Hey all, short update: I’m going to post three essays over the first three days of this week—the first will go live a few minutes after this post. After the last one goes live on Wednesday, I will be going silent on Mere O for the rest of the year.
We will still publish through December 31 and actually have some really fantastic work lined up, much of which will be edited and published by some generous friends of the site who have agreed to help edit and publish work while I am away.
The reason I’m taking a break is simple: 2016 has been a year, as they say. Really, for me, it goes back to December 7, 2015, which is when my dad was checked into the hospital due to blood clots in his lungs. Over night, he suffered a traumatic brain injury due to complications with a drug he was given to break up the clots. (The clots were severe enough that they would have killed him if nothing had been done.) He spent the next three weeks in the ICU and two and a half of those weeks in a coma. During that time we had no idea if he would wake up or, if he did, what kind of brain damage he would have. (He woke up the day before Christmas Eve.) Today, not only is he alive, he’s walking. Just yesterday he did two flights of stairs at church with minimal assistance. He’s more independent than I think we ever expected him to be. But the work of getting there has been exhausting, especially for both my dad and my mom. So this year has seen some major upheaval in our family’s life.
On top of all that, there have been many battles that obviously needed to be fought in the public square this year. I’m glad we have fought them and I hope that we have been faithful in how we have done that. But all of this has made 2016 an exhausting year for me. Not only that, these battles have appeared to me to be of the sort that requires a more aggressive tone in order to make as plain as possible the severity of our disagreements. This, in my mind, applies as much to the debates about Donald Trump as they do those about sexual ethics, to say nothing of the trinitarian controversy which, though written about the least, is in fact the most important.
So I have repeatedly been more aggressive this year in order to force people to reckon with the fissures that are opening up within evangelicalism. That said, after a year of such writing I worry that my ability to read these debates and form an appropriate response is starting to be distorted by the sheer volume of controversies that have assailed us this year. Toward that end, I’m stepping away for a few weeks to read some history (lots of 18th century revolutionary-era America) and hopefully the Harry Potter series. Hopefully when I am back on in January, I’ll be set up to write more broadly and better equipped to assess the severity of various debates and controversies that will, no doubt, arise in 2017.
All that being said, I’m extremely pleased with our year so far at Mere O. We have been on the front end of the #NeverTrump movement, we have done some very fine work on religious liberty and sex ethics, we published one of the best pieces on the trinitarian debate in my opinion, and we’ve been able to publish a number of other good pieces as well.
In terms of traffic, this has been our site’s best year ever. I don’t want to talk too much about traffic numbers because I think they’re dangerous to obsess over, but I will say these three things:
- Of the 10 biggest traffic months in Mere O’s history, eight of them have come in 2016. The two months from this year that aren’t in our all-time top 10 are our 11th and 12th best traffic months ever. So for the year-to-date, every month so far has been in the top 12 months all time for Mere O traffic. (Much of this growth can be traced back to the first two months of the year when we ran some fantastic pieces by both site founder Matthew Lee Anderson and Mere Fidelity contributor Alastair Roberts.)
- Mere O’s readers continue to be amazing. Here is the average time on page for our top six articles this year: 6:23, 7:30, 6:23, 4:57, 6:33, 7:12. That’s remarkable. Really, y’all are great. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t say that enough. There’s a great deal of chatter around the interwebs about blogs being a dead medium, but between our overall traffic and the remarkably high quality of our readership, I am not seeing any evidence of that here.
- Six separate authors account for our nine most popular articles this year. Our top 20 articles of the year were written by 10 separate authors. So this isn’t just about one person or even two or three people driving the growth. This is about the broad effort of a larger group of writers who are doing excellent work for us. Of course, this also speaks well of our readership: You’re after good writing regardless of who the author is. Again, thank you.
Thinking beyond traffic, there are two other things we’ve done this year that I am really happy about. First, we have a donation button set up that has allowed me to pay a handful of our writers. We’re not paying as much as I’d like and we’re not able to pay every contributor. But we’re doing more than I anticipated us being able to do this year and for that I am thankful.
Finally, we created a Slack channel for Mere O writers that, though small, has been a very helpful place for discussion for our writers this year. I am a huge proponent of private media and have been very pleased with what our Slack channel has allowed us to do this year.
In addition to all that, Mere Fidelity continues to be a great success and I am deeply indebted to Matt, Alastair, Derek, and Andrew for their continued work on what is the best theology podcast on the web in my opinion.
Looking ahead to next year, I hope that we can return to our roots, which is to be a broader publication than the one we have been this year, though I have no regrets about becoming a more political site during 2016. I think that’s what we needed to be this year. But when I return in 2017, I plan to shift my focus a bit as I think 2016 has drawn the lines that needed to be drawn and now I think we need to learn how to think in the aftermath of the many fractures we have seen emerge in the past year.
For the next seven weeks, I hope you enjoy the work that is published and that you enjoy getting a break from me yammering about localism, capitalism, Wendell Berry, and all the other stock lines I seem to have accumulated over the years. I’m hoping to do some serious reading during this time away and perhaps come back next year with fresh talking points. ;)
In any event, this year has been lovely, you are the best readers a web publication could ask for, and I am deeply thankful for all that you all do to keep this site running. Thank you, thank you, thank you.