Greetings to whoever stumbles upon this article! We hope you stick around to read it. We’re going to talk about the current state of “communication” (in quotes on purpose) in the world today.

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

We’ve owned and operated NJroute22.com for pushing two years. And certainly, no strangers to “blogging,” as we ran a successful website previously (starting circa 2005 before the over-saturation of “social media.”)

However, our latest creation here is “struggling,” for lack of a better word.

It’s understandable that any good product (today) takes some time to grow – and requires a lot of patience, refinements, adjustments, and know-how.

But in 2019 and beyond, a major shift has occurred. Both in user behavior as well as how the technology works. Equally important.

The main point is, and we feel it has been forgotten – is the real value of independent websites and publishers!

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

Social Media has dramatically altered perception, accessibility, and visibility!

The majority of the populous now use social media apps on their tiny phone screens more than a web browser on a luxurious big-screen computer with a comfortable non-RSI-inducing keyboard.

About the only time they use that “antiquated” web thing-a-ma-bob (a browser), is when their social media post has a link that literally “burdens” them with having to leave the social media app to read more. God forbid!

And most of the time, they don’t even bother. Some popular platforms (like Instagram) don’t even allow creators to put clickable links in their posts, thus leaving them in that “walled garden.” That may work for some period of time (think AOL back in the day), and for some (non-web-based businesses) but it logically shouldn’t last forever. People don’t enjoy being “caged” ANYWHERE. But maybe the newer generations have no problem with self-imposed slavery?

And the fact that the most-used social media sites are quite “selective” about what appears on YOUR timeline should be enough to cause a mass exodus from these platforms. But that isn’t even close to happening. The user-addiction is too strong – as well as those so-called “algorithms.”

Social media sites are supposedly trying to influence the 2020 Presidential elections. That is the “word on the street” at least. What does that tell you?

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

Same with “internet searching” (and the results you get)

As “old school” web users with a website, we’ve noticed a downright profound change in the “Web” as we know it.

We cannot pinpoint exactly where or when (as it could have been gradual), but we noticed it as it hit us in the face with a brick.

Internet search results became AWFUL a few years ago. If I had to guess – I’d say it began around 2013 give or take.

Search results from any “major” engine always used to provide us with “happy” results. In other words – we solved our “query” satisfactorily. And most often also found “NEW” sources of quality information, products, stores, or whatever. The web used to be a great place to enrich our lives.

Since then – the results are almost always UTTER GARBAGE. Worse than useless. Damaging to the human brain!

The same bullshit “mainstream” sites. The same “ripoff” retail stores. And we don’t even search “news” whatsoever – because that has LONG been a corrupted pile of filthy propaganda. It’s clear they’re trying to “corral” the populous.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s just a general search engine either. Even YOUTUBE (also owned by Google) is difficult to navigate. They seem to prefer the quality of the video production and progressive ideals FAR over the integrity of the content or information.

It’s why it’s more important than ever to BOOKMARK and CURATE (via RSS) your trusted sources.

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

Timing plays a MASSIVE role

We should add that “websites” today are not nearly as “popular” overall than they were 10 years ago.

Sure, there are countless popular websites still – but the chances of making a living running a FREE publication are very slim. Especially if you’re just starting. And even more so if your topic is even slightly against the grain.

If you were able to build a following at the right time and maintained consistency with quality content – that is great. But starting a publication these days, regardless of how good the content requires a TON of work. Money helps, as does manpower. Independently-run sites like this (with a staff of exactly ONE) are next to impossible. Especially if you have a big family and other major “real life” responsibilities. Not everyone lives in their parents’ basements with nothing to be accountable for.

So what is so great about “independent” websites exactly?

We follow about a two-hundred (mostly-independent) websites. Some “mainstream,” too. It sounds like a lot – but we use an RSS Reader (one called InoReader) to essentially “scan” our own curated list of website publications. Like quickly viewing the “highlights” of the day. InoReader allows you to group your particular interests into categories or any other form of organization you prefer. Awesome – and we gladly pay each and every year for this tremendous service.

It is highly recommended that you acclimate yourself to the world of RSS readers. You’ll be relieved to regain control over your own “feed” of information, rather than relinquishing control of what you see to some “algorithm” that a social media site decides to impose on you. You can even subscribe to social media posts – without having to enter those awful places. (I think you need a paid subscription for that feature – well worth it!)

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

But we like independent websites because they’re typically not influenced by anything. Real people discussing ideas. Having civil conversations (most of the time). Uncensored exchanges.

We consider ourselves mature enough to handle any conversation whatsoever. It’s a shame that the rest of the world cannot take that position. Too many folks are “offended” and require a nanny to step in and sanitize their weak world.

Independent publications are fantastic because of the ideas, feelings, and uniqueness of it all. The ultimate sharing. Seeing other viewpoints (we subscribe and read many) that literally go against our own “bubble,” because it’s important to know how others think – and why. (Provided of course, if a civil conversation can take place.)

