Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Calling all 40k bloggers!

Morning guys and gals!

I'm on the warpath at the moment. I noticed something with my blog this year following my summer hiatus. Far fewer views. I thought nothing more of it intially, attributing it perhaps to the fact that I'd barely posted in June and some of those people who read and noticed the blog when I was posting most days had stopped following because of the lack of new content.

Then at the end of the year, many bloggers, as I tend to do also, started reviewing their year, and I noticed a recurring theme. Fewer views in the second half of the year. This wasn't simply a lack of content therefore, in particular Mike at Standwargaming does plenty of codex reviews and battle reports, and schedules his content to release when he's unavailable so it wasn't simply irregular posts that was causing the drop. So I decided to have a little look at the figures in more depth.

In the first 5 months of 2017, my blog gathered 95,950 views. I've discounted June and July as being unusual months due to my absence and 8th edition hitting the shelves, so by comparison, the last 5 months of the year generated 52,576 views. That's not the whole picture though, because as is usually the case I'm far more productive at the start of the year than the end, so I factored in the average number of views over those periods based on the number of posts I'd published in the same timeframe.

First 5 months of the years: 1116 views per post.
Second 5 months of the year: 956 views per post.

That's a difference on average of 160 views per post (those aren't my post viewing figures of course, as they include hits on the blogs landing page that may not result in anyone actually reading a post).

So, not a drastic difference, but still enough to be significant (a 14% drop if you're wondering).

I discussed it with a few people I know, and as far as we can figure it there are two likely reasons for the change.

1. It seems too much of a coincidence that views started dropping around when 8th edition hit, and when GW started previewing codex rules themselves and giving preview copies of games/rules to certain youtube channels. I think it's a shame that they seem to have limited these copies to youtube only, when (in my humble opinion) a blog has far more scope to do a thorough assessment of a book without risking the information reveals inherent in a video review. But that's an aside, you try searching online for a codex review of the new eldar book - you'll find loads of links to youtube channels, but not much else (the excellent 1d4chan aside). Now, I will be changing that myself in the new year as my focus turns to the Eldar. I also have an entirely new structure for how I'll be approaching my reviews based on how the 8th edition of the game works, so as ever I won't simply be regurgitating information but I'll be looking at tactical applications of units as well.

So, the first reason is something we can do little about, besides shout out to GW as loud as we can that we are equally as valid a medium for generating excitement about new releases as youtube is.

2. The second reason is that as time passes and technology evolves, the written medium seems to be less important to the consumer, who is looking for an instant hit. Consequently, there has been a switch of medium from blogs, which may be becoming less popular, to vlogs, instagram, facebook etc. This, in my view, is the more worrying of the two potential causes, because many of these media do not allow for the depth that blogs can provide, and I think it's up to us as bloggers to make sure that the content we put out there really sells the medium of the blog as the best way to get content out there. Instagram is fine for pictures, I use it myself, but there are literally millions of pictures of incredibly painted miniatures out there, and I for one (as much as I like to see a superbly painted figure) don't have the spare time to just trawl through pictures of other peoples models, 'liking' them and then never looking at them again. Conversely, a good blog article, particularly a tactical one, I'll happily read over and over again, looking for new ways to combine units and use existing ones in new ways. Blogs also have the scope to provide additional gaming content that instagram just can't, for example mission rules, campaign guides, narrative backgrounds and 'house' rules, and additions to the game.

So what do we as bloggers need to do about it?

Well, here are my humble suggestions.

1. Make sure that the content we put out onto the net is really good. If you're presenting photos of models, make sure you take them in such a way that maximises their value. There are several good articles that I've read and rely on when taking better photos of my work.

GW's advice on photographing models
Black or white backgrounds
Beginners guide to photographing miniatures (DSLR)
Colour correcting your photos
Miniature photography with an iPhone
Advanced photo setup

I'm certainly guilty of taking snaps as a project progresses and only doing decent photos at the end, I think a little more time taken on WiP photos would make posts much more presentable and improve quality.

2. Think carefully about your articles and plan them out before writing them. Some of us will do this already, some (including me) don't. I certainly plan to be more structured in my approach to writing posts this year, making sure that they read well and have that clear intro, body and finish that makes an article feel like it's well thought through.

3. Provide as much hobby content as we can. As I've said above, I'm a firm believer that videos can't do tactics as well as the written word, equally many tutorials are much clearer when undertaken as a written article rather than a video (though short videos can help explain certain points too, but these can easily be embedded into a blog article)

4. Support each other. This is the most important one, so I'm writing the whole paragraph in bold type. I've set up a facebook group that I hope will become a resource for all 40k bloggers out there. It's a group where posting links to your latest articles is encouraged (I'm a member of other online groups that have sadly banned this), and where bloggers will be able to therefore discuss content and hopefully use it as a medium to improve content overall, perhaps authors could post up a discussion topic there that informs a future article and therefore results in a more comprehensive piece of work.

40,000 Blogs

Yes, I have deliberately titled the group as a target to aim for! There may not be 40,000 40k bloggers out there, but let's aim to get the membership as high as possible shall we? As I've said in the description of the group, we'll be keeping an index of the blogs that sign up over on the Grim Dark Brotherhood blog.

GD Brotherhood

So there you have it - whilst there may have been a downturn in views on our blogs, I don't think there's too much cause for concern just yet - but there are things that we can do to change things, we can make our content better and we can certainly promote ourselves much better. For those of you who don't like facebook, look out for a follow up post to this soon because I'll be setting up a Google+ community as well!

Till next time,