Five Reasons Why Clickbait Works

There's two opposing theories about posting stuff in the week between Christmas and New Years. On the one hand, everyone's off having a good time and not paying attention to the internet. On the other hand, nobody else is posting anything so you have a better chance than usual of actually being noticed by the folks who do.

It's been a while since I have posted a diary on The Catholic Astronomer about this blog itself, so I am taking these off-days to do so. Since the self-referential title promised five points (I just made up the number five now, I have no idea how many points I'll have) let me start numbering them.

  1. Even though we don't charge you for reading it, this web site is not free.
    1. I pay (a pittance, admittedly) to our bloggers, and that money has to come from someplace. In addition we pay a standing fee to Cyrcle Systems for regular maintenance, etc. Some months that money is unnecessary; those are the good months. The times when we do need them, it's worth it.
    2. In any event, between the support costs and the blogger costs, we have to come up with a few thousand bucks a month to keep this place going. Where does that money come from? Two places. One are our "Sacred Space" subscribers who donate $10 a month (or more) to keep the shop running. Less than two visits to Starbucks a month, plus you get the added benefit of not having to drink burned coffee at least twice a month.
    3. The other is a grant from the Templeton Foundation, which will run out next year. To justify the Templeton Grant, we have to show them that our readership is growing. One measure of that is the number of "hits" recorded; another, and better, metric are the number of people who subscribe to our free (did I mention, FREE?) "sign up for emails when you get a new post" service. A year ago we had about 300 subscribers. This year... more, but not many more. Can we at least break 400 this year? If you haven't already signed up for that, please do. It's FREE. And the statistics will make us, and Templeton, happier so that maybe we'll be able to get another grant in the future.
    4. The best measure, of course, is to show that our number of paying customers is growing via "Sacred Space"; see above
  2. By the way, what can we learn from our site statistics?
    1. Before we had the Templeton grant, the middle of 2015, we were getting fewer than 5000 views per month. Since the end of 2015 that's jumped to more than 7500, with a couple of months exceeding 10,000.
    2. March 2016 was our busiest month with 10,659 views. That's when we posted our most popular article of the year, Georges Lemaitre, Father of the Big Bang, which attracted 1000 visits that month, and another 1000 since then
    3. We have 2700 people following us via Facebook. I have no idea if those readers show up in our stats.
    4. Wednesday is the most popular day. Who'd thought? (I always post my Tablet columns on a Thursday. Oh, well.)
  3. We've added a couple of new bloggers this year, Chris Graney and Deirdre Kelleghan. I am really enjoying their postings; what do you guys think?
    1. For that matter, are there topics that we're missing which you would like us to cover, or cover more, or cover better?
  4. There is no point 4. (Not sure why, but when I first typed this it comment, it went from 3 to 5; now it has corrected itself. The numbering software is buggy, I guess. Reminds me of the day back in 1978 when we got a new Data General Nova 4 computer only to discover that its floating point system wasn't quite ready yet...)

    OK, it's a Nova 3 not a Nova 4. Still brings chills to look at it. See that row of beige things at the bottom of the photo? They're switches. Ask your grandparents what they're for....

  5. The photo above counts as clickbait, doesn't it?
Br. Guy Consolmagno

About Br. Guy Consolmagno

Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is Director of the the Vatican Observatory and President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he earned undergraduate and masters' degrees from MIT, and a Ph. D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona; he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps (Kenya), and taught university physics at Lafayette College before entering the Jesuits in 1989.

At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies, observing Kuiper Belt comets with the Vatican's 1.8 meter telescope in Arizona, and applying his measure of meteorite physical properties to understanding asteroid origins and structure. Along with more than 200 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular books including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), and most recently Would You Baptize an Extraterrestial? (with Father Paul Mueller, SJ). He also has hosted science programs for BBC Radio 4, been interviewed in numerous documentary films, appeared on The Colbert Report, and for more than ten years he has written a monthly science column for the British Catholic magazine, The Tablet.

Dr. Consolmagno's work has taken him to every continent on Earth; for example, in 1996 he spent six weeks collecting meteorites with a NASA team on the blue ice regions of East Antarctica. He has served on the governing boards of the Meteoritical Society; the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (of which he was chair in 2006-2007); and IAU Commission 16 (Planets and Satellites). In 2000, the small bodies nomenclature committee of the IAU named an asteroid, 4597 Consolmagno, in recognition of his work. In 2014 he received the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences for excellence in public communication in planetary sciences.

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Five Reasons Why Clickbait Works — 1 Comment

  1. Chris G. of Louisville, KY, writes in to ask: “Hi Guy – I read your “clickbait” post, and I have a question: Are you sure you had 300 e-mail subscribers at this time last year? Because I have been watching that number and, maybe I am going senile, but I could swear that when I began blogging in February the “Join NNN other subscribers” number was about 180, and now it is over 400. I was thinking the number was growing nicely.”

    To which I reply: the numbers I quote in this post, like the classics “after school television specials” are all “inspired by real events.” Which is to say, I made them all up. The only actual data I have is from a previous “meta” post,, which mentions 225 subscribers as of February 20, 2016… So I suspect your memory on this point is better than mine.

    In any event, thanks to everyone who has subscribed since this posting went up!

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