What’s Next for The Casual Observer?

December 26, 2009

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We’re winding down 2009. When the year began, The Soap Boxers was in its infancy. I was the sole writer, and the schedule that I set for 2009 was 5-6 articles per month. Obviously, we’ve gone far beyond those expectations. We’ve also gone far outside the original topics of customer experiences, news, sports, and book reviews.

How did this happen?

Largely by chance, actually. The expansion of the staff occurred after I asked Johnny Goodman to write about his experience at The Masters. While I am not a golf fan, I understood how cool this experience would be to a golf fan. I liked what Johnny wrote, and offered him a weekly column to write about sports. If you stop to think about it, it’s a bit odd that a sports nut such as me would bring a dedicated sports writer on board. However, I realized that there is value in having different opinions on issues, as well as the fact that Johnny would be able to cover topics (such as golf) that were of minimal interest to me.

During the course of the year, we expanded the staff incrementally. This was done mostly to expand the breadth of subject matter that we cover, while also taking some work off my shoulders. Early in the year, I decided that I wanted The Soap Boxers to deliver fresh content almost every day – something that would have been impossible if not for my wonderful staff. We have had between 33 and 38 articles in each month between March and November (and are well on the way to 30+ again this month).

Early on, I also made the conscious decision to avoid becoming a niche blog, in spite of the fact that this best way to draw a large audience. I have always tried to run the site more like a magazine or newspaper, including content from a wide variety of topics. If it works for USA Today and The New Yorker, why can’t it work for us?

The Soap Boxers has also given me the opportunity to kick start my fiction writing, after enduring a decade where I wrote very little fiction. It felt a bit rusty at first, as if the fiction neurons had experience some atrophy. Soon, however, it was full speed ahead.

In a largely positive year, there have really only been a handful of negatives. The first was a situation involving plagiarism that I felt the need to deal with quickly and decisively. The second was the loss of a loyal reader who was offended by one of my short stories. Neither of these were things that I had a great deal of control over. The plagiarism was dealt with as soon as I figured out what was going on (hint: don’t copy from a national media outlet), and the story that was deemed offensive garnered positive reviews from many others.

The third negative is that fact that growth of readership seems to have stalled a bit. We seem to have reached a long term plateau. If we’re destined to move forward with this group, that’s OK with me. You’re a great group of readers. It would also be great to have a few more folks as readers, though, so if you’d mention The Soap Boxers to a friend or two this holiday season (or share through Stumble or other social networking), we would be grateful.

Beyond the actual writing, I’ve had the experience of interacting with some cool people – other bloggers as well as readers – during the course of the year. I’ve also had the experience of learning a lot about WordPress, as I took a free template and customized the hell out of it, so that the template designer himself probably wouldn’t recognize it.

So, what will 2010 hold for us?

The schedule may fall into a slight bit of disarray early in the year. My wife and I are expecting our second child in January, and this will of course take time away from my writing and coordination of articles. I’m trying to get a bunch of articles written in advance, so that the schedule doesn’t skip a beat. Logic would dictate that there will be some sort of impact, though. We’ll try to keep it minimal.

The Winter Olympics arrive in Vancouver in February. We will attempt to bring some unique insight and quirky biases (such as my fascination with luge) through a series of articles. Baseball will follow on the heels of the Olympics. I promise to overwhelm you with baseball coverage and make an effort to affect your All Star voting.

I’ll continue to chase down interesting stories and angles. I’ll definitely try to dispatch my alter ego, Scoop Chevelle, for a half dozen interviews during the year. January will bring us an interview with a famous blogger.

I’ll also be reviving the “Fake News Network” segment the debuted on Thanksgiving Day. FNN will bring you fictionalized news events. Some will be (very loosely based on real events; others will be made from scratch. You will probably note similarities between FNN and sites like The Onion. Am I ripping off The Onion? No – I’ve been writing these sorts of articles prior to the existence of that wonderful site.

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