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The Metrix

crunching the numbers on Vocal

By Randy BakerPublished 29 days ago 11 min read
image by author; AI-assisted

Overview

I've written two previous articles assessing different milestones I've achieved on Vocal. The first of these articles - Batting a 1,000 - was written on the occasion of reaching 1,000 reads on the platform. The second article - The Good, the Bad & the Unexpected - marked the publication of my 100th "story" on Vocal. Each of these articles provided an analysis of my "performance" on Vocal and I teased an upcoming article that would address the metrics that I use to track my activity and its relative success (or lack thereof). This is that article: The Metrix.

It has been more than two months since I passed the 1,000-read mark and about more than a month since I hit the 100-story mark. My travels and personal responsibilities have kept me from being as active on the platform lately, but as of this writing, I have a total of 116 stories/articles and have had 1,886 reads. Currently, I have 113 subscribers.

Vocal has recently indicated that they will be making upgrades to the site statistics available to Vocal Creators. Their statistics dashboard is somewhat limited, but they provide a useful foundation for understanding how our work performs.

For a Vocal Creator who wants to take a more serious look at their performance, it will require some additional number crunching. Other writers may have different goals, different priorities, and different information that is important to them, but this article will address my practices and observations. Hopefully, you can adapt these ideas to your purposes, or at least draw some inspiration.

Reads

The primary statistic that Vocal provides its writers is the reads for each story. This number is, arguably, the most important information available to us. The reason is that Vocal gives financial compensation based on the number of reads an author's work accumulates. In other words, the number of reads is tied directly to the amount of money a writer earns. For most of us, that's important. To earn more money, a writer needs to attract more readers. However, only tracking the number of reads and the pennies earned (literally) may not present a full picture of a writer's impact.

When we look at our Statistics dashboard, the stories are listed in order of the number of reads each has received. The top spot in Vocal's stat count goes to the story with the most reads.

For each 1,000 reads, a Vocal Creator earns $6.00. That's not a get-rich-quick endeavor, but fortunately, there are other ways to earn on Vocal and that is one of the reasons it pays to have a deeper understanding of one's metrics.

The more reads the better if you want to get paid, but do the number of reads tell us all there is to know about a piece's popularity? The short answer is, no. There is more to the story (pun intended).

Likes

The second statistic that Vocal provides us with is the number of likes each story garners. This is a tally of the times a reader actively engaged with your work by clicking the heart icon indicating that they like and/or support your work. The number of likes you receive does not directly impact your earnings, but it is a good gauge of how well you are connecting with your audience.

Whether they genuinely love your work or are merely being polite or supportive, the reader feels compelled enough by you or your work to take a tangible action. This is significant. Even if it doesn't translate directly to money earned, it should be obvious that there is an indirect correlation between likes and a writer's earnings.

Yet, the number of likes does not tell the full story any more than the number of reads tells us the full story. Neither statistic tells us, separately or in combination with each other, the relative popularity of each piece. Determining relative popularity requires a little math because Vocal does not break down that information in its current Statistics dashboard.

Popularity

To determine the popularity of each story on Vocal, I simply use the number of likes versus the number of reads to assign a percentage to each story.

A story that received 100 reads and 100 likes has 100% popularity. A story that received 100 reads and 50 likes has a 50% popularity. A story that receives 50 reads and 50 likes also has 100% popularity.

Relatively speaking, that makes the story with only 50 reads twice as popular as the story with 100 reads and only 50 likes. Why? Because everyone that read the story with 50 reads liked it. Only half of all readers liked the story with 100 reads and 50 likes.

Assigning popularity percentages in this manner can create a very different-looking list than ranking stories only by the number of reads.

Let's take a look at the numbers.

Top 25 by Popularity

  1. Salt of the Earth
  2. The Dragon in You
  3. The Power of Prompts
  4. Òkpátó
  5. Oppenheimer
  6. Sparks
  7. Tangerine Dreams
  8. Disbelief
  9. Simone's Duppy
  10. Welcome to Cartagena
  11. The Faces of Taras Bulba
  12. Third Date
  13. Yard Work
  14. Burial Rites
  15. Genesis
  16. The Long Way Home
  17. Uncle Jimmy
  18. Behind the Page: #1
  19. The Old Clothes Line
  20. Behind the Page
  21. Morning Glow
  22. The King of San Juan
  23. Under Siege
  24. Luther's Legacy
  25. Where Do We Go From Here

