Blogosphere

Fifteen years of Down the Road

Fifteen years ago today, I published my first post on this blog. You can read it here.

Down the Road, v. 1.0

I didn’t know that day how central to my life this blog would become. But it has. I think about what I’m going to write and share here often, and I work on it at least a little most days.

On this blog’s tenth anniversary I had a whole bunch to say and wrote several posts. On the fifteenth, I don’t. But everything I said on the tenth anniversary is still true enough; go read it all here.

Three years ago today I expressed considerable frustration that my blog hasn’t achieved greater reach. I felt, and still feel, sure that there are others out there who would enjoy what I write and photograph if only they could find me.

I’ve worked hard over the last few years behind the scenes to make my blog more findable. I upgraded to WordPress.com Business to get access to SEO tools, which I’ve used heavily. It took a lot of effort, but I’ve now optimized this site to look like it’s about film photography to Google, even though I write about a whole bunch of topics. It has helped many of my film-photography posts, particularly camera reviews, rank higher in search results. But that hasn’t translated into many new readers who have subscribed. My readership has plateaued; my stats bear it out.

My annual stats at the end of 2021

Now it’s time for me to experiment with the new content I publish, to find ways to draw people in. I’ve generally avoided opinion pieces here (beyond reviews), but have started trying my hand at writing them. It is my hope that as I share them around the Internet, they will bring new readers and make them want to stick around.

Additionally, I’m in the process of changing my posting schedule around a little. It’ll inject fresh energy, both for you and for me.

I also plan to give the blog a new look and feel this year. I like the look I have now, a lot. But sadly, the theme that powers it has fallen behind the times technologically and can’t take advantage of all of WordPress’s latest features. If there’s anything I’ve learned in more than 30 years in technology as a career, it’s to stay current.

This blog is a lot of work. It is personally satisfying work, which is why I’ve kept at it. But I want it also to keep growing in readership — and if it’s not doing that, I have to question whether I continue to invest in it at the level I have.

Now I’d like to turn things over to you. I’d love to know who you are, where you’re from, how you found my blog, and how long you’ve read it. Especially if you’re a new reader or a longtime lurker — please leave a comment and tell me!

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74 thoughts on “Fifteen years of Down the Road

  1. Emilian Cirtina says:

    I am from Lancaster, UK.
    I am a Baptist Minister and an avid landscape photographer using film and digital

  2. Hi. You already know all that about me.

    I have taken the opposite tack, and have made peace with knowing that I won’t be going viral and getting famous for my blog. I have completely ignored SEO and even cross-platform promotion. If I wanted more influence I would be making a podcast or doing Tik Tok videos. But I hope you have success with your growth goals because it is a priority for you.

  3. Hello Jim, I followed your Blog because you were one of the first to comment and follow mine when I had just started blogging. I always find your blog posts interesting, especially as we both have an interest in cameras and film photography. I’m based in the UK in Leicester.

  4. Edie Breneman says:

    Happy Anniversary!
    I enjoy your road trip blog entries. The camera info & book reviews, not so much. But I usually read them anyway. I hope to travel the roads you talk about, We usually take short trips in Indiana and in Illinois and follow old roads. In fact we avoid interstate roads on longer trips, too.
    Keep writing and I will do my part and keep reading!

  5. Sue Ann Frazier says:

    I have been following you for sometime now. Your blog is one of the highlights of my day. Thank you for everything you do.

  6. Andy Umbo says:

    Congrats on the 15 years! I came for the old camera information and reviews. You’re not an “expert”, but I enjoy the “enthusiasts” viewpoint of old gear. I like the historic road and building entries as well.

    I can honestly say that op/ed stuff would be more of a turn-off for me. I used to go to, read, and comment on another photographic web site that got so far afield with wrist-watch and car opinions (especially since a lot of readers comments turned out to show the dilettante nature of the readership), that I virtually stopped reading it and might check it maybe once a week. Again, your viewpoint of an “enthusiasts” view of old cars you see on the street, etc., is more interesting than dilettantes arguing over why you can’t get a decent watch for under a thousand dollars!

    Politics is also a gross turn-off, mostly because most entries of this stuff on the average blog site usually shows the lack of education or practical societal experience of the blogger. It’s always amazing how some bloggers who haven’t been anywhere, done anything, and are bereft of a wide world of experience, think their opinion has value. An instant “never read again” vote by me. I was taught as a youth that everyone has a valid opinion, something I’ve found to be absolutely false in my life.

