Why my Doctor Who blog failed: Part 3 - The New Adventures

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 4 July 2007

I've been looking at the reasons behind the failure of my Doctor Who blog site. Given the high profile of the revived show in the UK, it should have been a resounding success - if it hadn't been for some rather poor decision making on my part.


In the last part I looked at how the pace of publishing the content was very slow, since it was dictated by the transmission schedule of the original series of the show.

It'll be a shock to people who have only grown up on Russell T. Davies produced Doctor Who with its diet of self-contained 45 minute episodes with the odd two-parter and story arc reference thrown in, but back in the early years, most stories lasted a minimum of four weeks. In fact during the sixties and early seventies they often stretched to six, seven, and even on a couple of occasions ten or twelve parts.

In September 2003, the BBC announced that they would be reviving "Doctor Who" on television, which came, to be honest, as a bit of a shock to fans who had long given up hope of seeing their hero on TV again.

In fact, even other bits of the BBC were surprised.

I found this out when I once attended an internal talk within the BBC about putting together the animated Doctor Who stories for the BBC's now shamefully defunct Cult website. The announcement came just as the website was gearing up to webcast brand new animated Doctor Who with Richard E. Grant in the starring role and Sir Derek Jacobi as The Master, which had, at a stroke, become not the real new Doctor Who.

"The guys put a brave face on it, and reckoned that the publicity surrounding the announcement of the new series added to their profile. For [Scream Of The] Shalka they were getting weekly visits from around ten times the estimated amount of hardcore Doctor Who fans (judging by the video, DVD and book sales)."

That was still a long way off the incredible viewing figures for the new incarnation of the series.

It is difficult to imagine now, but at the time the television revival was deemed quite a risky venture. The 1996 TV Movie starring Paul McGann in the role had failed to set the world alight.


In 2003, Doctor Who was in no way guaranteed to turn out to be the critical, commercial, and popular success that the Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant fronted series has been.

However, realising that my original Doctor Who blog concept wasn't working in the way that I had originally intended, I shifted it to focus on the impending revival of the show, featuring pages based around items like when Christopher Eccleston had first appeared on BBC One's Breakfast show, or when the casting announcement of Billie Piper was made.


Again the aim wasn't to cover Doctor Who itself, but was on collecting the contemporenia - what else was on TV that day, what was in the charts, what was in the news headlines, and so forth.

There was no shortage of events to cover. As the BBC built up to the transmission of 'Rose', Doctor Who references came thick and fast, whether it was a spoof Doctor Who themed mini-episode of The Weakest Link on Children In Need night, or 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy appearing on Blue Peter to celebrate yet another birthday for the show.



Once the 2005 version of Doctor Who started transmitting, I was making a page for each episode, detailing what was on the BBC's website, what the homepage promotion had been, and all other manner of extra material, like the "secret" show tie-in websites that the BBC was producing.


I hoped that one day it would turn out to have been useful to have all this recorded. Perhaps for the remastered 6th generation Ultra-HD-DVD format reissues sometime in the 2030s to accompany the fourth attempt to re-invent the franchise on British television.

Or perhaps after the BBC had carelessly lost their entire online archive due to some terrible Microsoft DRM inspired accident.

Or something like that, I mean, we are talking about a time-traveling sci-fi fan here, I can be quite fanciful about the future - although perhaps not as fanciful as some of the chaps on here were!

Unlike BBC One's Saturday evening schedule, even with the revived show being a massive hit, my Doctor Who site resolutely failed to take off.

If my first big mistake had been the erratic scheduling of the content in the first incarnation of the site, the second big mistake I made was in not having a marketing plan to push the site during the transmission of the series itself.

I should have done several things to give the site a push and spread the URL around the web - and should have devised a concerted plan to attract new visitors and to let people know that the site existed.

I should have joined as many Doctor Who fan forums as I could find, and got the URL into my signature.

And joined other sci-fi fan forums and done the same.

And then joined more general television forums and done the same.

Not in a spammy "Go visit my site, dudes" kind of way, but in a way that contributed to their community, whilst embedding my site's address around the web.

I should have added links to my pages about each episode to the Wikipedia page about that episode.

I should have been using Technorati, or Google blog search, or the Bloglines feeds search, to identify other blogs with posts about the specific episode or the show in general, and left comments there as well, all with the doctorwhoblog.net URL in the signature.

I know from experience that leaving comments on other blogs with your URL drives traffic. If nothing else, very often the blog owner will want to check that they are not linking out to spam or pr0n.

Had I done these things, then maybe the trickle of visitors finding the site via obscure searches on Google would have grown. As it was, my visitor figure numbers stayed resolutely low, and the number of comments left by the public stayed at roughly something very close to zero.

However, even if I had done all of these things, I still wouldn't have overcome the third serious mistake I made when I developed the site.

In the next post in this series I'll examine why I now think I used the wrong technology for the job.

Who’s Who? The Resurrection of the Doctor charts how the Guardian has covered Doctor Who since it was revived in 2005. If features interviews with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and the men in charge of the show's fortunes: Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. It also includes interviews with a host of other Doctor Who actors including Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman and writers including Neil Gaiman and Mark Gatiss. There are contributions from legendary author Michael Moorcock, Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, and specially commissioned illustrations from Jamie Lenman.
Who’s Who? The Resurrection of the Doctor” - £2.99 for Kindle & iBooks.

1 Comment


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