The PopCulteer
December 18, 2020

After over fifteen years as The Charleston Gazette (-Mail) pop culture blogger, I will be taking this blog independent. Actually, I sort of already have. Hopefully, it’s not a big deal for my readers. Chances are you’re reading the new version now.

If you have PopCult bookmarked at The Gazette-Mail, there is no need to panic. I will continue to post the same content there that I do in the new blog. I just don’t know how much longer they will keep that PopCult blog up and running.

There is no acrimony or bitterness, it’s just that PopCult has never really been a priority at the newspaper, and I can’t really expect them to keep hosting what is really a personal blog that they could never figure out how to monetize. That they did so for fifteen years was pretty damned generous of them.

However, lately PopCult has been having a lot of technical issues. Direct links to posts don’t seem to work on Chrome-based browsers, and it’s not really worth the effort of the Gazette-Mail IT crew to spend time working on the problem.

I think the reason I’ve lasted so long is that I try not to be a problem. I don’t post profanity or nudity. The one time an insane Canadian threatened to sue, I removed the post, rather than potentially cost the Gazette any money fighting a nuisance lawsuit. At the moment, to fix the issues with PopCult, the folks at the Gazette-Mail and HD Media would have to spend a lot of time and energy on the problem that they can’t really justify.

Then there’s the matter of the redesign of The Charleston Gazette-Mail website a few weeks ago, where you can no longer link directly to any of the blogs. I’m lucky they didn’t just pull the plug then. Many times over the years I have thought that I would have to take PopCult independent.  That redesign was a wake-up call. This time my sense of urgency overtook my laziness, and I took action.

When that redesign happened, I started porting PopCult over to a new location. My plan was to write this post and make the big announcement two weeks from today, just to have a big New Year’s Day post, but over the last month the issues with my permalinks not working became too great, so I started sharing links to the beta version of PopCult on social media this week, instead of the Gazette-Mail version.

I intend to keep double-posting at the Gazette-Mail as long as they’ll have me. The Google rankings for PopCult at that site are pretty remarkable, and there are several dozen Wikipedia entries that link to PopCult.  So unless they need to pull the plug to free up server space, I’d sort of like to keep that one going for a while.

I estimate that it will take me a year to go back and edit and clean up every post in the fifteen years of the archive. I’ll need to fix all the broken links and replace missing graphics and video where possible. I also find typos every single time I revisit my older posts, so I’ll fix those, too. It would be handy to have the original PopCult in place, just for reference.

“Porting,” by the way, is the process by which you move all the content from a blog over to a new virtual location. PopCult has actually been ported within the Charleston Gazette and later Charleston Gazette-Mail servers several times. It’s a long, tedious job, and often bits of the original blog get left behind.

The first time PopCult was ported was when we switched from using Blogger to using WordPress. That was about three years in, and we lost all our graphics from those first three years. There were a few other times since then, most recently a few months after the Gazette merged with The Daily Mail, and and they had to change the URL.

That was a bit more than four years ago. A few months after that happened they gave me admin privileges, which allowed me to see my reader counts for the first time. I agreed not to reveal my readership, but I will say that it’s been gratifying to know that my blog has had millions of views, just in the past four years. Apparently the counter reset every time the blog was ported, so I have no idea if my numbers have gone up or down since the beginning. I do know that I promote PopCult way more aggressively on social media now than I used to.

I’m pretty sure, now that I’m leaving the comfort zone of the Gazette-Mail, my readership numbers will plummet. It’s just the nature of SEO and Google rankings and the ways of internet voodoo. Luckily, it won’t affect my pay. The Gazette stopped paying their bloggers back in 2008, and I was having so much fun that I decided to keep doing it for free.

I wrote about this a few years ago, during another time that I thought I might have to move PopCult, when the paper was being sold out of bankruptcy and it looked like I may have been sacrificed on the altar of Odgen Newspapers.  Actually,the post at that link is a pretty good read that gives you an idea of my relationship with The Gazette-Mail over the years.

You will notice a few changes. The template (the layout of the blog) that they use at The Gazette-Mail is no longer available, so I had to pick one that was reasonably close to it.

The new template has some minor differences, some of which I love, and some of which are annoying.

I love that I can now embed the radio player for The AIR at the top of the right-hand column. I love that the RSS feed seems to work. I’m beginning to really like that the chosen feature image appears above the headline of each post. I love being able to have captions underneath my photos again. The last template change at the Gazette-Mail didn’t work with photo captions and made older posts look wonky.

I don’t like that the embedded radio player in all my archived posts throws off the layout of those posts. Those will all be edited out, eventually. I also wish I could make the header image a bit smaller. I may have lost the ability to embed Kickstarter widgets, but I can still do links, so it isn’t a big deal.

In general, I really like the new layout. I hope you do too.

I plan to do my best to restore the missing graphics and videos in the archives. A few posts that fell by the wayside over the years may come back, and I’m having an internal debate about preserving posts that plug events that happened long ago. I’m leaning toward preserving the historical record.

I also plan to become an Amazon affiliate. That means that if I review something and link to Amazon and you buy it, I get a tiny percentage. The only reason I didn’t do this earlier was that I didn’t want to have to figure out the revenue split with the newspaper. I may explore other affiliate programs. You’ll know about it when it happens. I won’t try to sneak anything like that under your noses without telling you.

I may also put in a “tip jar” link, to help cover the costs of blog hosting. I won’t mention it much, if I do, because I just hate to do stuff like that.

In the coming year, I plan to do more reviews, and I also will feel more comfortable writing about the challenges of print media in our digital times. I never wanted to come across as taking pot-shots at the Gazette-Mail while they were hosting the blog. Of course, you will still get the latest news on our programming on The AIR, plus our regular features like Monday Morning Art, The RFC Flashback, Sunday Evening Videos and The PopCulteer. PopCult will still have fresh content every day.

I want to thank The Charleston Gazette-Mail for letting me get away with writing this blog on their servers for so long. I still subscribe to the Gazette-Mail online and I encourage you to do the same. We need to support local journalism, even if some of their endorsements this year made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I also want to thank Douglas Imbrogno for hiring me in the first place, and to  my colleagues over the years who supported me in print for the first ten years of PopCult.  I wrote about my fifteenth anniversary just a few months ago, and leaving the Gazette-Mail was sort of a looming concern then.  This move shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone.

The Gazette-Mail web redesign happened when I was about three days into The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide, and it took me about sixteen hours over two days to get the new site set up while cranking out gift guide posts at the same time. It’ll take me longer to get the archives fully restored, but for now, I think we’ve got things up and running pretty well. I’m pretty excited to see what the future holds.

Welcome to the new PopCult. Tell all your friends.

Hustling Around The Christmas Tree

Meanwhile, Friday at 2 PM on The AIR (listen at the website, or just click on the embedded player in the right column), one week out from Christmas, Mel Larch has graced us with a brand-new MIRRORBALL Christmas Special.

You can boogie down and celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus with The Village People, KC and the Sunshine Band, Hot Chocolate Band, The Salsoul Orchestra and more.

It’s one full hour of disco-fied holiday music. That will be followed at 3 PM by a Christmas Edition of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. Then Saturday The AIR goes full-tilt into the holidays with special programming in large blocks all week long.