The State of AAR: September 2009

Last month we started the first in a series of monthly reports on the status of AAR. We’re happy to report that September was another good month. We added a variety of new content and visits continued to be strong.

We’re especially pleased that once again, 50 new reviews were posted, although this month, only three were DIKs, in contrast to seven during August. Hopefully, both for our readers, and our reviewers, October will bring more DIKs.

Those reviews are the heart and soul of AAR and readers made good use of them in September. There were 62,279 views of the new review page, and 152,055 views of the many reviews available at AAR. Additionally, there were 90,883 views of the advanced search option for the reviews database.

Both of our blogs were also busy during September. There were 18 new posts at the AAR News and Commentary Blog, and 17 at AAR After Hours. I always find it interesting to see which posts generate the most comments. At AAR News and Commentary Blog, aside from the Gabaldon giveaway, the two posts generating the most comments were Abi’s post at the end of the month on The Heavy Hero (or Heroine) and Lynn’s post You Never Forget the First.

Once again, AAR’s Alexa traffic rank increased; it’s up from 97,264 in August to 93,029 (the lower the number the better, and anything under 100,000 is something to be proud of). This is also a 19% three-month improvement.

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Yes, We Sell Advertising

953445086_24734194cf_oAnd we have since the early days of the site.

It costs a lot of money to run AAR.  First, there are the physical costs to get – and keep – AAR online.  We’re hosted by a reliable company who provides great service, but it isn’t free as many blog platforms are.  And it isn’t cheap either.

Then there were additional costs to move AAR’s message boards onto our own server, a step we felt was necessary for multiple reasons.  First, we were getting crappy service.  Second, the boards went down capriciously.  And, third, we knew in today’s competitive environment that it was important to bring message board traffic onto our own server so AAR’s traffic rankings would reflect our true numbers.

Which they do.  And we’ve seen a healthy boost in our Alexa ranking to prove it.

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The Summer Storm of Aught Nine

lightningOnce again this week, just as it has multiple times every year since the Internets began, Romancelandia has erupted into flames.

Out of the smoke and fire has emerged more than once from various quarters an old saw I truly hoped had been retired forever:  If you don’t have anything nice to say about romance, don’t say anything at all.

Do we really need to have this discussion again?

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RWA Conference Coverage: What’s Your Pleasure?

ist2_2692424-retro-press-reporterRWA Nationals are coming up July 15  – 18 and this year both Lynn Spencer and I will be attending.

In previous years, AAR has offered extensive coverage – usually after the conference is over.  But the world – and the Web – are more immediate places today and our inclination is to adopt a coverage model that’s worked well all over the Internets.

What does that mean?  The biggest and most comprehensive change is coverage of conference sessions.  In the past AAR has included long reports on sessions and our inclination is – with a few exceptions – to ditch it.  Our thinking is two-fold:  first, RWA is an organization for writers and AAR is a site for readers and, second, there are many places on the Web that can be counted on for extensive coverage of the writer-ly side of things.

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Message Board Changes (And a Little Traffic Talk, Too)

Big changes are about to come to AAR’s message boards.  But with any luck, you’ll barely even notice them.

Here’s the deal:  AAR’s message boards have previously been hosted on a separate server – not on AAR’s.  This has resulted in several problems, chiefly a very frustrating lack of customer service.  The second problem?  Site stats for our very popular message boards have not been included in AAR’s traffic numbers or in site ranking ratings on   So, the result is that our Alexa ranking – one that was cited elsewhere on the Internet over the weekend – is only part of the story.

We’re solving both problems by moving message board hosting to the same company (a reliable one that actually, you know, responds when we have problems) hosting the main site.  What will the change mean to you?  Nothing if you enter the message boards from AAR’s home page.  However, if you’ve  bookmarked the message boards – as we know many of you have – then you’ll need to update your bookmarks after the changeover.  That’s it.  All registrations and threads will be preserved intact.

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When Middle of the Road Is Not an Insult

The dreaded MOR is exactly what xina called AAR in a post on this blog last week.

I’ll admit that I knee-jerked to that designation because my head was suddenly filled with visions of Barry Manilow, James Blunt, Bread and other musicians simply too horrible to be named here.  I’ve always hated MOR artists and those radio stations they advertise as perfect for work because they won’t offend anyone because…well, gee, because to me music that doesn’t offend somebody just ain’t real music.

But what xina meant, as she explained later was this:

“Well, middle-of-the-road is perhaps not exactly what AAR is, but I only said that because the site is so diverse.”

Then she went on to add: 

“On AAR there are many opinions, many views. I don’t think we could all agree if we tried, so in that way I think we average out as middle-of-the-road. In other words, I don’t think the opinions are extreme, one way or the other….as a whole.”

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When “Nice” Girls Attack

Janet of Dear Author offers an excellent rebuttal to Michelle Buonfiglio’s jaw dropping remarks at the Princeton Romance Conference last Friday.

I take exception to one point, however:  I would argue that Ms. Buonfiglio was referring to more than just Smart Bitches and Dear Author.  I think that finger was also pointed right here at All About Romance because…well, gee, because we haven’t been nice girls around here for more than 10 years now.

Thank you, Janet, for your measured words.  I’m not feeling quite so balanced this morning.

-Sandy AAR

RWA D.C.: An Insider’s Guide to the City

Since RWA will be coming to my neighborhood in July of this year, I thought this local resident’s perspective might help a few of you in making plans for this summer.


The conference is being held at the Marriott Wardman Park.  If the hotel is too expensive for you or is already booked, there is one good budget option I can recommend.  The Days Inn Connecticut Avenue is just two short Metro stops away and in a very nice (and safe) neighborhood.  Door to door time to the Marriott Wardman Park would probably be about 15 minutes or less – including a five-minute wait for a subway. 

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All in a Days’ Work

When I read Rike’s piece on places in romance, it made me think of another item that matters a lot to me in a romance – or indeed, in most things I read. I don’t expect an author to be an expert in every profession, but when someone misses a very important detail or gets the overall feel of a job wrong, I notice. I once read a book describing refugee relief workers out in the field in their crisp, white clothing. Nice fantasy. I left college briefly to be a relief worker, and I remember being so hot that we would strip down to our underwear and lay out on metal shelves in the basement during our off hours. And then there was the fact that I usually returned to quarters looking like I’d been dragged behind the van. Even when I manage to enjoy the rest of the story, I can’t help noticing these details and they pull me away from the action somewhat.

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An Authorial Snit

Though it’s nothing to be proud of, the “can’t look away from a train wreck” mentality is deeply engrained in most of us poor humans.  And, sadly, the Brockmann Dead of Night kerfuffle has devolved into one of the biggest I’ve ever witnessed in more than 10 years of hanging around the online romance community.

On the one hand, you’ve got readers – formerly loyal readers – who feel betrayed by the author and who continue to express their outrage. On the other, you’ve got an author who seems to be closing ranks in a way I have really never seen before.

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