Number crunching

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I have been casting about the interweb, to find out some of what I should already know (don’t tell anyone). Things like the difference between a unique user, a page impression (I knew that one) and a visit.

My WordPress blog stats plugin tells me how many visits my site gets a day – but this isn’t the language of the rest of the online world, where everyone’s gibbering about unique users and page impressions. Of course I want to talk like any bona fide online publisher and trade in the same electronic currency of unique users etc.

To put it all into context, lets look at what the mega busy websites are getting, according to ABCe, the media industry body which audits traffic to registered websites. The Guardian, website of the year in the British Press Awards in April, had a stonking 26m (25.98m) unique users in October. What surprised me is that the Telegraph wasn’t that far behind, with 23.2m unique users in the same month. The Times got 20.5m unique users in October. I always thought the Guardian was the out and out leader of newspaper websites. Now I see the competition is fiercer than I imagined.

Naturally, my own little toe in the blogosphere cannot come even close to the millions (ha!) that these newspaper websites get. No, instead I have Incentives & Meetings International and its 3,188 unique users in March in my sights. The fight is on but already I’ve got a better title.

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Fry gets a Blackburn makeover

 Stephen Fry in America

I missed the first episode of Stephen Fry in America (9pm on Sunday, BBC 1) so joined him for the second of this six-part series where he was travelling in his trademark black London taxi around America’s deep south.

I wish in some ways I had some intelligent, insightful things to say about this – but I couldn’t possibly compete with the erudition of Stephen himself, so I won’t.  I will only say, that after getting a “burr” (aka short back and sides) in Kentucky he looked like, well, Tony Blackburn as far as I could tell. Which distracted me hugely for the rest of the programme. (He hadn’t had his haircut in the pic above, hence the avuncular whiskery appearance in front of the whiskey.)

Of course I enjoyed it in a “Sunday night, haven’t really got anything better to do” kind of way. I love Fry like the rest of the nation and he made a masterful point about the enormous scale of an amateur American football match between two colleges. He said the pomp and circumstance of the game summed up all that the US is to the rest of the world – laughable, impressive, ridiculous, wonderful, etc. How right you are, Stephen. Long may you travel and send us back your video missives to amuse and entertain us of a Sunday eve. I gather from his Dork Talk column in the Grauniad that he’s off again soon. The Guardian certainly isn’t getting very good value out of him as a columnist. Feels like he’s only just returned to Dork Talk after months off with a broken arm.


more behind the scenes stuff

To keep things ticking over, here’s something I knocked out at the end of last week.

Flashpoints – the things that set you off on a tirade against life, the universe and everything – can be big, they can be small.

The flashpoint in our house typically comes when a child’s poo (in pants or potty, sometimes both) comes at the same time as a frantic call from a magazine editor wondering where your copy is at the same as the bastard spawn of a broadcaster is denying you access to someone you’ve already lined up to interview at the same time as a “your kids are so cute – I just remembered another cutesy thing they did this weekend” text from a relation comes through at the same time as a widowed neighbour appears at the door to say water is inexplicably coursing into the electric sockets and telephone points in her kitchen.

I kid you not. All of these things happened to me this morning between about 10 and 10.13am.

Call me whatever you like – Lucy, Ishmael or just a boring old fart – but I get a little rattled by this testing coming together of events. I might even raise my voice, storm measuredly into the kitchen and say to the still undressed, unwiped children something like: “Where’s your bleep father? I thought he was looking after you.”

Then there’s the inevitable guilt. I have shouted at the kids again and it’s probably because I’m a touch over-wrought after a weekend seriously on the piss networking at the Edinburgh TV Festival. If any one of the above things hadn’t happened, there would have been no flashpoint, no explosion.

Well, let’s be specific and park the blame somewhere. If my life partner and the father of our aforementioned children (two girls, aged 5 and 3, not quite old enough yet to look after themselves for an entire morning but the training’s going well), if he had merely called up the stairs something like: “Next door’s kitchen’s flooded. I’m just going round to turn off the mains water and will be back in a tick.” If he had said that I wouldn’t have assumed he was downstairs with the kids and blithely carried on attempting to interview Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or, more likely, one of his minions in deepest Dorset while they’re filming the latest series of River Cottage with a few chickens and a terrible mobile signal for company.

There is a rule of family life, but I think it’s equally true of office life and any other kind of life you might live in 21st century Britain or western Europe or wherever. It is the rule that everything happens at bloody once. It’s never just one bus after waiting for hours, it’s five. I only noticed this rule of life once I’d had children. Two children.

I didn’t really notice it with the first although there were times when I was breastfeeding or doing something that more or less pinned me to soft furnishings and the phone – non-cordless in those days – would ring in the hall and the answer machine would click in and it would be my dad saying: “Can you ring me straight back? I’m trying to open a Word document and now my modem’s dialling Australia.” Then the baby would be winded and put peacefully to sleep (what am I thinking? That never frigging happened) and I’d return dad’s plaintive call and we’d cheerfully wish each other good day and I’d sit for about four hours alone in the flat with my sleeping baby and wonder if I’d ever see or speak to another person again in my life. Ever.

But once I’d had two children I noticed that while I still had those empty hours at times, there were also frantic periods of about 13 minutes (it’s always 13) when there were more events in my tiny life than at a modern Olympic Games. It never rains but it pours, as my adorable, wise and now dead grandmother used to say. Of course, she didn’t swear, otherwise she might have summed it up thusly: “What the f**k’s happening now?”

As I write, it’s 2.33pm, the immediate crises have passed – the neighbour’s kitchen is drying out, the offending upstairs cistern having been temporarily dealt with by my generous-to-a-fault partner; the C4 press officer has been reined in and I am now only slightly testily awaiting the call from the dippy River Cottage team member to complete the feature I should have filed before the weekend; children are now dressed and variously shopping with my long-suffering partner who is already coming out of this quite well, while the older one watches a video next to me as I tap feverishly on my Sony Vaio laptop grunting at her comments on the unfolding drama of White Bear, a much overlooked Czech or similar animated feature voiced by Hugh Laurie and Helena Bonham Carter. I think of the advice on planes that if the unbelievably awful should happen and an oxygen mask appears in front of your face on a horribly twisted piece of plastic tube that is going to cause brain damage within 15 seconds of donning the thing, the thing to do is put on your own mask before attempting to help others.

So in the midst of an unusually busy morning – next week the children will be back at school and nursery and I’ll have nothing to do except clean the fridge again – I’ve started this blog.

Christ, I can go on. Yet I am irked by a feeling that I am merely rewriting one of the many Zoe Williams Anti-Natal columns from G2 which I greet with so much schadenfreude and sour grapes every week. Of course she’s eating her feminist principles and sounding like any reactionary old female columnist banging on about breasts and the bowel movements of the under 5s. She’s had a child. Join the f**king clan.

So I am. With this blog. You can read it, you can ignore it, you can do whatever you like with it. But it would be nice if you sent it to millions of other interweb users who can make similar decisions and we’ll see if we have a goer here. For more serious stuff, stick to Television category of this developing portlette where I am a touch more professional and, if you work in TV, you might just find something that helps you do your job a bit better. That will benefit us all in the end.

Oh, and don’t be shy. Leave a comment even if you have to use a pseudonym, nom de plume or (for tabloid journalists) someone else’s name.