With the start of the new year, the editorial collective at ActiveHistory.ca thought it would be useful to share some data about the performance of the website, along with some brief analysis of what this data tells us about how it is being used by readers. At the end of this piece, we invite readers to chime in and tell us about how you use the site and share any other thoughts about the ActiveHistory.ca project.
Insight #1: Site traffic is strong and continues to grow
In 2021, ActiveHistory.ca set a record for its most ever site views, racking up 500,170 visits, for a daily average of 1,370.
Below you can see a breakdown of total and daily site views by month and year, going back to October 2012, about three years into the site’s existence.
Of course, we have not been totally unscathed by the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Notably, our total number of posts were down in 2020 and 2021 compared to recent years. From over 200 posts per year in each year between 2013 and 2019, our offerings decreased to 187 posts in 2020 and 159 in 2021. We note that publishing fewer pieces is not in and of itself a problem; a drop in quality rather than quantity would be a much greater cause for concern. Still, the effects of pandemic fatigue and overwhelmedness seem apparent in the dip in posts. Fewer unsolicited submissions are coming in, and it has been more difficult for our allies and authors to fit writing with the site into schedules under significant pandemic pressure. Those who have deserve a big shout out for their contributions. For a range of thoughtful reflections about doing academic work during the pandemic, see our Pandemic Methodologies series, edited by Erin Gallagher-Cohoon and Letitia Johnson.
Insight #2: ActiveHistory.ca provides both timely commentary and enduring analysis
Regular readers of ActiveHistory.ca know that many of our posts provide timely, insightful, historically informed commentary on current events. This is one of the things that the blog format, with its quick turnaround time, does particularly well. Digging into the statistics of our site reveals another important function of ActiveHistory.ca posts: some of our pieces become “classics,” returned to again and again for their analysis. In fact, in every year since 2015, more than 50% of our top-20 most viewed posts have been ones that were published in previous years. That is to say that while a lot of our visitors are readers keeping up with the latest posts, even more of them come to our site to read a “classic” post. We suspect that a lot of these visits to classic posts are from students having them assigned as course readings or finding them through Google searches. This state of affairs, to our mind, speaks to the special strength of ActiveHistory.ca, combining the ephemerality of day-to-day news commentary with the production of analysis of lasting resonance.
Top ActiveHistory.ca Posts, 2021 and All-Time
What are some of these classic posts? We’re happy you asked.
Far and away our top post of all time, one that continues to rack up hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of views per month is Crystal Fraser and Sara Komarnisky’s “150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150,” published on 4 August 2017. At the time of writing, the post has been viewed a whopping 116,902 times. By the time you read this, it will surely have surpassed 117,000 views. Fraser and Komarnisky’s critique of Canada 150, combined with their pragmatic list of concrete, real-world acts of reconciliation, clearly struck a chord in the midst of the 2017 celebrations, and it continues to do so nearly five years later.
Our second most viewed piece of all time was also published in 2017: Andrea Eidinger’s “She’s Hot: Female Sessional Instructors, Gender Bias, and Student Evaluations,” with over 54,000 views. And coming in at number three is Natasha Henry’s “Slavery in Canada? I Never Learned That!” with over 46,000 views. Together, these top three pieces nicely represent some of the core themes of our posts: the critique of dominant historical narratives; discerning reflections on the work of historians, from the classroom to the archive to the community; and a clear-eyed engagement with colonialism, racism, sexism, gender discrimination, and other forms of oppression – both in history itself and in the work of historians.
Here are our top 15 posts from 2021, along with their year of publication and the number of views in 2021. As you can see, the list has the sort of blend between current and classic posts that has become the hallmark of ActiveHistory.ca.
Now we’d like to turn things over to you, the readers. How do you engage with ActiveHistory.ca? How do you share our posts? Do you have other thoughts about the project that you would like to share? Please tell us in the comments below!
 Even if it started six weeks ago.