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Terry Boyd: Dispatches’ 10 best-read posts of 2023 and what they tell us about you

We always review Dispatches’ traffic for the year to get a read on the expat zeitgeist. Because the digital world changes every day, and let’s just say it … we never know exactly what we’re doing editorially. That said, life is about numbers, and we can spot definite trends.

For example, we know by where the traffic originates that Americans are increasingly thinking about moving to Europe either for business or for a better quality of life. This isn’t just us. There is actual empirical data documenting this trend. And of course, that’s good for us, a lifestyle communications company focused on the global mobility of talent.

All that aside, we’re always surprised by some of the data, including how young our readership skews. Our most popular 20 posts for 2023 include two about Berlin’s hardcore club scene and one about the best techno clubs in Zurich.

While we don’t know the exact numbers, we know percentages, which is just as important.

Americans drive the traffic

Our largest demographic is 25 to 34, about 45 percent of our audience, according to Google Analytics. Surprisingly, the next largest demographic group is 28 to 34. The smallest demographic is women 55 and over. Most people come to Dispatches via organic search, and 60 percent are reading us on some sort of wireless device, mostly iPhones and iPads.

Our largest audience is the United States, with about 30-percent more traffic than second-place United Kingdom. Our Top 10 countries in descending order are the U.S., the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Canada, France, Ireland, Spain and Australia. We’re seeing increasing traffic from India and South Africa, as well as from Asia as a whole – especially South Korea and Singapore.

Okay, now you’re saying, “So, show us your readership numbers.” We wish we could, but several issues make it difficult, if not impossible, to give an exact traffic count. Those issues include cybersecurity software such as Cloudflare blocking Google Analytics from recording all traffic, changes in Google Analytics itself and issues with ad popups and page indexing. (We’re working on all these.)

A 24 hour traffic sample, 30 and 31 December, from Cloudflare

We estimate, using Cloudflare figures, we get at least 5.5 million page views per year from 202 countries or territories, far less than we did at the peak of our traffic in due to Google changing its algorithms to downgrade news and changes in Google Analytics. Honestly, we just don’t know.

Our in-house developers tell us the number of visitors has never decreased but our ability to dissect this data limited by technical issues, including new browsers that mask users and the fact people delete cookies more frequently. It’s clear we have modest numbers … and a lot of room to grow.

Here’s what we do know for sure.

Out of the 4,660-plus posts we’ve put up since 2016, a fair number of the earliest have proven to have extremely “long tails,” as we say in the digital media business. That is, they’ve generate significant traffic every single day for years, pushed to the top of Google rankings as readers shared them.

Our best-read posts for 2023

No. 10 “My top 5 bouillons in Paris”

An August 2023 post from former Paris-based contributor Pauline Lemaire. Foodies are a big part of our audience.

No. 9Ultra-luxury fashion at almost affordable prices, Pt. 2

This was first posted in 2017 but updated since then with new outlets as they open. Amazingly, first post in the series is below at No. 5. Both posts are in the 1 million-plus reads club.

No. 8 “Brexit Diary: ‘Wait, no one told us that was going to happen’ “

This always-updated post from the Brexit year 2016 is unique in having an average dwell time of more than 5 minutes, with 2 minutes being exceptional in our experience. Brexit really is the gift that keeps on giving.

No. 7 “Need a break from Lisbon? Here are my five best weekend getaways”

Longtime contributor and editor Sarah Nagaty, an expat in Lisbon, knows what her readers want and delivers with this updated post from 2022.

No. 6 “My Top 5 venues in Zurich where techno reigns supreme”

This post by our resident party connoisseur Charlotte Laborie hasn’t cooled down since we posted it in March. Our takeaway? It’s good to be a young expat in Europe’s richest country.

No. 5 “Just another Sunday night at the KitKat Club, Berlin’s infamous sex club”

All we can say is, New Yorker in Berlin Chris Loar leads an interesting life.

No. 4 “Fashion Outlets – ultra-luxury at (almost) affordable prices”

This was first posted in 2017, the first piece we did on luxury outlets in Europe. You guys are serious shoppers, with a taste for upscale goods at marked-down prices.

No. 3 “Top theme parks in Europe that are open in the winter”

Willeke van Doorn, an early Dispatches contributor, returns from time to time. This is such a no-brainer, I can’t believe we didn’t do this earlier. Kudos to Willeke for pitching it in early 2023.

No. 2 “American big-box retailer Costco has big plans for Europe”

Costco keeps adding stores, and we keep updating. We’ve lost track of how many reads this post from 2016 has gotten. Long tail, indeed.

No. 1 1 euro deals on abandoned homes pulling people back to Europe’s villages

For the third consecutive year, this the best-read post. Which tells us that a lot of expats – especially in the U.S. – are dreaming of that fixer-upper in Tuscany.

Honorable mention in the Top 20 … Miriam Thaler’s “Clandestine Chinese restaurants in Lisbon” from 2021 just because we love the concept, and “Hidden Heaven” about NS’s secret first class lounge in Amsterdam from 2016.

From the Top 20 posts for 2023, we deduce that our audience in aggregate loves to shop, loves to travel, loves a bargain and loves to party.

If you dug deeper into our Top 100 back to 2016, you’d get a more nuanced picture of our expats and their interests including travel, tech, fashion, dating, moving to Greece or Portugal, careers, Christmas markets and business. We thought Italy would be the dream destination, but clearly a lot of people – in particular Brits – long to live in sunny Portugal, or on a Greek island.

From the beginning, Dispatches has been an ambitious project. We’ve built a pan-European audience with variety and passionate writing from our contributors. Will we end up spinning off dedicated Dispatches to cover the various innovation hubs and expat centers? Maybe. Who can predict the future?

Back in 2016, we designed Dispatches for the affluent American senior executives on multi-year assignments with global companies. But our actual readership turned out to be younger and far more international, more likely to work in a startup than a multinational corporation.

Who can predict the future?

Certainly not us.


See more from Terry Boyd here.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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