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Was it just me, or was it kind-of a slow blogging week? I was up until 5:30 last night (what with the time change and all) working on a little project I’ll reveal tomorrow, so it might just be that I’m bleary-eyed.

and a new blog that fits in nicely with tomorrow’s project post:

That’s it for this week – I’m off to enjoy the 70° weather with Mojo!

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I have finally reduced my RSS feeds (for horse-related sites) to under 20 posts. Whew!

A few people mentioned after yesterday’s post that they were unsure about feed readers and how to go about setting them up. If you have more than 10 blogs that you visit daily or even weekly, I highly recommend that you set up some sort of reader so you will be notified of new posts and be able to read all of your blogs from one page. (As I’ve said before, I always visit the original site, but I tend to wait until I see that I have about 3 posts to read, or until I feel moved to comment on a post.)

I started out with Newsgator about 3 years ago, and I think it works well. However, I’m happier with Google Reader for a few reasons: I like the way it seamlessly integrates with my other Google applications; it’s very intuitive to use and organizes feeds in a way that makes sense to me (particularly as a Gmail user); and it has a wonderful feature that enables the user to share posts of note with other readers. I’ve made use of that feature by adding a link on the sidebar (Equus Palaverous Reader) that will take you to a list of posts I’ve found interesting as I peruse my feeds. I thought about simply using that page as my link round-up, but decided that I wanted to be able to share useful and interesting non-horse-related posts as well as continue to spotlight good blogging each week through a post dedicated to my favorite blog entries. It’s more work, but blogs are also rated by virtue of the amount of links to entries, so I want to add to that for the authors’ sake. (We all want to be loved and admired, right?)

If you visit the EqP Reader page, you will also be able to set up your own account, if you would like one. It’s very easy, and you can also set up a bookmarklet that will allow you to subscribe to a feed when you are visiting a site with one click. Please email me if this is difficult or makes no sense and I would be happy to help you. (Mrs. Mom, I mean you!)

On to the second Google application I think is mostly unknown (in non-geek circles) and worth checking out: Google Notebook. Google Notebook is the best thing since sliced bread, no doubt about it – at least if you are an avid web researcher and sorting through mountains of information. Google Notebook allows you to clip posts, photos, videos, links, and text that captures your attention and place it in a notebook where it can be easily organized and accessed. I use it for all kinds of stuff – blogs I’d like to check out but don’t have time to read right now, articles that spark an idea for a post, books I’d like to read or look up later, web hacks, tricks, and tips I want to use but don’t have the time to implement, etc., etc., etc.. Again, an added feature is that you can make any of your notebooks public, and I have done so with the notebook I use to gather ideas and information for this blog. You can find it on the sidebar as Equus Palaverous Notebook. If you glimpse through it, you will see many of the links and other stuff I used in setting up the blog and in my first posts, as well as topics I will come back to sooner or later. I can see a hundred applications for different notebooks based on the user’s network and interests, and it’s really worth checking out. Like everything else Google, it’s very easy to use.

Finally, I’d like to mention Google Books, and my personal web library (Equus Palaverous Library, in the sidebar). Nuzzling Muzzles mentioned that she has a whole stack of books to review, and here’s what I think is great about putting those reviews on a separate page and linking to them on your blog: When someone who knows nothing about the horse blogosphere looks up a horse-related book on Google Books, your review and link to your blog will be available to them. That means you have opened up a door of information for that reader, as well as increasing the visibility of your blog. Bingo! Everybody wins. I made my library with the idea that I would go back and review every single book in the list, which is a daunting task but one I intend to keep. I love reading reviews and often base my purchases on the research I do via Amazon and Google Books. Another personal library application that people love is LibraryThing, but it is geared more toward social networking and doesn’t have the benefit of leading a book searcher to your blog.

I’ve touched on these Web 2.0 applications and others on my tech page, but have yet to write about them in depth. That is coming soon, for those of you who are interested! Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Google – I’ve just found these particular applications to work very, very well.

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I spend a lot of time trying to keep up with all of my horse blogs – although using an RSS reader makes it simpler, the entries still seem to proliferate like OTTB’s. I like to visit all of my sites at least once a week so their stats reflect my readership, and so I can check out any new links or sidebar content that might not be reflected in the RSS feed. With that in mind, I thought a nice feature might be to have a once-a-week link round-up to some of my favorite posts. (Some of these posts are older than a week due to my new immersion in the horse blogging world, but as this feature continues, I’ll be keeping them within a weekly timeframe.)

There are really wonderful, instructive and entertaining writers out there – please visit them and let them know you enjoy their work!

UPDATE:  I just found Deanna’s similar post from January at Improving Communication Between Horse and Rider.

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Where are all the horse people?

Looking at the advertising pages of some of the most popular, professional horse sites, such as Horse Channel, The Horse, HorseWeb, DreamHorse, HorseCity and Equisearch, I see that these sites get between 550,000 and 6.8 million visits per month – not bad for a niche market. Equisearch says that their research shows that over 90% of horse owners are internet-savvy, using the web to look up information and shop for new tack and apparel. Given these numbers, I wonder where all the horse people are when it comes to blog traffic. There has been a marked increase in horse blogs in the last 18 months and some of these blogs are truly well-crafted, well-written sources of information and entertainment. Yet many of the most linked-to sites get less than 10 comments per entry.

I am obviously not privy to the stats of each individual site, so I can only guess at traffic based on comments. It may be that for some reason horse blogs have an unusually large audience of lurkers, who enjoy reading or visiting the sites but decline to comment. However, given how passionate and opinionated most horse enthusiasts are, that seems surprising to me. Another possibility is that the majority of horse owners read their blogs through an RSS reader, as I do myself. This of course means that even though the content is still being read, the actual site isn’t being visited and therefore is registering a misleadingly low visitor count. (It’s for this reason that I visit my RSS sites at least once or twice a week.) Still, a number of RSS readers show how many people are subscribed through the reader to each site, and the numbers are low, if not virtually non-existent.

Of course there are exceptions to this trend, such as the charming and clever Bazzy Boy, winner of the 2007 Webbies Best Animal Blog, which seems to hold an appeal beyond the horse world to pet lovers in general, much like I Can Has Cheezburger? appeals to far more than cat fanciers. Another site with a very respectable number of comments to each post is Fugly Horse of the Day, which provides a scathing commentary on ads for horses taken off of Craigslist and other sources akin to a Go Fug Yourself for horse lovers, albeit with a much more serious message about the perils of backyard breeding. But these exceptions exist at least in part because the blogs have been able to cultivate an audience outside of horse enthusiasts, which does nothing to answer my original question of where the horse people are in relation to blog traffic.

We know the audience exists – after all, the number of horse owners and enthusiasts has risen each year for the last two decades, and a majority of this audience is female, a demographic that lends itself to reading exactly the kind of horse blogs that most owners create – personal, inclusive, and character-specific. The rapid rise in readership of Confessions of a Pioneer Woman shows just how successful this style can be, particularly when presented in an elegant and creative package. The most successful mainstream books on horses of the last few years – The Tao of Equus, Seabiscuit, The Man Who Listens to Horses – all used personal stories to drive the narrative forward and engage the emotionally-driven sentiment that horses produce in even the most jaded of readers.

How do we tap into this audience and, even more on-topic, how do we lead this audience to our blogs? While few bloggers are in it for an income, all bloggers long for readers or we wouldn’t be putting our stories and opinions online. There’s a glaring gap in blog readership here that’s waiting to be bridged – a wonderful opportunity for all of us, if we can just find a way to get our stories across.

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