Saturday, 19 July 2008

Lies, Damned Lies and Webstats

My somewhat valedictory note about my website Trash Fiction yesterday reminded me that I did do a sort of blog-type thing for the site in 2003, though I never posted it. I think it was intended as an email newsletter. In any event, the only bit I can find is the following passage, which I reproduce for my own interest, if not yours.
I’d like to point out that I’m not as obsessive about webstats these days. Possibly because my current hosting company don’t provide such detailed information.

When I first started Trash Fiction, I had no idea why I was doing it, where it was going or why anyone would ever want to visit it. Two years down the line, and all that’s changed. Now I know why people visit it.

I know because of my addiction to the webstats helpfully provided by my hosting company. On a daily basis they tell me what it was that people entered in search engines in order to arrive at my site. And it turns out that the most common names are Fiona Richmond, Rudolph Hess and Mandy Rice Davies. Well they would be, wouldn’t they?

Nestling just behind this curious trinity are mini-skirts, teen teases and wrestlers (both female and professional). A little further down the charts, I find Tommy Steele and the late Arthur Mullard neck-and-neck with Joyce McKinney, she of manacled Mormon fame, whilst Oh! Calcutta and Nell in Bridewell are also doing good traffic.

In short, despite what I consider to be a pretty wide-ranging selection of books, many of them neglected and forgotten masterpieces of popular culture, what it really comes down to is sex. To be more specific, British sex. With a bit of light entertainment on the side.

And, of course, Herr Hess.

Except that there’s also Peter Tinniswood to give me hope that something a little more elevated is pulling in the punters. Actually he represents a fairly strong current, which seems to correlate to a Radio 4 audience. The visitors coming in for Tinniswood escalated enormously immediately following his death, and received a further boost when some of his work was repeated in tribute to him. Similarly a Radio 4 documentary on the Angry Brigade saw a short-lived wave of anarchists storming the Google barricades.

Presumably there are also explanations, of which I’m ignorant, for the other peaks. In January 2003, for example, more than a hundred people turned up in pursuit of Lindi St Clair (the absurdly endowed prostitute and former parliamentary candidate for the Correction Party), but in the following five months she received not a single visitor. Whatever it was that Ms St Clair did last January, I’m afraid I missed it.

Then there are the one-offs, the searches that have only ever worked on one occasion: ‘Billy Connolly’s incidental music’, ‘eternal nymphet’ and – a particular favourite for the more intrepid holiday-maker – ‘Satan World’.

But I suspect some of these entries are circular. The fact that someone once came in search of ‘alistair campbell porn forum’ intrigued me sufficiently to try it out myself, and I found myself visiting the weblog of someone ruminating on the fine distinction to be made between art and porn. (Mr Campbell’s early work, needless to say, fell into the latter camp.) The fact that I did so will register on the webstats of the person running that site and no doubt I too will go down as a one-off freak.

Mostly though, the charts are dominated by regulars: people or books who are at least mentioned in Trash Fiction, but who don’t get much of a look-in elsewhere. Which means essentially the minor figures of British culture as remembered by the over-forties. People like the great Kent Walton.

‘Have a good week … till next week.’ That was his catchphrase.

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