    Good luck Jim! I can honestly say that my daily “blog check” first thing in the morning, changes over time, and if you looked at what I was checking 5 and 10 years ago today, I might not even go to those sites ever now. Finite amount of time, and so many sites change to improve readership but end up losing me!

    • Don’t worry, I’m unlikely to do major political commentary or write about luxury watches. My commentary will be about things I already write about.

  7. Congratulations on the milestone, Jim! I’ve been reading your blog for about 7 of those 15 years, starting around the time we worked together.

    I appreciate your persistence to your blog. I used to blog quite a bit between 2002 and 2007, but the writing bug seems to have left me. I have started several times since then to no avail.

  8. Anne C Peden says:

    Upstate South Carolina. I’m interested most in your stories and pictures of the roads and historic sites. Been following for 3 or 4 years.

  9. Shirley B. says:

    HI Jim, I’m from The Netherlands and I found your blog because I was trying to find photo’s of a youth hostel in Eisenach. Went there with secondary (or high school) in 1983, so this was still East-Germany. This trip made a lasting impression.

    I didn’t find the photos I was searching for, but I did find your blog titled: “It happened at the Wall”. Your description of East-Berlin in 1984 was exactly as I remembered it from 1983. I started browsing through your blogs and subscribed. I don’t read all of them, as I like taking pictures, but am too lazy to learn about techniques to improve them. But I do like looking at your blogs about old roads and landmarks. Travelling to your part of the world, from the comfort of my own home.

    I also like to read your other blogs, though I often refrain from commenting on them.

    if you continue blogging, I’ll continue reading.

  10. DougD says:

    Congratulations on 15 years Jim. You already know all about me too: Engineer, car guy, goofball, guitar player, Christian, husband and dad.

    Would like to cross paths again with you & Margaret someday.

  11. Greg Clawson says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary Jim! I am a daily reader from Lafayette, IN
    I found your blog by searching for reviews on my Nikon F2, and stayed for the stories you write. Thank you for your work you do, many of your posts have been very helpful to me.

  12. KEN BANDY says:

    Hi Jim. I first heard about your blog several years ago when you posted an article on FB about the old US 40 alignment west of downtown Indy. I have always been interested in “infrastructure history”. That, and the fact that you graduated from Rose Hulman, just down the road from my childhood home “hooked me”.

  13. arhphotographic says:

    Greetings from Surrey, England. I honestly can’t remember how I came across your blog but I’m very pleased I did. Thank you for your constant inspiration. Andrew

  14. Andrew says:

    Hi Jim,
    I found your blog when I was first researching about my first film camera many years ago. I landed on K1000 and still uses it till this day.
    Your blog is my go to page for comparing different cameras and I’ve shared your blog to many friends who are interested in film photography.
    Thanks for your work!

  15. Congratulations on the anniversary! I’m in Lafayette, IN. I originally found your blog years ago when searching for old highway maps and other historical information.

    I take your readership plateau as a sign of success. My sense is that personal blogs are on the wane (but clearly not dead yet), so keeping a consistent level of readership against such a background is impressive.

    Ultimately, your blog is for you. The fact that you have dedicated readers is a bonus. We overemphasize growth, when sustainability is perhaps more important. We see this in the tech sector all of the time, as you well know.

    • That’s a good way to look at it: that my plateau is a sign of success. It’s true, blogs are on the wane. The eyeballs are all on social media and I don’t see that changing.

      I love to write; it’s why I started this blog. Also, with a blog I own my content — even though I’m on WP.com I can export everything and set up WP on my own server any day I want. A podcasting or video outlet requires me to rely on someone else’s platform, which doesn’t feel good to me.

      I do want to be careful not to seek growth for its own sake. I want to write about what I want to write about. I could get more eyeballs by pandering to the mass audience, but then this wouldn’t be about stuff I care about anymore. I just feel sure that I haven’t found everyone yet who will enjoy what I do here. That’s the kind of growth I hope to achieve, whatever stats it ends up giving me.

  16. Kevin says:

    Reading you here in Houston. First found you on Curbside Classic about 8 years ago, and followed you over here. I particularly like your musings on classic cars (obviously), road trips, and 70s-80s era TV.

  17. tbm3fan says:

    I am curious about one thing and that is why viewership means so much to you. You seem disappointed in that readership plateaued and that it is almost a sign of failure. It is not the first time you have mentioned viewership either. If me, I would be satisfied that I have a decently sized and pretty loyal readership regardless, especially since I would have had no goal of deriving income from said blog. You may have already answered this as I see I am not the only one who has noticed.

