|Posted on December 21, 2013 at 2:10 AM|
By Dennis Stone
As I say on our “About Us” page, this site is a labor of love. It still is, but I regret to announce that the site will be on hiatus for a period of time. Right now I can’t say how long that will be.
The problem is twofold. First, the site has sucked up most of my free time, and has left me way behind on “life.” I haven’t read a book since the site launched, or gone to a movie. Newly received movies from Netflix sit on the table for a month or more. Relationships have suffered. I need a period of time to catch up on everything and refresh the batteries.
Part of that is inevitable since I have a demanding job that takes a lot of time and energy. I go to the gym three days a week and run six miles around the lake when weather permits. I have a semblance of a social life to maintain, and over the past three months I’ve had a family issue that has taken a lot of time. When it comes to the site itself, formatting the articles, finding and formatting pictures, and posting articles is more time consuming than you would expect.
Part of the time issue is my own fault. I’m too obsessive about the articles I write. I do an enormous amount of research for most of them. I researched the history article about the JFK assassination for three full days before starting to write. Even opinion pieces are backed by significant reading and research before I write. I also do intensive editing of the articles submitted by the other writers. And my articles always get long because once I get into them there is so much to say. As a group we don’t skim the surface like so much of modern media does. On top of all of that, I have a bit of “writer’s resistance,” where I PLAN to sit down and write, but it’s hard to put away the reading and actually start writing. Once I start I’m fine, but I waste a lot of time procrastinating.
The second problem relates tangentially to the first. Readership is just too low to make all that effort sufficiently worthwhile. It does ebb and flow, and recently there have been a surprising number of “new” readers as defined by the statistics software. (I’m not sure how they define that, and I can’t see individual readers.) There are lots of steps I could take to promote the site, but they are all time intensive, and we have trouble putting up enough articles to keep the interest of the readers we already have.
The sad part for me is that I think this site serves a very useful and even needed purpose in the modern gay conversation. I’m not aware of any other site that is trying to do what we are trying to do. “The New Gay” was a site based in Washington, DC, that did something similar, but that closed down about three years ago. They built up a large readership, but the time demands were too much for them as well.
I have a lot to say. I just don’t have the time to say it properly. I get frustrated when I read the news and other gay sites because I’m constantly seeing things where my reaction is: “I should write an article about that.” But I’m often having those thoughts at work during lunch or breaks, and then it’s back to work and the articles don’t get written. There were three such potential articles that presented themselves to me just today, including the Duck Dynasty controversy. Both sides in that cultural divide are missing some big issues that aren’t properly being addressed. Our side is predictably reactive and one-dimensional, and the story screams for an intensive analysis that it’s just not getting.
My original plan never really came to fruition as it was intended. I had hoped to write about three substantive articles per week. Andy would do perhaps two history pieces and the occasional opinion piece. And Paul, busy with his senior year of high school, would hopefully do an article a week to give the teenager perspective. Then we’d add other writers over time, and install the Shortcuts section to give variety.
Further, the site would be a social center of sorts, with a structure very similar to the old AfterElton, with profiles and private messaging and public message boards, etc. That was Andy’s goal, and he had a group of AfterElton readers who wanted a mechanism to stay in touch.
In retrospect that seems like a workable plan, and it started off very much that way. Unfortunately, over time the plans eroded, for various reasons. Many of the early readers came from the Backlot, and our emphasis didn’t resonate with all of them. One of the biggest problems was that the readership wasn’t large enough to provide the sense of a large, vibrant community that AfterElton provided. People naturally started falling away because of that, and as a result the social side of things dried up. The same was true of the comments. It’s a lot more fun if there are a lot of people to interact with in the comments, and we just didn’t have enough people commenting. The overall readership stayed consistent, but the interaction dried up.
That process was dramatically increased when Andy dropped out. He was the “social director” and a consistent commenter, and after he left we missed his articles and his social interaction.
Paul became less active as well, but his is a much different, and actually very interesting, case. He is the quintessential embodiment of the new millennial gay outlook. Being gay is just part of his identity, and doesn’t provide him any significant problems. So once he wrote a few articles talking about how being gay isn’t a big deal for him, what more can he really write about? At that point he had about said all there was to say.
I’m extremely appreciative of the contributions of the other writers, but their contributions were bound to fall off as well. The only rewards for writing articles for the site are self-satisfaction and the approval of others. The former only goes so far, and the latter became less satisfying as the comments declined.
I’m proud of much of what we’ve done with this site. The site has been publicly active for over six months, and this is the 125th article we have published. We have written what we’ve wanted to write, without kowtowing to convention or short attention spans or superficial thought. Our spelling, grammar, etc., are as good or better than the Backlot. We always maintained total editorial integrity.
So what about the future? I have no idea right now. I have to re-think what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Do I convert this to more of a traditional blog, with short pieces that are more stream of consciousness, without so much research (and without my obsessive desire to make them as perfect as I can)? Do I simply give up the idea of being a constantly active site that strives to put up a new article most every day, and instead plan a major piece once a week with Shortcut pieces the rest of the time? Do I actively seek more writers? Perhaps one person could do history pieces only, and keep them short (which actually was the original plan), another could be the Shortcut editor, etc. At the moment everything is up in the air.
The site will remain up. Comments can still be made, and the “Contact Us” function will still work. Check back once in awhile. It’s certainly possible that new articles will be posted – from me or the other writers – during the hiatus.
Thank you for reading. I hope we’ve given you an alternate outlook on the gay experience, an outlook not regularly given by most other sites. Most importantly, stay positive! There is far more good than bad in the modern gay world, far more to be excited about than to be unhappy about. And while you’re being positive, keep fighting for a better world, both in your country wherever you are, and in your more personal life. There is still a long way to go, especially in certain countries, but being gay is better today than it’s ever been in human history, and tomorrow will be even better.