Bottom 25 by Popularity

  1. Revelatory Realism in Ibsen's Doll House
  2. Doctor Bird on a Winter's Da
  3. At King David's Tomb
  4. Down From the Mountain
  5. Softener of Evil Hearts
  6. Celestial Dance
  7. Heavenly Embrace
  8. Not Today
  9. Prompted #1
  10. Tomorrow
  11. The Riches of Poverty
  12. Prompted #3
  13. Prompted: #2
  14. Archipelagos by Geoffrey Philp
  15. Prompted #4
  16. 30
  17. Checkpoint
  18. Winner's Circle: Prompted #4
  19. His Indulgence You Sang
  20. The Tyranny of Progress in "Everyday Use" and "Dead Men's Path"
  21. Transfiguration
  22. Forgotten Times
  23. Saturday Afternoon
  24. It Lurks in Shadows
  25. Creation Song

    List Comparison

    As you can see, there is quite a bit of overlap between the least popular, per my metrics, and the most read. In other words, the most read tend to have a lower percentage of "likes".

    This isn't completely unexpected. I have noticed that most of the "likes" come early in a story's life cycle. Once the newness has worn off, the story may continue to get a few reads here and there, but fewer people hit that "like" button. Perhaps those people don't like the story that much, or people are simply less inclined to hit the thumbs up on an older story. There's no way to know with certainty, but I suspect it's a combination of factors.

    Regarding my writer's challenges and the follow-up result announcements, I imagine I have repeat readers driving those numbers up. Someone who plans to participate may check back on those posts multiple times, more so than for a poem or fiction piece.

    Anomalies

    There are some anomalies among these statistics. When I first started working on this article, there was one story that I considered an anomaly worth mentioning. Then, just overnight - last night, I had the same situation with a few of my more recent stories.

    "At King David's Tomb" had been languishing somewhere near the back of my stats pages with only 3 likes and very few reads. Then one day, I was shocked to see it had spiked into the top page of statistics dashboard. Overnight, it got a couple of dozen reads, but no more "likes". This continued for a few days until the poem plateaued at 3 likes and 75 reads.

    This event made me think there must be an outside source for these reads. I didn't have this experience with any of my other pieces until, literally, last night. Now, suddenly, a handful of the stories that are visible on the "front page" of my profile had significant spikes. Again, though, the spikes were in readership, without moving the needle on the "likes" meter.

    Barring the possibility of a glitch in Vocal's system, I feel the most likely explanation is that readers are coming from outside the Vocal community, but if that's the case, I have no idea who is linking to my profile and stories. I have tried using third-party backlink checkers and haven't found the source for these spikes.

    If you have any ideas of what drives this type of spike in reads, let me know in the comments.

Accolade Effect

Another aspect I wanted to look at is what I call the "accolade effect". What, if any, effect does it have on a story when it receives special attention from Vocal? This could be a Top Story designation, a contest placement, or a mention in the Weekly Leaderboards - that sort of thing.

I have written and submitted 10 pieces for official Vocal Challenges, but have yet to earn a winning placement. Only 2 of those 10 show up in my Top 25 Most Read stories, but they happen to be 2 of the stories that received a mysterious boost last night. Given the circumstances, I doubt those reads are related to the 2 poems being submitted to challenges.

Of course, there are also unofficial challenges being hosted by Vocal Creators and I've entered a few of those, as well. Out of 5 submissions to unofficial challenges, 2 of those pieces show up in my Top 25 Most Read list. Only 1 of the 5 stories I submitted to unofficial challenges had earned a prize placement.

I imagine that a winning placement in an official Vocal Challenge would get more eyes on a story, but so far, simply entering an unofficial challenge seems to draw more attention than simply entering an official challenge. I assume that it is easier to stand out in an unofficial challenge, because of the smaller number of entrants, but it is also noteworthy that unofficial challenges tend to attract some of the Vocal community's most active and supportive members.

If my count is correct, I have earned 7 Top Story accolades since joining Vocal. All 7 of those have a place in my Top 25 Most Read list. Even with the fast turnover on the Vocal splash page, getting a Top Story nod clearly works in driving traffic.

Aside from earning a prize from a challenge, particularly the official Vocal Challenges, the most potentially lucrative accolade one can receive is from the Weekly Leaderboard. Getting a spot on the Leaderboard pays better than a Top Story, but does it effectively drive traffic?

