The State of Modern Rifleman: Q4 2018

Before 2019’s first quarter comes to an end, I figured I probably should wrap up my recap of the last quarter of 2018, closing the book on yet another year here at Modern Rifleman. This, as always, is a quick look behind the scenes that’s intended to give potential partners and advertisers a better idea of the sort of traffic this site and Modern Rifleman’s social media presence receives.

If you’re in the market for perfectly unremarkable quarters, Q4 2018 is a superb place to start. At 88,545 total views, it didn’t put up a terrible showing, but it was only good for fifth all-time. Site growth has clearly slowed due to a reduction in content. The year as a whole reeled in 351,112 views, down roughly 3% from 2017. This marks the first retraction in year-end site performance since Modern Rifleman started back in 2013.

The monthly trends paint a far more interesting picture. From October through December, site traffic grew steadily in a manner not seen since the earliest days of the site. October’s 26,320 views gave way to November’s 30,042. Then, out of nowhere, Modern Rifleman posted its best December ever with 32,183 pageviews. We’ll dig into the top articles for the quarter in just a moment, which will help to explain some of why this happened. For now, just know that it was totally unexpected.

The slow roll of content and lack of reviews has had the greatest negative impact on Modern Rifleman’s social media performance. YouTube remains the least affected by content freshness as it appears viewers, particularly those looking to purchase suppressors, turn to YouTube for information. This has kept traffic to Modern Rifleman’s YouTube content relatively strong. Compared to Q3, total and average watch time (12,071 and 2:03 respectively) were both down by roughly 8%. 5,847 total views were a 4% drop from Q3’s 6,109. Finally, subscriber growth was tiny at only 6 new followers.

In some ways I wasn’t quite correct about YouTube’s unique resiliency to content droughts. While as a platform, it requires less interaction to drive views, Twitter takes the cake for being almost wholly separated from Modern Rifleman’s site performance and activity. In Q4, I made a conscious effort to make greater use of Twitter for the purposes of highlighting political issues. This led to incredible growth in Q4. Impressions for the quarter totaled 68,500, almost double Q3 2018. Follower growth was strong compared to previous quarters at 28 new users.

Meanwhile, Facebook continued to lag farther and farther behind. Facebook is a platform that requires a whole lot of attention and feeding to sustain engagement. Without reviews, this is very difficult as it simply isn’t a great place for quick thoughts like Twitter. For the quarter, total reach on Facebook tallied only 3,201 unique views, down from 5,371 in Q3. Despite this dip, follower growth increased to 29 new followers, a respectable bump from Q3’s 16.

Recall for a moment that unexpectedly strong end to 2018 that I mentioned earlier. That performance can largely be attributed to the wild success of ATF Decides a .50 BMG AR-15 Upper is a… Firearm? That piece was written in response to the ATF’s move to reclassify several .50-caliber upper receivers and wasn’t expected to be a smashing success. It wasn’t the first article out of the gate for that issue (credit to The Firearm Blog there), but it did contain some additional information that other outlets did not include. The result was that it nearly doubled the readership of the second-place finisher – just a bonkers showing for any article, much less a news piece.

Much of the rest of the top articles for the period were, as expected, reviews. Exceptions were common sights like Proof Marks, Date Codes, and German Firearms and the Suppressor Performance Database. Reviews drive growth and the lack of such articles has clearly been the cause of the site’s limited growth over the past several quarters.

Now it’s time to look forward. I recently received some fantastic news as Modern Rifleman’s agreement with Silencer Shop for suppressor reviews is set to resume. After almost a year hiatus, Silencer Shop’s review program is set for a reboot. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of this relationship to this site. The previous agreement essentially drove all content, even non-NFA material, and also allowed me to make all sorts of behind-the-scenes improvements to Modern Rifleman’s presentation – both on the written and video sides of the coin.  Look for the reviews to start back up in Q2 2019.

Thanks as always to all the readers out there who visit this site, engage with me on social media, and comment under Modern Rifleman’s articles. I can’t wait to get the content rolling again over the next few months.

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