A year ago today, I introduced the world to The Junto.
Since then, my admittedly lofty goals of success have been dramatically achieved by our cast of bloggers. I aimed to gather some of the brightest young minds in the field, and I have been pleased with the consistent quality and quantity of posts throughout the year. We have had posts nearly every weekday, along with our popular “This Week in Early American History” roundup every Sunday, which totaled 292 posts for the year. It would be impossible and unfair to highlight the “best” posts because there have been so many quality posts that, quite frankly, probably belong in a more professional setting than a blog. Some of our most popular include Michael Hattem’s overview of Assassin’s Creed III (thanks, Reddit!), the multi-author roundtable on Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams, Rachel Herrmann’s response to new(!) cannibalism developments, and Matt Karp’s reviews of Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave. And our academia-related posts have also been highly popular, as the response to posts on digital workflow and creating a CV attest. And who can forget our epic March Madness Tournament? Indeed, the quality of the content is reflected in the fact that The Junto has been featured in the American Historical Association’s “What We’re Reading” seven times.
But merely spitting words into the internet is not enough—we need an audience. And fortunately, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response from our readers. The blog has received over a quarter-million views, which comes out to nearly 23,000 per month and 900 per day. (While a majority of our readers are in the United States, we also have a sizeable audience in Britain, Canada, Germany, and Australia.) Our facebook community nears 750 “likes,” and our twitter account has over 1,000 “followers.” Reader engagement is what keeps our community vibrant, and the 1,683 comments left on the blog (nearly 6 per post) are, I’d argue, some of the most substantive in the academic blog community. (For an example, just look at the excellent discussion on yesterday’s post about teaching the 18th century.) I hoped that this blog could serve as a digital gathering place for wide-ranging discussions, and I am quite happy with the results.
Since academic blogging is still a young venue, we are trying out new features. I’ve been especially pleased with our several week-long series, including roundtables on The New New Political History, the legacy of Edmund Morgan, the work of Pauline Maier, and multi-part reviews of The Abolitionists documentary. Our interviews with established scholars have also proven enormously helpful, including those with James Merrell, Brett Rushforth, and Edwin Burrows, with another from Carol Berkin coming next week. We have done a number of book reviews, and may have recently found our sweetspot with the book review/interview combination we did with Edward Andrews. A project that was in discussion from the beginning but didn’t pick up steam until summer was “The JuntoCast,” a monthly podcast with Junto members discussing topics related to early American history. Six episodes have already been released with almost five thousand downloads between them, and two more are currently in production; we hope that podcasts will be an integral part of our blog’s identity into the future.
As you can tell, while we are happy with what we have accomplished, we are still experimenting. We hope to develop these, and a number of other, approaches over the next few years, and would love to hear feedback on what you think works better than others. So on this, our blog’s first birthday, your present to us can be advice on where to go from here: Do you like the week-long roundtables? The two-part book reviews? The interviews? What is something that we haven’t yet done, but you’d love to see tried?
Before closing up the post and opening for comments, and though many people deserve credit for this blog’s success, particular thanks are due to Michael Hattem. Not only has he proven our most consistent blogger and commenter, and his posts on video games, digital resources, Gordon Wood, Jeffersongate, and the Tea Party are among the blog’s most popular, he has provided three more crucial contributions: he is our technical guru (this blog’s structure is all thanks to him), he has spearheaded our podcast (which takes hours of editing work), and he updates many of the features found under our “Resources” tab. So while he maintains a silly attachment to Arsenal’s football team, he deserves all of our appreciation and respect.
So, let’s hear it. What did you like from the first year? What did you not like? What do you want to see more of? What are other ways we can improve?