I rarely like to write posts about the blogging here itself at Critical Hits (for one, my Twitter feed proves a much more effective channel). I always like to write posts that I myself would find interesting (if, of course, I hadn’t written it in the first place) and I find posts about blogging or lack thereof pretty uninteresting and self-indulgent. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from celebrating every year with a bit of self-indulgence. This will be another bit that I hope you will forgive, and hope you will find a bit interesting.
As I mentioned in our 5th anniversary post, it’s been a pretty big year for us. Our second big award nomination, launch of our first “spinoff” blog Roll, release of our first regular podcast The DM Guys, sponsoring convention events, and our first custom web app Junkulator have all been pretty big milestones. However, the thing that has had the biggest effect on me and the day to day was taking on more writers and setting up a regular schedule. That had been my vision for the site for several years: an online gamer magazine, featuring the latest news, as well as multiple columns from unique voices. This was the year that it finally happened. You could say that I accomplished my big resolution from 2009.
Now, however, that means I have a group of great editors, writers and readers who are looking to me for what’s next. These are just some of the ideas that have passed by me in the past year that I might try and implement in the next year. All of this, of course, is subject to change, addition, deletion, and spindling.
More Rotating Writers With Writer’s Guide
While we have some great regular columns from a fantastic array of writers, not every slot of the week is filled in advance- and this is on purpose. We tend to feature a post from a guest writer, like Dixon Trimline, