There was a time when “100” seemed impossibly far off; for a long while I’d stayed at around twenty subscribers or so. That was back when I would write mostly about Car Wars. Sometimes I would post more frequently in a burst of activity and nothing would happen. The average hit counts for each day would stay roughly the same as before. I might have been trying some really stupid stuff, I can’t remember. I know for a while I tried to make “end all be all” type posts, but it took a whole lot of time to make that sort of thing and I don’t think the intended audience actually existed.
The big change happened when I decided to start posting about role playing games. I’d held off for a long time because I didn’t want to look like an idiot. (I actually posted several session reports on a forum until I had more confidence about it.) I started posting once a week and I remember getting to a point where I ran out of things to post. I’d do reviews if I didn’t have anything else and somehow I trudged on gradually getting in the habit posting a couple of times a week. Several mid-tier gaming blogs put me in their blog rolls. This new phase of “popularity” managed to double the number of subscribers up to about 40 or so at which point I reached a new plateau. I was ecstatic.
I think that’s about where I was at the start of last year. I soon switched to posting several times a week and then changed my title to “Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog.” I expanded my coverage another notch and developed a set of regular features: Blog Watch, Designer Spotlight, On the Table, and Space Gaming News. I was trying to go more for a magazine feel, but I soon began dabbling in more original material. I started several different series at once and tried to keep spinning the plates…. Some days I would get up, write, and post, and I would almost forget who I was after a while. If I ever got tired of doing it, someone would come along wanting collaborate on something and I’d redouble my efforts out of a desire to make them look good. I kept at it… and things just kept growing until I got to here: 100 subscribers!
Anyway, blogging may be a dying art form at this point. I don’t know. It seems like that the people that are five or more years younger than me don’t really read… while the people more than five years older than me aren’t really on any sort of social media. Maybe that’s just the gaming scene. What I wanted to point out to the people that may care about the form… if you want the number of subscribers to go up, you have to diversify. Being good or deep or going viral only does so much… because there’s only so many people that are keen on whatever narrow slice of greatness you are willing and able to serve up. If you start trying a new thing, new people will show up and hit the subscribe button even if you’re clueless. If you run out of things to say but then try it again several months later, you’ll be better at it and then you’ll get a second round of new subscribers.
At least… that’s what I’ve observed.
But, yeah…. 100 subscribers. Of those, maybe 25 of those are just nutso gaming junkies that would be here regardless of how much effort I put into this. (I’m one of thirty gaming blogs in their feeds and they wouldn’t necessarily notice if I went dark for a while.) Another 25 of those are people that are gone, that subscribed by accident, or that are some kind of internet marketer or something. The fifty in the middle are lurkers that are probably just here for maybe ten percent of what I do… but none of them are here for the same ten percent!
I really should look into writing for money at some point. I think Jerry Pournelle actually said that it is immoral to write for free. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s much of a market for a lot of the topics I want to delve into. None of what I want to say would survive the translation into a media that is targeting the proverbial Old Lady in Dubuque. And most of the value in what I do here lies in the fact that it comes across as many eyeballs as it does. Packaging it all up into a PDF that is read by a fraction of my readership doesn’t really get me much.
But really… I’ve seen people look at me with that “here, take my money” look for something I can do for them. It’s kind of silly what most people actually want and it’s easy enough to make them open up their wallets, but I can tell you that a few thousand words on some vintage game is not it! The amount of effort that I think it would take to get any amount of money for writing stuff just isn’t worth it in comparison. But I’d hate to think that my giving it away here just makes it that much harder for people that would otherwise like to seriously make a go at paying their bills with the written word. Of course, most people that are a couple orders of magnitude better than me can’t quit their day jobs, either. Being a “real” writer that gets paid would be as much about the prestige as anything else. Of course, at that point I’d figure out another reason for why I still wasn’t really “real.” (Velveteen writer syndrome is a killer.)
So, no… “100 subscribers” does not mean that you suddenly become a real boy… or that you have a brain, a heart, or courage. Anyone willing to drop a couple thousand words a week could have done the same, of course. It’s been a little scary sometimes crawling up the ranks. But if I’m edging into the imaginary top 20 gaming blogs list at this point, it’s as much because so many great bloggers have quit as anything else. And that’s the last point about diversifying your themes and coverage that I want to make: you’re either going to be growing or quitting. There’s no middle ground. If you keep a narrow focus, you’ll eventually run out of things to say.
Anyway, to all the folks that have helped me to get “here,” thank you. There’s more people out there that are like me than I ever would have known… and it’s been fun getting to know you all through this medium.