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.