Southern Gospel Journal to retire in June

This has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. But “to every thing there is a season,” and this season is coming to an end: I have decided to retire Southern Gospel Journal in early June.

For my entire adult life, writing a post every morning has been the only routine I have known. So this decision was certainly influenced by a number of factors.

Perhaps most significant is how the world has changed over the last eight years. In 2006, we needed news websites. Now, we follow our favorite artists directly on Facebook or Twitter. That has decreased the need for this site. But I truly don’t regret it, because it is better for the genre.

Something similar happened with CD reviews. Thanks to Spotify, we don’t need a reviewer to tell us if a CD is any good when we can hear it for ourselves.

When it comes to commentary, I have said my piece. After writing over 3,100 posts here, I find that most of my post ideas are ones I’ve had before.

There are also a few personal reasons. I need to lose weight, which means that I need to spend more time away from the computer, exercising. And I am ready to pick back up several book and songwriting projects that had been on the back burner.

I’m making this announcement a month early, for several reasons. First, there are several posts already promised or scheduled for the next few weeks. Second, this will allow time for anyone who wants to pick up the mantle of daily news and commentary to get up and running. Finally, it lets me get this post out of the way and save the final post for a more fitting subject.

I have been very active in this genre behind the scenes. That won’t change; I still love this music deeply.

With this season in my life drawing to a close, I’m tempted to complicate the transition by refusing to let go of the past. Instead, I’ll focus on the future, looking forward to seeing what the road ahead may hold both for me and for this genre of music that has touched all of us so deeply.

Thank you to all of you who have made this project one of the greatest blessings I have ever experienced.

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A Change in Posting Schedule

When this site launched, I decided to put up a post every weekday (and some Saturdays). Early in this site’s history, I missed a day or two—once when the Eastern power grid went down and power was out for more than twenty-four hours! I think it has been five or six years since I missed a day.

That’s good, to a point. But there’s a downside: There are days when I’ve written a post just to keep the streak going. That’s not the most effective use of your time, and I apologize.

Some posts—like last Tuesday’s—could have just as easily been one line in a News Roundup. If something can be communicated just as effectively with one sentence, then it probably should be.

From this point forward, I plan to post only when I have something to say. That should still come out to several posts per week most weeks, and certainly, there will be weeks when every day will have a post. But I won’t waste your time just to keep a streak running.

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Introducing Letters To The Editor

Two weeks ago, this site became Southern Gospel Journal. In the announcement, I noted that it is a change in perspective, not merely a name change. The re-branding included several new or re-launched columns, and an expanded “about” section for readers new to Southern Gospel (or to Christianity altogether).

One change remains: It is time to upgrade the comments section.

Ever since blogging became popular, many blog’s comment sections have been free-for-alls where anything goes. I have never been comfortable with this notion. Conversations about this genre are valuable, if they are quality conversations: Insights, respectfully expressed.

The new name for our discussion section, “Letters To The Editor,” is more consistent with the new branding and with this vision. As before, we will still welcome quality discussion. On every post, we will publish the submissions that are most thoughtful and insightful and within the basic comment guidelines. Also, every week, we will highlight a few of the week’s most worthy letters to the editor in our Friday News Roundup column.

Around 95% of the people who visit this website never post a comment. For some visitors, this website is their first exposure to current Southern Gospel culture. Let’s set them a good example. But, more importantly, this site has a fair number of international visitors; for a few, this website may be their first introduction to how Christians treat one another. We must be mindful of the example we set for them through our words and deeds.

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SouthernGospelBlog.com becomes Southern Gospel Journal

For most of this website’s existence, I have wished that I had picked a different name. “Blog” was a cool term eight years ago, much like “social media” is now, and something else will be in a decade. The term suggests an amateur and often short-lived personal opinion column, not a reliable news source taken seriously by its staff and readers. So, three or four years ago, I decided that I would rename this site if I could ever find the right name.

That day has arrived. Today, SouthernGospelBlog.com becomes Southern Gospel Journal.

Where “Blog” feels increasingly dated, “Journal” feels timeless, businesslike, and professional.

Several new columns and other changes have been planned to coincide with this rebranding. Several have already been rolled out, including the introduction of the CD Interviews column and the return of the Songs From the Books of the Bible column. Other changes should be announced in the near future.

Welcome to Southern Gospel Journal! 

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2013 in Review: Southern Gospel’s Biggest News Stories

Site Statistics

In 2013, SouthernGospelBlog.com reached a significant milestone: It was our first year with more than 1 million unique visits (1,070,730). We’ve come close several previous years, but this was our first to actually pass that mark. Thank you for reading! For anyone interested, here a report with other interesting site statistics.

Top Posts of 2013

The top posts of 2013 included several from previous years, and several that were not news stories.