I've made it onto the Weekly Leaderboard 5 times. All but 1 of the stories that made the Leaderboard also placed in my Top 25 Most Read list. Of course, in this case, the story had to have already gotten some attention, which is how it ended up on the Leaderboard. However, anecdotally speaking, I have noticed that these stories tend to gain attention, taper off, and then get a new jolt of attention once they are on the Leaderboard.

By Genre

Vocal is divided into Communities, but I categorize my writing a bit differently. Your interests and purposes may differ, so it might make sense for you to categorize things your way. There are many ways this could be dissected, but this is how I have broken down my categories for analysis.

Below you will see the category, followed by the number of stories/articles in that category, and then the percentage that number represents in my overall Vocal catalog. For each category, I'll give a few thoughts and explore how that category performs relative to the others and the total.

Poetry: 75 [64.66%]

This is, by far, the biggest category for me. It not only makes up well over half of my contributions to Vocal, but it accounts for 60% of the titles on my Top 25 Most Read list. On the Top 25 Most Popular list, it racks up 56%. By either metric, this category is significant.

Fiction: 16 [13.79%]

The fiction category is my second highest in total, but only ranked in 4% of my total reads. Fiction packs a bigger punch in the Top 25 Most Popular, coming in at 20% of that list.

Essay: 9 [7.76%]

There are no essays in my Top 25 Most Read list - 0%. However, they make up 24% of the Top 25 Most Popular. That is quite a difference.

Contests & Prompts: 10 [8.62%]

Stories in this category include anything related to prompts and contests. Despite being less than 10% of my total output, these account for an impressive 36% of my overall reads. As for popularity, these stories make up 20% of my Top 25 Most Popular list.

Analysis: 5 [4.31%]

This category is not much of an earner and not very popular. On both lists - Most Reads and Most Popular, it garners the same 0%.

Review: 1 [0.86%]

Much like Analysis, Reviews doesn't make much of a splash, coming in at 0% in both the Top 25 Most Read and Most Popular metrics. In this case, with only 1 review, this is more expected.

Conclusions

The Poets Community on Vocal is the most popular, or at least has the most net activity. That seems to be reflected in the metrics for my Vocal catalog. This tells me to continue focusing on poetry. It is my bread and butter.

My observation is that Vocalites usually go for the short attention span stories; poetry and flash/micro fiction. My metrics seem to support this theory. Though my fiction pieces do not earn much, relatively speaking, they seem to be fairly popular by volume. However, it has been the flash and/or micro fiction that seems to generate the most interest. My standard-length short stories get notably less traction. This tells me that, although I go more for short stories, my Vocal audience prefers more compact fiction. If I want to cater to my readers, the indicators suggest I should put more effort into flash fiction. I'm not currently exploiting the market in this category, it would seem.

Although poetry may be my strong suit, overall, my experience and my metrics tells me that Vocal creators enjoy a good writing contest. The Contest & Prompt category outpunches all others, except for Poetry. Yet, when it comes to individual story performance, item for item, Contest & Prompts are my best earners. Three of my four highest-earning stories are from my Writer's Challenge series. All but one of the 10 stories in this category have landed in my Top 25 Most Read list. Poetry may be a longterm bread and butter category, but Contests & Prompts is the category I can count on for big, short bursts of activity.

If you have comments, or criticisms, or want to offer your take on how to measure "success" on Vocal, please do so in the comments. I would love to learn how other Vocal Creators parse their statistics and welcome any pointers on how to increase and improve performance

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About the Creator

Randy Baker

Poet, author, essayist.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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Comments (7)

  • D. J. Reddall28 days ago

    This is a very lucid, insightful analysis. Thanks for sharing it with other, ink-stained wretches!

  • Heather Zieffle 28 days ago

    Thanks for sharing this and trying to make it make sense!

  • Rachel Deeming29 days ago

    Randy, I love the way that you have valiantly tried to make sense of what to me has always seemed quite an unfathomable spread of data. I have stories that must be getting reads from elsewhere - a book review. I've tried to see if a third party is linking to it but no luck. Congratulations on your reads. That is great going and thanks for your challenges. They're a great addition to the community as are you.

  • Nelly Ngunjiri29 days ago

    Amazing analysis

  • Shaun Walters29 days ago

    Hell of an analysis

  • Anna 29 days ago

    great summary, keep up this amazing work! :)

  • https://vocal.media/writers/from-llama-to-chameleon-this-is-meta-s-new-multimodal-man-made-intelligence

Randy BakerWritten by Randy Baker

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