It was exactly ten years ago, on June 27, 2007, that I posted my first article on Hungarian Spectrum. It was a short description of Hungarian farmers questioning the minister of agriculture on the whereabouts of EU subsidies for which they were waiting. Since that time altogether 3,580 posts have appeared on the blog, most of which were written by me.
It was at the urging of a good friend that after some hesitation I decided to embark on the project. By that time I was confident that I knew enough about Hungarian affairs to write worthwhile posts on politics. I was also frustrated by the lack of English-language information on Hungarian politics on the Internet. Yet I was unsure of my own ability to write blog-style prose. It is one thing to write articles on history and an entirely different matter to write a blog for the general reader interested in current politics. My first attempt was a rather scholarly treatise which was immediately rejected by my friends as not the kind of stuff blogs are made of. After a more or less successful switch to a more journalistic style, I began an enterprise that has completely transformed my life in the last ten years.
I knew that it would take time for people even to find Hungarian Spectrum on the Internet, and if they did find it there was no guarantee that they would be interested in what I had to say. There was another danger. I know of so many people who decide to write a blog but who, after a burst of initial enthusiasm, find that keeping up the regular publishing of new material requires more discipline and perseverance than they ever thought necessary. “If you want to create a successful blog, you must write frequently, preferably every day, otherwise your readers will abandon you,” I was warned.
So, I made the jump and the rest is history. Just as “exTor,” one of our faithful readers who carefully researched the beginnings of Hungarian Spectrum, noted, the first comment didn’t arrive until August 9, 2007, that is 43 very long days later. I remember the day well. It was a real breakthrough because in the first few weeks Hungarian Spectrum barely had any readers. I must have visited the site at least three or four times a day to find out the number of visitors. I remember distinctly one particular day when I had nine readers, but at the end of the day I came to the conclusion that actually there was only one “reader,” me.
I no longer remember how long it took before I received a personal e-mail from an American expat who told me that Hungarian Spectrum was a real hit in the expat community in Budapest. I was astonished since this was the first positive feedback I had received. People are talking about Hungarian Spectrum in Budapest? As time went by, not only did the readership grow substantially but the blog also acquired the reputation of being a reliable source of information on Hungarian politics. After two years I received my first invitation to give a lecture on the Hungarian far right at a conference in Washington. Because of the blog I came into contact with present and past Hungarian politicians and scholars, some of whom have since become personal friends. Hungarian Spectrum is also read by foreign diplomats in Budapest and elsewhere. Given the number of e-mails I receive from journalists from all over the world I know that Hungarian Spectrum is an important source of information.
Hungarian Spectrum has 2,337 subscribers who receive the daily posts in e-mail form. More than 2,000 people follow it on Facebook and another 1,300 on Twitter. In addition, it has 2,000-3,000 hits daily, but when there is a “hot topic” like the recent one on Hungarian politicians’ comments on the Treaty of Trianon, that number can easily double. The readers come from all over. For example, in the last few minutes we had visitors from Romania, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Serbia, France, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Australia.
I’m especially grateful to those readers who contribute to the quality of the blog with their thoughtful comments. I’m immensely proud of the civilized manner in which political discussions are conducted on Hungarian Spectrum, in stark contrast to many other sites. And there is one more thing that I find gratifying: the absence of nationalistic clashes between Hungarian, Romanian, and Slovak readers.
Starting Hungarian Spectrum was one of the best decisions of my life. Although writing an article practically every day is a lot of work, it is also immensely satisfying. I really love what I’m doing, and that by itself is a gift to be treasured.