and writes something. Dave, for example, gets a lot of retweets and we usually see our follower numbers rise when he posts tips on Twitter. There are only 24 hours in each day, so it's difficult to devote the time to doing the same on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn…

One way we could quickly grow our traffic is for our readers to share, retweet, and otherwise pass along our social media blasts. Encourage just one of your followers or friends to follow us, and we could double our social audience overnight.

Wrapping it up

I have to reiterate one thing; we’re in this for the long haul. I realize that Apple World Today has a long way to go to before all of us — creators and readers — are fully satisfied. All of us hope that our Building AWT column shows our commitment to transparency, and we’ll keep doing what we can to make this site your one-stop shop for Apple information.

We value your feedback, so please leave us your comments below.