I've been a pretty active blogger for a while, although initially most of my content was concentrated on the very technical side of open source computing. My gaming life tended to creep in on my tech blogs, though, and so this past year I made a concerted effort to expand my active blogging to gaming. Using the magic of RSS, I've been aggregating my blog to my favourite source of RPG news and musings, the Campaign Wiki RPG Planet feed. On August 15 of last year (2022), I also started posting content to Youtube. Here's how things have gone after a year.
I encountered Alex Schroeder on Mastodon probably in 2020 or 2021, and learned about his RPG Planet feed. I subscribed and I've been an avid reader ever since. It's everything I ever wanted in a gaming feed.
I don't remember exactly when I started aggregating on RPG Planet myself, so I don't have great numbers for comparing its effect on my site, but I think there are signs of increased readership. I have also increased the frequency of blog posts, which influences page hits. Whatever the reason, there's been definite growth over time. In 2019, my gaming blog (such as it was) averaged 350 unique visitors each month. In 2023, I posted at least weekly and was aggregated on RPG Planet, and now my site averages 3,450 unique visitors each month. These are numbers straight from the server logs, so I don't have metadata about who visits and where they visit from and how much time they spend on each page and so on. (I have no use for that level of data, and I don't care to invade the privacy of my readers anyway. No Google analytics here.)
I have had a few "high-performing" articles, too.
My 5e-style character sheet for Pathfinder 2 remains one of my most successful posts. It's so popular that somebody on Reddit managed to find it and remixed it, and posted an iteration of it, which itself got mentioned in a popular Youtube video (not by me) and likely drove traffic to Reddit. It's just one small example of how free culture helps the corporate Internet thrive!
Another lesson to learn here is that the Reddit user posted a remix without giving me credit. It's all an unsanctioned remix of WotC's original work anyway, so I probably don't really "deserve" credit, but had the user contacted me about remixing my work, I would have been able to provide the original scalable vector graphic (SVG) I created, which would have prevented the "blurry image" complaints the user got on his Reddit post. Due diligence can pay off!
I started posting solo play-throughs of board games to Youtube on August 22 last year (2022). I average about 20 views for each play-through post, which for the production value (I put a webcam on a tripod and point it at my gaming table) feels about right.
To fill out the channel, I added videos of my personal musings about gaming. Without crunching the numbers, I'd estimate that these get an average of 500 views each, with some getting more than a 1,000 and others getting "just" a few hundred (I say "just", but actually I'm amazed to have more than 3).
My highest performing video was about building the same rogue in both 5e and Pathfinder 2. It's gotten 57,359 views since October 26 2022, and 1.3k Likes.
I attribute this only in part to its content. Youtube pretty obviously rewards new content creators with lots of initial promotion. From what I've heard, it's pretty common for your first few videos on Youtube to do surprisingly well. I assume the idea is to get you hooked on viewer numbers early, so you can spend the next year trying to recapture that glory. I've spent a year posting videos and haven't come close to the same level of success, so I assume that was my proverbial 15 minutes of fame, and that the equally-proverbial ship has sailed. With more charisma and more click-bait, I coulda been a contender, and now I'm just another middling content creator. Happily, that's really all I was aiming for anyway, so while I appreciate the initial dopamine hit of 50k views, I'm very happy with a core audience of 20 to 30 people. Smaller connections feel a truer than big vague ones, to me, and anyway I'm not interested in monetizing Youtube, and from what I understand that's the main advantage of having a really big audience there.
After that, only my Elves in 5e compared to elves in Pathfinder 2e and Get caught up with Dragonlance novels in 12 minutes (released when 5e Dragonlance was gearing up, just before WotC shot itself and the community in the foot) have exceeded 5,000 views.
Usually, I select two or three blog posts and record them, slap some still photos from Unsplash into a video track, and release that as content. My blog post about metagaming rendered the video Why I don't mind meta-gaming and has acquired 1,400 views since November 13 2023 (less than a month ago at the time of writing).
My post about how much I dislike setting target numbers (or DC) in an RPG rendered a video called STOP SETTING DCs in Pathfinder, D&D 5e, and Tales of the Valiant] and has gotten 2,462 since August 8 2023.
Other posts have gotten fewer views, but I do think my estimate of 500 average views is fair.
The channel itself has acquired 573 subscribers, which continues to amaze me. I don't have much of a personality, my videos don't have my face in them, I talk about some pretty niche topics and play some niche board games, and I've not once said the words "like and subscribe".
Interestingly, in a year I've had 0 comments.
I post on Youtube obviously because I want to share my thoughts with other people, so growing an audience is important to me. However, I'm not sure whether it's important enough to ask every viewer to click the Like button and to subcribe to the channel. There's evidence, apparently, that when you tell Youtube viewers to "like and subscribe", more people do it than otherwise. I have a real problem with redundancy and inefficiency, though, and I just feel like most Youtube viewers know about the Like and Subscribe buttons. I can't bring myself to "remind" people of something they already know, even though I do acknowledge that repetition is vital in public communication. If you don't say it 3 times every time you speak, then people have no hope of getting the message. I've seen that in action, I know it's true, but I still can't bring myself to say the phrase. At least, not so far. I admit that it could be an interesting experiment, and I'm seriously considering adding it to the end of videos in 2024 to see what effect it has.
Also, if you don't ask people to Like and Subscribe, then they really have no reason to Like and Subscribe, unless they feel the need to do it for themselves. So there is value to essentially asking the Youtube audience to ignore their own lack of compulsion, and instead to do a thing to appease the horrendous Youtube algorithm that, on the one hand, robs content creators of views (by not recommending videos to people) while at the same time makes it possible for a content creator like me to get 1,000 views on a video that otherwise would have had no audience.
I went to school for film production, and I've worked on movies in the past, but I work in tech now so I don't get much of an opportunity to edit video. I'm mostly posting to Youtube because it gives me a reason to stay current on open source video editing software. I probably won't change my strategy in 2024, but the urge to experiment runs deep in a nerd of my ilk, so there's still some internal debating happening.
For me, the Internet is two things. It's a way to interact with people, and it's a way to acquire information. Lately (by which I mean the last decade) both of those have been largely dominated by websites developed and funded by major corporations. I prefer an Internet where I can find actual people with unique thoughts on a broad spectrum of topics, and RPG Planet is a great, more or less direct connection to other actual, real people. Sites like BoardGameGeek and Enworld and DrivethruRPG are other notable holdouts, and it a great comfort to me that my niche interests have been able to fly under the corporate radar, or else just aren't interesting enough for the corporations to "adopt" and smother.
I think blogging is still a hugely important movement on the Internet, and in the coming years I intend to add podcasting back into the mix. I currently have a tech podcast, but I also once had a podcast about Creative Commons and Public Domain lore. I didn't promote it, and eventually had to stop production, but I think there's probably an efficient way to make just the audio part of the articles I read for Youtube available through RSS.
In addition to blogging, I published three products this year: