(There are three writeups.org donation drives a year – February, June, October.)
Let me tell you how the writeups.org (worg) project is going. No, no I insist.
1/ The Big Sweep
Bringing old entries to better standards (hyperlinks, Context section, semantic/meta data, cleft sentences and paragraphs, clarity, grammar, etc.) continues slowly. It’s slow in part because I’m increasingly thorough about the changes. Which means in turn that profiles that were upgraded early during the sweep would now benefit from another pass… that never stops.
That means that a lot of entries don’t have their ads yet (no Big Sweep review = no ads). Which the donations are meant to partially compensate for.
2/ Traffic and server
We had accelerated growth for more than a year after the shift to the new site format. Now growth is back to normal. Which is a *good* thing. Since we’re on the cusp of needing *business* hosting we can’t afford, rather than a low-cost SMB package.
In late December the site migrated to a new server farm our hosting service set up. It goes faster, because the new servers are painted red, with flame decals on the side. This allows us to keep fitting on our current hosting package for longer. OTOH the search queries remain slower than I’d like, but still workable.
Also, I had a celebratory piece of chocolate some weeks back as we reached the 100,000th attempt at forcing the login of the new version of the site. Well actually there were more than that since the security has several, heterogeneous layers. But that was a symbolic number anyway.
The site also finally got lazy loading implemented on the sixth of February. Hurray.
3/ Publication pace
We are maintaining the 5-profiles-3-times-a month pace. So, y’know, one article every other day. But this is now done by fudging. Entries that would have previously been thrown in as extras (say, because we “simply” added M&M stats) now count as one of the five slots.
This reflect our continuously dwindling manpower. Life events get in the way, people move on, etc.. Nothing new here – it’ll continue along the same slope unless we get new blood. As of this writing, only two new articles in the site’s publication backlog is written by somebody who’s not me.
That also means I increasingly favour overhauling older entries, where the bulk of the research, modelisation, etc. is already done. So I can keep the pace. And because that removes a below-average entry in the process, which is valuable.
I’ve ended experimentation with newsletters. Nowadays a newsletter requires far too much work to make the cut.
Everything that isn’t *exactly right* gets slain as spam, and corporate newsletters have established standard we don’t have the resources to match. Or rather we could do it, but that’d mean less content for the site. Which makes no sense.
5/ Humble partnership
It looks like we can keep those at 2 or 3 announcements per month, which seems reasonable.
These generate about $10/month. Just mentioning that since some people have… utterly fantastic notions about what niche, non-commercial web publication earns. This is nowhere near the income of a real Internet-based job, such as pretending to be scared by video games for the delight of a billion 12-year olds.
This micro-income is meant to compensate for the perpetually-decreasing programmatic ads revenue. Frex, from November to December we displayed 3% more Google ads (in part due to the Big Sweep), yet their income fell by 25%. Throwing Humble into the mix allows for maintaining our bills-paying ability.
(That can also help for those of y’all wondering why, say, The Awl shut down).
(Also: ads blockers. That is all.)
6/ Low tech armour & weapons articles
Yep, it’s done. Not everything is published as of this writing, but it’s written. As usual you can use the Guide To Weapons Locker Articles page as your base camp, to see what’s already online.
That huge amount of work greatly simplifies writing up low-tech characters. It’s coherent stats we can just plug into our Dragon Age stuff, the Baldur’s gate stuff, etc.. I’m not going to make a specific sweep for upgrades, but older writeups with such gear will be brought in line with the new stats when the occasion presents itself.
7/ Long-term perspective
Generally, these aren’t looking good for this sort of website.
The continuing shift from desktop to mobile is good for, say, YouTube influencer drama clashes or 300-words news articles. Less so for long text articles with lots of pictures and fancy technical bits at the end.
So is, obviously, the continuing shift from text + pictures to video. This evolution is exemplified by, say, the autorunning, sticks-to-your-screen video on Wookiepedia and other big wikis.
Catastrophic FCC decisions last year stand a solid chance of resulting in tiered Internet access. Which would screw the non-commercial (or thin margins), small publishers.
The continuing shift from the open Internet toward Facebook doesn’t help, though it seems to be slowing down.
Fandom wikia sites
The “fandom” wikias are now entrenched, and many have become nicely polished. Even those who aren’t generally meet the all-important “good enough” threshold, which is what 80%+ of people need. Other information sources thus become extraneous, unless they’re backed by a powerful #brand with excellent #SEO.
Other big genre wikis (such as TV Tropes or Comic Vine) contribute to this.
Noise around movies
The barrage of super-hero movies continues to result in millions of online #content pieces. On Google, this buries articles from less moneyed sources using super-hero-related keywords.
Essentially, this puts us in Google competition with *every* entertainment website if we, say, are talking about Black Panther. And as it happens IGN, the IMDB or The Hollywood Reporter have a bit more reach than a tabletop RPG site. 🙂
7.1/ That said
That said we’re still growing in terms of readership, in terms of Google authority, in terms of content, in terms of quality (so many old articles getting overhauled), etc.. And the 2016+ version of the site was a big, big step forward.
Google also tells me that, on average, we’re result #8 in Google searches relevant to our content. Which can be considered quite an achievement for a tiny, zero-budget community about a long-since-out-of-print tabletop RPG. It might even be seen as badass.
It is. Howbeit, it’s not that useful 🙂 .
The Internet is a winner-takes-it-all affair. Traditionally, the top 3 results take ⅔ of the traffic, and I’m confident that it’s higher nowadays. By the time you reach position #8, you can easily get down to 0.5% of the traffic. Especially since Google results seem to be evolving toward 7 results per page (because smartphone screens are, as kids say, smol).
A #brand with good #topofmind being result number 8 could probably pull 2% of the traffic. But not writeups.org, whose marketing budget won’t buy you a single Post-It™.
Thus you have a situation where looking for, say, a Marvel Comics character, will routinely result in 4 or 5 Wikipedia and Fandom Wikia links, plus Marvel.com, plus Comicvine.gamespot.com.
Which means that #8 is the *highest* Google position we could possibly achieve in this configuration. Unless we buy Marvel or Gamespot, of course. But let me tell you – that’s a LOT of readers’ donations.
8/ Interlude: dance of capitalist superiority
Some weeks back I was glancing at a RPG forum and read a comment about a pair of books .
“It’s expensive — more than $100 RSP — but there are more than 600 character writeups”, somebody said.
So I suppose that people should make donations of about $955 for WORG. Sounds like good logic, yes ?
That the site is increasingly a one-man show as the contributors base erodes is an obvious issue. But of course it means that every bit of help — comments, social media propagation, suggestions, contributions, copy-editing support, questions, vibes, donations, Patreonage… — becomes increasingly meaningful.
Therefore, donate. Please and thank you.