For the last several weeks, I have traveled across the country from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Providence, Rhode Island. It has been great visiting customers and seeing some beautiful sites. Although I was always on the
phone, I took a several week break from posting to our Blog. Although I had some guilt, I didn’t feel so bad when I read the Wall Street Journal article below about what professional bloggers do about vacations.

It was also a busy time at Eli’s with record interest in all our goodies and special events like being recognized at the Illinois State Fair and having Eli’s be part of the movie “Quebec” that was filmed in Chicago this summer. More details and photos to come.

There is a lot going on at Eli’s as we enter our final two weeks of preparation for the Eli’s Cheesecake Festival. This year will just be amazing as we have the best line-up of entertainers and partners in the event.

If you missed the Blog or just have a question, write me at marc_schulman@elicheesecake.com.

Best wishes,

Marc Schulman

 

 

No Day at the Beach

Bloggers Struggle With What to Do About Vacation

By ELIZABETH HOLMES

Wall Street Journal
August 31, 2006;

A banner stripped across the top of the Daily Dish declares that the popular Web log’s host, Andrew Sullivan, has “gone fishing.” Mr. Sullivan declared a two-week vacation and opted to leave his political blog behind.

Several thousand of his readers have done the same.

Despite the efforts of three verbose guest bloggers, replacements handpicked by Mr. Sullivan, the site’s visitor tally has fallen. The Daily Dish, now part of Time magazine, usually garners around 90,000 unique visitors, or individual readers, each day. At the start of the first workweek without him, Mr. Sullivan’s blog received about 67,000 hits, according to Site Meter. This week, traffic has hovered around 57,000.

“The frequency of emails of ‘Bring back Andrew’ and ‘This is stupid. Bring back Andrew’ is definitely higher than anything I’ve ever written,” says David Weigel, a 24-year-old assistant editor at Reason magazine, who is one of Mr. Sullivan’s guest bloggers and has filled in at other sites in the past.

In the height of
summer-holiday season, bloggers face the inevitable question: to blog on break or put the blog on a break? Fearing a decline in readership, some writers opt
not to take vacations. Others keep posting while on location, to the chagrin of their families. Those brave enough to detach themselves from their keyboards for a few days must choose between leaving the site dormant or having someone blog-sit.

To be sure, most bloggers don’t agonize over this decision. Of the 12 million bloggers on the Internet, only about 13% post daily, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Even fewer — 10% — spend 10 or more hours a week on their
blogs.

Yet for the sliver of people whose livelihood depends on the blog — whether they are conservative, liberal or don’t care — stepping away from the keyboard can be difficult. Unlike other jobs, where co-workers can fill in for an absent employee, blogs are usually a one-person show. A blogger’s personality carries the site. When the host isn’t there, readers tend to stray. August is a slow time for all blogs, but having an absent host makes the problem worse. Lose enough readers, and advertisers are sure to join the exodus.

It’s something that John Amato, host of the political blog Crooks and Liars, knows all too well. Mr. Amato rarely steps away from his site for any significant amount of time, although he finds updating the page multiple times a day exhausting.

“You become your blog,” says Mr. Amato, whose site gets an average of 150,000 hits a day. “It’s John Amato. They’re used to John Amato.”

Some bloggers thrive on the manic pace. Getaways for Jim Romenesko, host of the popular media blog bearing his name, consist of a Friday afternoon drive every month or so from his home in the Chicago suburbs to visit friends in Milwaukee. The 85-mile trip should last around 90 minutes. For Mr. Romenesko, it takes nearly four hours — because he stops at eight different Starbucks on the way to update his site.

The longest Mr. Romenesko has refrained from posting on his site, which gets about 70,000 hits a day, was for one week three years ago on the insistence of site owner, the Poynter Institute. He hasn’t taken a vacation in seven years. “The column’s called Romenesko,” he says. “I just feel it should be Romenesko” who writes it.

While it may seem like a chore to outsiders, many bloggers enjoy the compulsion. Mark Lisanti, who runs the entertainment gossip blog Defamer, is much like Mr. Romenesko in his no-vacation tendencies. Although he gets three weeks off each year from Gawker Media, which owns the site, he rarely takes a day. Not because he can’t, he just doesn’t want to. “My plan is to die face down on the desk in the middle of a post,” Mr. Lisanti jokes.

Jeff Jarvis, author of the political blog BuzzMachine, knows the feeling. He has always posted during his annual vacation to Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. When the resort had only an expensive Internet connection, he paid the hefty fee to keep his blog current. His son, Jake, now 14 years old, paid for half of the connection costs so he could keep up his technology blog, Wire Catcher.

Mr. Jarvis says he can count the number of days he’s spent away from his blog on one hand. On the occasional break — for a day or less — he opts to leave his blog “dark,” or untouched, rather than have someone fill in for him. “It’s just my space,” he says.

Kevin Drum, author of Washington Monthly’s blog Political Animal, says he used to have that kind of proprietary attitude. At some point, Mr. Drum says, “You just have to let go.”

Stepping away often means accepting a decline in readership. While Mr. Drum was on vacation for two days last week, his site averaged 45,000 hits, about 10,000 fewer than the previous weeks, according to Site Meter.

Mr. Drum turned to guest bloggers. Choosing temporary replacements is a great way to expose your audience to new voices, says Lauren Gelman, associate director of Stanford University Law School’s Center for Internet and Society and a sometimes guest blogger at legal sites.

But, as in Mr. Weigel’s case at the Daily Dish, it’s not easy. Much like a guest host on a late-night talk show, people have specific expectations for a proven brand. A new contributor needs to maintain the tone of the site and not alienate its readers.

At the same time, the guest blogger can’t follow a script or act like a substitute teacher who regurgitates the lesson, says Ms. Gelman. Without some creativity or flavor from the new writer, postings sound stale. “Not all voices are created equal,” notes Aaron Adams, an information technology consultant from Missouri who reads nearly 20 blogs a day. “Some guest bloggers don’t do much more than just keep the light on. They’re not as interesting or as stimulating.”

Michelle Malkin, host and namesake of a political blog, recruited guest writers carefully when she decided to take her first vacation in several years. All four replacements had a “similar vibe” to her own, says Ms. Malkin. Two of the guest bloggers were well-versed in subjects popular in the news at the time and the other two were friends whose work she admired.

A slice of Ms. Malkin’s audience didn’t take to the guest bloggers. She chalked that up to a “fickle” bunch who prefer her work as a syndicated columnist. But overall the guest bloggers held readers’ attentions, says Ms. Malkin. During the week she was gone, hits averaged around 140,000 a day, down from about 200,000 before she went on vacation. Last week, before she eased back into posting, her average daily visitor tally dipped below 120,000. The numbers didn’t faze Ms. Malkin. “For the dog days of August, they did tremendously well,” she says of her
fill-ins.

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, experienced a similar blow this month when he took a weeklong break from his site, the popular political blog InstaPundit. Unique visitors fell to 115,000 from around 150,000, according to Site Meter.

Even so, Mr. Reynolds is glad he took the week off. “I need a vacation more than I care about the traffic,” he says.