    • Part of it is that I know for a fact that some other film-photo sites that started after mine get a million plus pageviews a year, and I’m at least as good as any of them. So I guess some of what drives me is jealousy.

      But there are two other reasons. First, I do believe that there are more people in the world who will enjoy my work if only they could be connected with it. Second, my experience in the tech industry is that anything that’s not growing, even if slowly, is actually dying. I want to keep doing this but it will seem silly to if readership falls off or fails.

  18. gmalcom says:

    Jim, I’ve followed your blog since I first saw your wonderful history on Traders Point. Your “Down The Road” information is what I most enjoy and I’ve passed on your link to a couple of other out-of-state friends. PLEASE keep reporting the history of out-of-the-way places on our historic roads!

  19. Jim, congrats on 15 years! I wish I could remember how I found your blog—I can’t— but it is one of the few that I read every day. I like the mixture of topics and photographs. I especially like that you tell stories.

    I’ll be following closely as you make changes. Your blog has more reader engagement than any others I’ve seen, and that alone is surely a sign of success.

    • Thanks Jerome! I love the level of engagement there is here. I’ve worked to build it over the years. Maybe I just need to be satisfied with that.

  20. I’ve been following you for about 6 months. I like the old buildings you picture but sometimes just skim the narratives, depending on the story. I always look forward to your book reviews and camera stories.

    It’s nice to see you pop up in my inbox every day.

  21. Hi Jim, congratulations on the fifteen years! I don’t know exactly when I started reading your blog but one of the earliest entries I recall was an offer for sale of several cameras, one of which was the plain prism chrome Nikon F and 50/1.4 Nikkor that I bought from you and still use regularly.

    I am a retired telecom engineer, living in a 55+ condominium community on the Jersey Shore, shooting film, making inkjet prints and sporadically posting to a little blog on related topics. But photography is really my second avocation. I am primarily a musician, singing with a mixed professional and volunteer choir, playing a variety of free reed musical instruments, and writing tunes for performance at contra-dance events.

    I am looking forward to seeing the new directions you are taking your blog. While I do not always agree with your views I do always find them well reasoned, clearly argued and frequently thought provoking.

  22. I started following your blog when you were trying to get a 1,000 followers on Twitter and only needed a few more to reach that goal. I had no knowledge whatsoever of photography and not a huge interest…technically speaking anyway. I do appreciate beautiful images. To my surprise, I have enjoyed your blog very much and look forward to your posts. I especially enjoy the essays and slice of life stories. I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. I hope you keep writing your blog for years to come.

  23. Congratulations on 15 years! I’ve been following for 2 years now and read your blog posts every morning in my email. I first discovered Down the Road through your film photography which I quite enjoy, but I also like the mix of topics and personal stories.

    I’m glad to hear that you will be experimenting with new content and look forward to seeing how your blog evolves over time. Perhaps we will see more about whiskey and even some reviews? I’m particularly fond of Lagavulin, the Distiller’s Edition. ;)

    Thanks for following my blog as well! It means a lot to me to connect in some way with others in the film photography community.

    Cheers!

    • I’ve thought about writing whiskey reviews. Might be fun!

      One major reason I do this is because as a kid in the 70s, collecting cameras, I had nobody to talk with about it. Now thanks to the Internet, I’ve found my people!

  24. Dan Cluley says:

    I started with cars & cameras, but definitely enjoy the roads & maps posts as well.

    I don’t know if good stats are available, but it would be interesting to compare your numbers to blogs as a whole. It would not surprise me at all, that total blog visits are down enough for your plateau to be relative growth.

    There is also the quantity vs quality argument. It isn’t exactly the same, but I have noticed that my videos on Youtuve are pretty consistant in view numbers, but that if one gets a lot of extra views, the percentage watched goes way down. At what point are you grabbing more views, but not really more readers?

  25. Fifteen years is a long time…I live at the bottom of the world in the very south of New Zealand, found your blog when I first got back into film photography about four years ago. I like your camera reviews and photography posts, also appreciate your honesty about life, it’s challenges, and how your faith fits into all of that. I find that resonates with me, as I think we are all coping with unexpected change these days, some more than others. I also appreciate you reading my blog from time to time. Keep going!

