We have plenty of content and news to cover in the first edition of The Newsletter Leaf Journal for 2021. But before that, I hope that everyone is having a happy and healthy start to 2021. As usual, we will begin with a review of our newest content from the past week. After the content review, I will discuss some things I am working on for the site as we start 2021. Finally, I will end with some newsletter-exclusive thoughts on something or other.
Content From the Past Week
The New Leaf Journal closed out 2020 and ushered in 2021 with some of our most unique content yet.
2020 and December Content Reviews
To start, I published an article at 12:01 on January 1 recapping our most-read articles from 2020. Rather than just list the articles and provide some dry commentary, I turned the piece into the latest entry in my Justin & Justina dialogue series. They list the top-21 most-read articles (with links) and provide commentary on each. After a postscript, I offer a plan list of the top-25 most-read articles from 2020. Readers of the newsletter may recall that I previewed the top 10 list two weeks ago in The Newsletter Leaf Journal XI. As you will see in the final tally, the top 10 changed quite a bit in the last days of 2020. You can use this article to find interesting content that you may have missed dating all the way back to May.
On New Year's Eve, I published our regular month-in-review post for December. I had been debating in my head a bit how to handle the month-in-review and year-in-review posts. Should I combine them or do separate posts? If I do separate posts, how do I make them unique? In the end, I opted for a traditional month-in-review post on December 31. This post recaps our December content and previews some things that I am working on for the site. Because only one article published in December made the top-25 most-viewed article list, the pieces ended up not being redundant.
Before continuing, I must note that I think I found a couple of interesting old magazine pictures on Project Gutenberg for the December 31 and January 1 posts. While I am quite partial to the New Year's picture I used for the 2020 review post, the equestrian etch for December 31 is a unique New Years picture in its own right.
For the anime recommendations article, I chose 10 series as primary recommendations and 16 series related to the main recommendations as additional entries. I added screenshots for each of the 10 main recommendations and for two of the additional recommendations. As I explain in the article, the list is not a ranking, but rather a selection of anime series from 2011-2020 that I think were very good (or in a couple of cases, great) and that I think might have appeal to a broad audience, including people who do not otherwise watch anime. While I hope that some readers find something new to try and watch from the article, I hope that it will be interesting to browse even for those who do not watch any of the suggestions.
The estimated reading times on the top of our articles are generated by a short-code from one of my WordPress plugins. It spat out 33 minutes for the anime recommendations post. Off the top of my head, I believe that the previous record was 16. One friend made a joke about the 33 minute reading time, noting that he'd totally read the whole thing. Fortunately, the post comes with a built-in table of contents, so feel free to browse and find the parts that may interest you. Should I have left out the estimated reading time? I think not - honesty is good.
I will say, however, that this article was a colossal pain to format - as might be expected. Of all the annoying parts, the lists under each series were perhaps the worst, especially since I changed the order of the lists and decided to use two types of bullets in each list after I had already drafted them differently. My flashbacks ceased after one day though, so that was good.
I rounded out the week with two short articles based on pictures taken around Brooklyn.
The first regular article of 2021 is about a unicorn and a collapsed Christmas dinosaur in the snow. This picture had no backstory, but I spent some time discussing various issues. First, I considered why we are seeing so many holiday reptile decorations in Brooklyn. Note that this is my third article on having observed one - strange stuff. I'm not just cherry picking pictures. After taking the opportunity to provide internal links to earlier articles that I wrote about fallen things in Brooklyn, I turned to the subject of unicorns. Here, you will find not only my assessment of the unicorn decoration in the snow (positive), but also a clip from the classic Century Dictionary about unicorns and a personal anecdote about the majestic mythical equines from 1999. I should have used "majestic mythical equines" in the article, come to think of it...
Earlier today, I published our fourth Sunday recommendations post. Because I was working solo this week, I recommended five articles from around the web instead of my usual three (I was quite impressed with the variety in my recommendations), and buttressed the post with one of my favorite and easiest-to-use online dictionaries and an article from our own archives. In the near future, I will have a couple of additional pieces on the online Webster's 1913 dictionary that I discuss in the article, including how to use it with the Calibre e-book reader.
Looking Forward and Learning From 2020
Tabulating the list of our most-read 2020 content was insightful look into what brought readers to The New Leaf Journal in our earliest stages. Three of the top six posts were review posts, with my Pixelfed review topping the list and the Pixelfed review along with my review of a digital artbook for the Persona 4 Golden video game leading the way in December.
Despite the success of these review posts, reviews have made up a very small part of The New Leaf Journal's diet. This is partially by design - reviews are not among my favorite things to write. But on the flip side, reviews have an obvious hook for search engines when structured correctly, which much of our other content does not. For example, I much more enjoyed writing about one of my favorite scenes in Persona 4 Goldenthan I did reviewing the digital artbook -- which I only reviewed because I wrote about a more interesting and uncommon physical Persona 4 artbook published many years ago -- but it is easier to write a review in a way that people will find it. Furthermore, it is perhaps unsurprising that the digital artbook review spiked in viewership at the same time it went on sale for the holidays.
I have several review project ideas in mind for 2021. First, I want to bundle reviews with commentary pieces. For example, I might review a book, game, or anime series, and then follow that review up with commentary that links back to the review. That was not practicable for the review posts that made our year-end most-read ranking, but it should be for some review ideas I am working on to post this month.
On the whole, I think that I have done a fairly good job with internal linking on the site. I have a good memory of things that I wrote and posted, so it is not difficult for me to refer back to older content in my new posts. However, for posts that may be good candidates for gaining organic search traction, I will think about how they can better guide new visitors to some of our site's more interesting content.
One point I referenced in my December review article was ensuring that the site remains easy to navigate. We will likely eclipse 200 articles around the next Newsletter Leaf Journal. I still like the idea of using broad categories (e.g., Essays, Musing, Reviews) instead of topic-specific categories, but that does have a tendency to bury older content, especially content that may not have had a full and fair chance to attract notice when the site barely registered on search engines. For that reason, I will work on some structural improvements to the site throughout 2021. One project that I referenced before, but not in the December review, is adding later article links to older related articles as updates (see example at the bottom).
Life Imitates The New Leaf Journal
Two days ago, I was walking in Carroll Gardens when I chanced upon a severely rotted pumpkin. We are talking a liquefied pumpkin, practically oozing (think Salvador Dali). Long-time readers will know that I have written quite a bit on the subject of rotting pumpkins through the character of Justin in my Justin & Justina dialogue series. Comedy aside, the rotting pumpkins have really gotten out of hand in Brooklyn this year. I may have captured a picture of the liquefying pumpkin, and you may find it on The New Leaf Journal sometime this month.
Thank You For Reading
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