Most of all are the freedoms from censorship. There is nothing more crucial than the ability to exchange ideas and concepts – regardless of how insane or outlandish you might think they are. Why do you think it’s the FIRST amendment? Nothing good has happened (long term) that was watered-down or homogenized. Nothing. All great ideas were once considered radical or impossible.

(Note that the main purpose we also scan articles from (some) progressive/liberal sites – is because you still need to “keep a pulse” on what others are doing – in order to get the bigger picture a bit better. Believe me – it’s not enjoyable most of the time.)

Without organic search – engagement is most of the work?

Our philosophy for the past 15 years has always been “content first.” We still feel that way. We cannot shake the concept of “creating” before promoting. It’s like saying you sell great hamburgers but haven’t even turned the grill on yet.

(Have you seen how many businesses hype before opening? Amazing how people are easily duped prior to real experience!)

And when search engines worked properly, that was indeed the ticket to readership and engagement. You didn’t even need to tick all the boxes or do much extra work. The plain TEXT alone in your body of work was enough to get you “found.”

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

But today, that is not the case. The “seekers” of information (enlightenment) have dwindled – as the “receivers” (zombies) of auto-curated data seem to be the majority.

From what we gather – MOST of the “energy” required to build readership nowadays (if you’re just starting), must go into PROMOTING your product. Kind of hard to do in the beginning if your content is thin, right?

This promoting is now essentially a full-time job. Not impossible – but overwhelming to say the least.

And the major “social media platforms,” it appears – almost demand that you PAY (a significant amount of money) to become visible to people that might be interested in your publication. Organic growth is next to impossible when 99% of the population doesn’t even know other pages exist beyond “page one” in search results. Let alone page 10, 20, or 50. No one has the patience or attention span to find anything useful anymore. Dopes.

Time is not something everyone has. And to be fair, we understand that the online “marketplace” of ideas has certainly expanded exponentially in the past decade. If that requires a new set of steps – we get it. These new players in the arena of information exchange have altered the landscape – and publishers certainly need to adapt to some degree. It may come to a point where individual bloggers just cannot enter the “big leagues” anymore. And that will be a travesty.

What did you write this article for?

We were plugging along, consistently creating content for NJroute22.com (within the realms of our capacity as an individual). That meant one new post per day. 365 days per year. Most are original – with an occasional “guest post.”

The format changed over time. We do three videos per week plus four written articles. We try our best to focus on central NJ but have topics that cover general interests as well.

We use an auto-poster to “promote” our work on a few “major” social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest), in order to try and boost readership. We find social media usage sickening. We understand the addictive nature – and do everything possible to avoid that cesspool. Unfortunately – that is “where the eyeballs are.”

In looking at our Google Analytics – NONE of those social media platforms have provided us ANY significant traffic to our web property. 90% of our visitors came from “organic” search.

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

Instagram was doing okay, all things considered. We had close to 2,500 followers. Nothing compared to the superficial personalities who get tens of millions of followers. And our fingers were bleeding from the number of “hashtags” (stupid) we had to type each and every day.

BUT INSTAGRAM BANNED US!

We have no controversial content. Nothing offensive (other than truth and honesty). They offered no specific explanation other than a link to their “terms and conditions,” which we appeared not to violate. One post a day about topics that interested us?

It caused us to contemplate our direction with this website.

Maybe it is time to shift focus to the “up and coming?”

So as I said just above, all the work we’ve been doing trying to “promote” on the mainstream social media sites was getting NOTHING in return. So the banishment from Instagram didn’t hurt as much. We did have a decent following that allowed us some perks from companies that wanted us to review products or books – but minimal at the most.

This was a blessing in disguise.

Because I was just creating content – and optimistically waiting for the tide to turn. Readership overall (on the site – as well as YouTube) was slowly increasing. We thought that patience would be the sole factor.

But after the banishment, we decided to look a bit deeper. Maybe it’s time to engage everyone else EXCEPT the “big boys” of internet eyeballs.

(For example – we get more views on Bitchute with no promotion – than we get with YouTube despite tags, and other promotional settings.)

So we’re going to investigate a few new platforms to promote our content going forward. Won’t be fast – but we have renewed objectives now that already ineffective (major) social media sites are stifling us.

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

But how effective are the new platforms?

We haven’t deeply researched other alternatives much yet. There are so many – it’s hard to keep track.

But for video – you have some like BitChute, DLive, Brighteon, and others.

And as far as “social media” (which we don’t really like to begin with – as it’s just another layer to muck things up), you have new platforms like Gab, etc. But like we said – the whole model behind social media disturbs us. Not sure if it’s “TMI” or too distracting to delve deep into subjects or pick up on nuances that you’d usually formulate over the long-term. Everything moves too fast.