  1. Michael English and Mark Lowry to Leave the Gaither Vocal Band (October 29, 2013; 13,509 views)
  2. Updates on Tracy Stuffle [Update 5] (May 21, 2013; 8,982 views)
  3. Tim Duncan Joins Canton Junction (October 7, 2011; 5,886 views during 2013)
  4. Joseph Habedank Leaves The Perrys (May 22, 2013; 4,619 views)
  5. Tim Duncan leaves Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; Ian Owens Joins (January 19, 2011; 4,609 views during 2013)
  6. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (April 25, 2013; 4,461 views)
  7. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (January 18, 2013; 4,380 views)
  8. An Interview with Tim Duncan (October 27, 2011; 4,302 views during 2013)
  9. Tracy Stuffle Suffers Stroke [Update 1] (January 22, 2013; 4,004 views)
  10. Gaither Vocal Band to perform 2014 tour with Phelps/Hampton/English/Gaither Lineup (October 24, 2013; 3,606 views)

Due to the mixture of posts and topics, this list doesn’t really answer the question of what were the year’s top stories.

Top News Stories of 2013

The two biggest stories of 2013 unfolded over multiple days and were covered in multiple posts. To determine the top stories, we combined the view counts on all posts in the unfolding story.

  1. Tracy Stuffle’s stroke (1 2 3 4 5) (18,653 total views)
  2. Michael English and Mark Lowry leave the Gaither Vocal Band (1 2) (17,115 total views)
  3. Joseph Habedank leaves The Perrys (4,619 views)
  4. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (4,461 views)
  5. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (4,380 views)
  6. Mike Holcomb Leaves The Inspirations (2,407 views)
  7. Dan Keeton Leaves Gold City (2,189 views)
  8. Shane McConnell Joins Canton Junction (2,157 views)
  9. David Ragan leaves The Inspirations (1,959 views)
  10. Debra Talley injured in fall (1,825 views)

Incidentally, these view counts do not count readers reading the post on the home page, via RSS, or via email. So they don’t measure a story’s full reach; however, home page, RSS, and email views stay steady enough that the numbers provide a valid apples-to-apples comparison, even if the numbers are similarly incomplete for each post.

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Disappearing Comments Reappear

Several of you noticed that many comments made over the last few days mysteriously disappeared. After a little investigating, it appears that the comment spam filter has been malfunctioning. It has been tagging legitimate comments as spam and sending spam comments to the queue awaiting final approval! I have now gone through the spam queue; all legitimate comments should have now been approved. My apologies for the delay and the confusion!

One side note: Although the past paragraph was worded in the past tense, the spam filter is still malfunctioning. But now that I know the issue, I’m checking the spam queue several times per day until the problem is definitely fixed.

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Site Maintenance: Discussing Closing Comments on Old Posts

The more popular a site gets, the more spam comments it attracts. This site receives between 100,000 and 200,000 spam posts each year. The spam filter catches most of these, but spammers are always working on clever ways to get around that filter and make me delete those comments manually. Most of those comments are on old posts, often ones months or years old. 

Also, a fairly high percentage of comments on old posts are irrelevant, often in a funny way. Many—dare I say most—comments on older posts are made by people discovering the post on a Google search, and expressing regret or excitement over a story that is often several years old. We see posts of condolences to Stephen Hill’s family on his passing, and posts of excitement (to this day) that Tim Duncan has joined Canton Junction or that David Phelps, Michael English, and Mark Lowry have returned to the Gaither Vocal Band. These posts can be a rather funny, but I can feel quite guilty laughing at someone else’s expense!

For these two reasons, I have been contemplating closing comments on posts older than, say, one month. I would probably add in a message something like: “Comments on this post are now closed. If you want to discuss this topic further, visit one of our weekly Saturday News Roundup / open threads posts [link].”

With all that said, I’m open to be talked out of this. I’m just leaning in this direction—I haven’t made a final decision. I’m also open to being persuaded to setting a different time stamp than one month. Do any of you have opinions on the matter?

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SouthernGospelBlog.com turns 7

Seven years ago today, on September 18, 2006, I posted this site’s first post. I didn’t have the faintest idea how far this would go; your readership and participation in the comments has been well beyond my most optimistic dreams.

Last week another milestone, as I wrote my personal 3,000th post here. (Thanks to contributors, we’re at 3,253 total posts.) And there have been 47,763 approved comments—more than a few of which came last week, as the NQC free Friday webcast live-blog was the most-discussed post in this site’s history. More than anything else, it’s your comments and feedback, publicly and privately, that keeps me going.

Thank you for all your support for these first seven years!

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Site Redesign Launched

This morning, we launched a site redesign. We’ve had it in the works for a couple of months; Taylor Garms of Lacheln Designs, whose family contributes posts as The Garms Family, designed new graphics that retain our familiar layout and color scheme but add a new level of class and elegance. 

It is a constant amidst change: Whenever we update our graphic design, something will not display correctly for someone. So if you have any feedback on the new design, and especially if you notice something that doesn’t display correctly, let us know in the comments!

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If you read SouthernGospelBlog.com via Google Reader

If you read SouthernGospelBlog.com via Google Reader, you may have noticed that Google Reader will be shutting down on July 1. Here are a few other ways to keep up with our posts:

 

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