  26. Oliver says:

    Hey Jim, congrats on 15 years! I found your blog in 2016 when I really started getting in to film photography. I guess what I like about your site is the film photography focus but without the hype and breathless commentary on whatever piece of plastic that some guy found in a dumpster on the outskirts of Bangkok (looking at you Casual Photophile…).

    There’s a million review blogs/podcasts/youtube videos about film and I keep reading Down the Road as it’s refreshing and profoundly human. Hell, I live in France, and there’s zero chance I’ll ever drive or ride the roads of Indiana, and yet I find your travels fascinating and illuminating.

    Best wishes for the next 15.

    • Yeah, I’ve noticed that in the last five years or so there’s a lot of near worship of crappy cameras on the blogs. I’m happy to shoot a crappy camera every now and again for the fun of it, and even write about it, but as you’ve figured out I don’t tend toward breathlessness. Thanks for being along for the ride!

  27. Peter Paar says:

    I am a retired Systems Analyst living in Savannah, Georgia since 1986. I was raised on Long Island and lived in New York City from 1952 until my move south.

    I can’t remember how long I have been following your blog. I started when you still has a section on old TV shows. I found your blog through Google and have enjoyed it daily ever since. I must admit that I do not share your enthusiasm for old roads (I do like the photos). I am looking forward to future articles.

    • You’ve been here for a good while if you remember my Vintage TV entries. I still write those, but maybe once every 2-3 years. They used to be a much more frequent subject. Thanks for being a longtime reader!

  28. Jim, what a landmark, well done for getting this far!

    I discovered your blog perhaps nine years ago when I was in my film photography phase (from mid 2012 onwards), and inevitably I arrived here via a google search for a film camera review (a Minolta I think?).

    As I reader I don’t mind opinion pieces, in fact that’s what a blog is for, for us to share our own view on the world, usually via a specific interest that others will connect with. This includes personal pieces about family, which you’ve always been generous and open with.

    Whilst I’m not particularly into one religion or other, I certainly don’t mind your pieces about your own faith, it’s interesting to read what others believe and take strength, and their stories in trying to craft a personal faith that works for them.

    What I wouldn’t like to see personally is anything political. I have little interest in UK politics and even less in US politics, no offence. I think many of us make and visit these blogs as a haven from the kind of news, politics, anger, aggression, conflict and fear mongering that proliferates so much of the internet now.

    I see a blog as a kind of favourite little back street coffee shop where we go to hang out with people we like and who interest us, where we can have stimulating conversations around shared loves. A retreat from the insanity of the wider world.

    • I avoid politics, except in some of my COVID-19 updates. I’ve gotten some mighty negative reaction when I’ve gone political, which makes me rethink writing more of it. I really don’t want people to have bent feelings here, or to end up in arguments in the comments.

      I like your coffee shop metaphor.

      • Yeh I think even if we have a small core of readers who are also kind enough to comment. I feel a certain responsibility that the place we’re providing for discussion should be more civil and friendly than many of the aforementioned sites and corners of the internet. You don’t want to invite people in your house then fuel or incite arguments unnecessarily.

  29. NigelH says:

    Congratulations Jim on 15 years; I am happy to be a part of your community and am always impressed by your ability to deliver interesting posts on a regular basis.

    Not sure there is much to say about me, we have conversed on many occasions :)

    Good luck with your upcoming plans, I look forward to seeing/reading!

  30. Peggy says:

    Happy belated anniversary, Jim. I found your blog x number of years ago when I attempted to revive my film photography hobby. The revival didn’t last but my enjoyment of your blog (all topics) has endured. It is at the top of my Sunday reading list and has resulted in discovering other writers of interest through your Recommended Reading posts. I look forward to what the future holds for Down The Road. Be well and happy, Peggy from Wisconsin

  31. I, like many others, came to this site via Google for camera reviews. I loved the style and that you gave an honest opinion of what cameras worked and what didn’t. I think I even bought one of your thin the herd cameras. I will say since the start of 2020 I’ve went from getting the blog daily in an email to weekly. I still enjoy the camera reviews and some of the Indiana content, as my family traces it’s roots there back to the early 1800’s. I don’t much care for the political stuff. As others have said. But it’s 100% your space to write about you want. I’ve also tried my hand at blogging in fits and starts since 2016 and I admire the dedication you put into your blog when others has pivoted to podcasts and video. I for one would still rather read than watch or listen. Congrats on 15 years. Here’s to 15 more!

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