Shutting Down: Our Final Post

It’s been a good run, but unfortunately today we are announcing that Clio’s Current is no longer actively updating. This decision may surprise some readers, but it has been floating around in my head for some time. It’s occurred now for a variety of reasons. Since this is the last post though, let’s talk a bit about what we’ve done since we first launched Clio’s on 1 July 2013.

First – my favourite part of any retrospective – the numbers. According to Wolfram Alpha, it has been 2 years, 3 months, and 13 days since that first post.  Over those 118 weeks, we have made 184 entries, which works out to roughly one post every 4.5 days (we were updating twice a week for the first year and a half). Let’s average our posts out to around 1250 words, so we clock out with about 230,000 words written for Clio’s Current

We received around 50,000 page views over that time from 27,500 readers. The vast majority (19,171) were from Canada, followed by 7,742 Americans, 1,428 from the UK, hundreds from places like Australia, India, France, Germany, and so forth. Though I suspect some of these might be robots. This sounds more impressive until you realize those users are spread over 829 days. We generally received around 200 hits a week, though our average works out to 423 because some weeks we received many more than that.

Our most popular content are posts that were successfully shared on Reddit or StumpleUpon (Twitter gave us consistent hits, but not a large numbers of hits). Our most popular post was shared on Reddit comparing Russia today with Germany in the 1930s, while our most regularly viewed pages over time were from an early attempt to explain history and historiography.  Our lowest posts are in the 20s and 30s for hits.

By no means are these numbers impressive. While low audience numbers is not the reason for Clio’s shutting down, they certainly do not argue in favour of keeping it going. After all, we wrote posts here because we enjoyed testing out how to communicate sometimes-complex historical topics to a general audience. We’ve succeeded and failed many times over, reaching large and small audiences, writing good and bad posts.

As a project for historians, I think Clio’s was a success. I learned a lot about how to spin together a coherent tale in 1500 words. I made decisions about what to add and what to cut. Each week was a chance to write something short, punchy, and historical. Academics projects are seemingly never-ending, and completing a short article every week was rewarding in its own way as a writer. Plus every once in a while, I got to write something crazy.

You might be wondering then, why are we stopping? The short answer is that Clio’s is not as unique as it was when we started. Kirk and I first began writing this blog because we didn’t see any other sites doing quite what we envisioned: connecting past and present for readers to emphasize the importance of historical knowledge and thinking. Today, it’s increasingly evident that is not only doing this better than we are (and perhaps always were?), they are presenting it to a larger audience with a greater diversity of authors. Today, many popular podcasts and YouTube channels explain history to a general audience. We don’t feel like Clio’s is as innovative as it once was, but that is definitely a good thing.

We decided to end early in the middle of our political history series because the end is the end. It seemed unfair to ask our guest contributors to spend time writing for a blog that was shutting down shortly. We will still have the blog up, even though it will no longer update, as an archive of our efforts over the last two years.

The only way to end our final post is to thank all of those who have contributed and read our work. I’d like to thank my two co-editors, Matt Wiseman and Kirk Goodlet. Kirk founded the site with me, and I can still remember the conversations we had in May-June 2013, often over beer, trying to figure what we could do as historians seeking new audiences and new ways of talking about the past. It was very exciting to launch it and then see how much content we produced. Matt joined our team in Winter 2014, and after Kirk moved on, became the co-editor and primary contributor beside me. We had many talks about ways to expand the site, which were just as invigorating as my original conversations with Kirk. I never quite lost the thrill of seeing it update every week, and I thank them both for the many hours they have devoted to Clio’s. I am sure we will continue working together one way or another in the future.

I’d also like to thank our guest contributors and fellow historians who generously provided posts for us. One of the first was Kellen Kurschinski, who wrote about veterans several times and almost joined the team before moving on to greater things. Madeline Knickerbocker wrote a great piece on the Tsilhqot’in that I wished got more attention than it did. Trevor Ford has written for us several times now, and I think if we kept going, would have joined us as a much-valued regular contributor. His posts were always welcome as they offered explorations of history we never could have discussed on our own. Jocelyn B. Hunt gave us two fascinating and timely posts on Scottish independence during their referendum, and the commemorations of the Magna Carta. Our newest contributor, Laurent Carbonneau recently wrote the most popular post from our political history series, and I am sorry that we will not have the opportunity to have him back.

Finally, a thank you to you, our readers. Some of you have been reading us since the beginning, others might have subscribed via email or Twitter or Facebook and caught the occasional post. While we tried never to be too concerned about reader numbers, I guarantee you I looked every week to see how many had visited our site, what content was popular, and how you were getting here. I am thankful for every share, or mention, or comment we received. Knowing 100 people (or many more some weeks) read your work is a thrill that can’t quite be matched by ordinary publication.

I’d like to specifically thank our friends and families who have put up with seeing Clio’s pop up on Facebook or Twitter every week. Many of you have been our regular readers, and I have had countless conversations about our blog posts with many of you. I have always been better at talking through writing than speaking, so it was wonderful to be able to share our love of history with you.