Reading Tea Leaves


Now that a month has passed since the site went live, I thought I’d share some interesting observations from the site’s statistics and how these may (or may not) guide the operation of the site moving forward.

After the soft launch, the site obviously experienced an Everest-ian spike in views and visits after announcing the launch on Facebook. The interview with the lion’s share of views was Miyazaki Daisuke’s who had linked to his it through his personal Facebook and Twitter, as well as from the social media accounts of his latest movie which directed his large follower base to the site. Other filmmakers such as Tanaka Jun also linked to the report on the Osaka Asian Film Festival in which his movie was mentioned. From there, the site experienced a dramatic dropoff in the following days afterward, with smaller spikes as other filmmakers mentioned their articles or friends shared the announcement on their social media sites. Overall, the traffic has been steady with 5-50 visits thereafter with a few days of no visits at all. This isn’t particularly disappointing or thrilling news, just interesting…

(Reading Tea Leaves, cont’d)

data of what I expected for the most part. However, I did learn a few interesting things about reader habits which did surprise me.

• A large number of people arriving at the site to read a particular article linked from a filmmaker they follow does not equate to the same amount of views of other articles.
In fact, it seems most people did not bother to read the other interviews or articles or did not even scroll down to the bottom of the page. Only about 25% or less clicked another article and even less clicked on any of the Pages other than the About page. Furthermore, despite the existence of “Related Articles” at the end every interview/article, few seemed to have been guided by them to read anything else on the site. This lack of “window shopping” of the viewers somewhat surprised me given how most sites employ various sidebar presentations to entice you to read something else, but perhaps it is the noise of ads and links on most news sites these days which may have innoculated the modern internet reader from even acknowledging these features anymore.


 • Categories, Tags, or Top menus not touched, but links to external sites were.
Related to the above, no one has used Categories or Tags to find articles, nor top menu features which index articles by specific sections to see what other articles are available. Admittedly, the site only has a handful of articles at this point, and the usefulness of these features may prove itself when there are far more content on the site, but if reader habits remain consistent to what has been displayed so far, they may become more web design window dressing than anything actually promoting engagement. Readers did, however, engage with links within articles to external sites such as those leading to the official listing of the movies reviewed from the Osaka Asian Film Festival or homepages/SNS sites for filmmakers or their movies, succeeding, if anything, in the function for which they were intended: driving traffic to those filmmakers’ works in order to create criss-crossing links online that promote better web searchability.

• SNS is the driver of traffic to the site.
Very few visits to the site were organic, meaning someone searched or found the site without a link leading them to it. On the days with large visits, ultimately the vast majority of those arrived at the site from a link or share on social media. SNS is, without a doubt, the best way to lead people to your site. It is truly rare in this day and age for a site to receive traffic without you engaging them to go there and/or your SNS followers doing the same. There are certainly cases when it seems return visitors using a bookmark came to the site, but most views of articles still come from direct links from social media upon comparison with activity on the Indievisual Facebook or Instagram to the activity on the website.

So what are the take aways from this knowledge? First, and foremost, I will most likely need to step up SNS activities, not just to promote new content, but to remind people of older content, perhaps tying these in with news of a particular filmmaker’s latest movie, etc. New content almost always generate the best viewership days. Second, I may need to adjust the frequency of when new articles are posted, particularly in the [Caught Our Eye] section which, if updated too often, could lead to titles never being seen given the fact visitors may not be making it far enough down the front page to encounter them nor seem to use menu features to discover them. Lastly, and dependent on visitor trends, the site may need minor design adjustments just to aid in or encourange more engagement with different varieties of articles.

Major companies and media portals put a lot of faith and money on mining data and making decisions based on the habits of their visitors. I have never put stock in their reliance on this practice, but since I now run my own site and can access similar data, I do understand the importance of at least acknowledging what visitor habits could be telling you about your site. However, I think it’s equally important not to become so beholden to them you begin questioning or changing the essence of your site’s intent. The point is, in my opinion, to influence your visitors and not the other way around. But we’ll see how long such defiance will last.