October was a record-smashing month for EthicsDaily.com readership, outstripping anything we could have projected.
We had 729,925 pages read, compared to the previous all-time high in September 2010 of 577,885 pages read.
Web traffic soared by 150,000 pages read in a single month.
Add to the great leap forward the fact that we’ve had six months in 2010 above the mark of 500,000 pages, compared with only one month above the 500,000 mark in 2009.
While readership has grown steadily in 2010, what explains the October numbers?
We don’t know.
We can rule out one explanation – major breaking news stories. We did have some solid news stories, but none that would rattle the Baptist world or shake up the faith community.
On the positive side, one of the differences between September and October in terms of content was that we announced the release of our latest documentary, “Sacred Texts, Social Duty.”
Did addressing the most forbidden topic – faith and taxes – in houses of faith drive up the numbers?
It is possible that a new documentary ticked up the numbers. Folk might have been more curious about “Sacred Texts, Social Duty,” given the success of “Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims.”
But ticking up is far different from skyrocketing.
Another possible explanation is that we were at a tipping point – a boiling point when water expands beyond its container, a moment when an idea goes viral.
If this was a tipping point, we will only know it in hindsight.
If we were at a tipping point, what explains how we got there?
Again, the best we can do is to speculate.
In August 2009, when we hit a record 571,742 pages read, I identified four reasons for that success: (1) terrific, consistent and ever-changing content; (2) delivery of diverse content in terms of movie reviews, sermon manuscripts, documentaries and educational curriculum; (3) a global network; and (4) a new website launched in February 2009.
These are still fairly good explanations for how we got to where we are, except for the new website argument. Surely, the novelty has long since faded.
At the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, an African-American Baptist woman told me that she read our site every day and loved it. I told her that a lot of folk were reading the site. She told me that she read EthicsDaily.com because it provided a clear word in a world of extremism.
I wish we would have had more time to talk about what she meant. If I understood her – and others who have made similar comments – then I think our readership growth results significantly from the fact that we address issues in a timely way from a centrist moral perspective that is rooted in the biblical witness and connected to people of faith in the middle aisle.
We offer a moral critique of the religious right and a prophetic challenge to those who take their faith seriously and practice it daily. And we have not walked off the plank on the left side of the boat.
As many of our readers know, if you find a turtle on a fence post, you know the turtle didn’t get there by itself.
We didn’t get to 729,925 pages read by ourselves. We got there because our readers sent article links to their friends, Sunday school teachers printed out columns for their classes, university and seminary professors challenged their students to read EthicsDaily.com, bloggers praised and criticized articles and preachers cited the site in their sermons. We had a lot of help.
At a time when so many organizations are floundering, lacking a sense of self-definition and direction, downsizing their staff or cutting their funding to partner organizations, EthicsDaily.com is a success story.
But it is not an individualistic success story. It is a shared success story. Everyone who contributes material, everyone who helps underwrite the organization and everyone who reads the site shares in what we have and are accomplishing.
Thumbs up to our readers, content contributors and donors!
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.