Podcasts seem to be a good option. We have this on the backburner at the moment. You can turn any youtube video into a podcast if done properly.

Old-school marketing?

Yes – the old way still works. Getting your name out will probably always require some rolling your sleeves up. Guest posts. Message boards. Website comments, etc. But these days – even with hard work and tons of time invested – the odds are slimmer than ever.

Some say that ads on the big social networks might work (for some). We highly doubt it would work for a site like ours and are not willing to invest whatever little money we have to find out that it was a waste of time.

We don’t know what direction to take in our situation.

Why independent websites matter {more than ever!}

Against the grain content is a hard sell in 2019 and beyond

Critical or “cynical” people are not well-regarding these days. I’ve even seen a few companies that suggest that they will not hire people with any cynicism at all!

Asking folks to “think” about why things are the way they are is almost a recipe for banishment or exile.

Peeling back the layers or “getting back to basics” frightens many people it appears.

So many individuals have become so set in their mindsets that anything that challenges it is practically offensive. Maybe even “hate speech!”

The world is becoming weak, politically-correct, and literally homogenized. Groupthink. Mob rule.

Any suggestions on how to grow (with limited resources?)

Many sites that are at least semi-established with some regulars find success in “tip jars” and other forms of direct donation (PayPal, Patreon). The key operative is “semi-established.”

But how can you even become partially established?

The online world is more crowded than ever. And new ideas or personalities are lost in a large sea of competition.

YouTube creators have incredible professional production quality. Other blogs and sites have their audiences much of the time because of political mindsets (conservative, liberal, etc.) Or celebrity or other “trending” pop-culture nonsense.

Who has time for a “general interest” site anymore?

Most of those people are blissfully engaged in other “feel good” nonsense that exists these days. Most local sites we run into are nauseating to read. Not one ounce of truth or reality.

In fact, the majority of these local blogs we see – are just phony feel-good bullshit promoters. Offering zero critical thinking, and most are invisibly sponsored (i.e., get free stuff to say nice things).

Considering the massive number of visibly depressed people I see out in the wild – it doesn’t correspond with the happy-happy sites we see everywhere. A total disconnect from reality.

So how does a general interest website like ours get traction?

Give up? It’s a lost cause?
Try to pick a subject and go national (or global?)
Become fake and just “like and love” everything we review? (We’ll never do that – we cannot be fake ever)
Begin a life of crime and degeneracy? Document it all?

Self-critique: Do we offer any value to the readers?

In short: We think we do.

The website is a reflection of our lives. We try to promote knowledge, critical-thinking, and well-being. Share real-world experiences that we can prove anyone can find success in.

  • 150 videos per year. Including healthy-living (low-carb), as well as unhealthy living (alcohol reviews), and many other general videos like repairs, consumerism, retail, etc.
  • Commerce and shopping (especially food).
  • Questioning the “defacto” standards that most people don’t.

Perhaps we over-optimistically hope that others will find our content compelling. Maybe the fact that we have very few “friends” that we actually like and find interesting is a big clue.

The ugly truth is more likely that most people believe “mainstream” propaganda (since it’s psychologically designed), and cannot fathom finding fault in anything. In fact, people like us who have more cynical outlooks are “haters” and they don’t want to listen whatsoever. Sort of like this:

But we know we’re not alone in our thoughts.

Many of the sites we read are frequented by others who (in our observations), have similar mindsets – and would likely find at least some interest in some of our content!

However, we do understand we’ve created a site that is, well, “a hard sell.” Why?

  • We avoid local politics (like city council meetings, and other bullshit – which were once huge traffic-getters on previous websites.) Although we sporadically cover some common-sense conservative ideals, as well as some libertarian mindsets i.e., “live and let live.”
  • Minimal cotton-candy and rainbows. In other words, we’re not fake. Our cynicism is obvious. Not quite “get off my lawn, you meddling kids,” but not far either.
  • Old-school “tell it like it is” aura. Much of what we read elsewhere, is sugar-coated and “tippy-toe” apologetic in nature. Appears that many writers try to use “proactive” measures to minimize offending people. We do not. We’re confident in our words and assertive in our messages. That is considered threatening to most Americans in 2019.

It’s quite possible we’re bad writers or vloggers. Not “bad” in a bad way, but “bad” because we’re not following some cookie-cutter formula that works to increase engagement.

Maybe we talk too much or don’t get to the point fast enough (this post is 3,000 words!) Or it can be the fact that the collective attention-span has changed (for the worse), and unless we cannot smash home a point in under 30-seconds (or 240-characters), we shouldn’t bother.

I sure hope not. We still read (physical) books, and other “TL;DR” content (internet slang for “too long, didn’t read.”)

We cannot be the only ones.

So what next?

About the author

NJroute22

NJroute22 (site admin) is an avid traveler along NJ Route 22 (and almost all of central New Jersey!) Family man, pet lover, and property owner who has a natural curiosity for everything around.

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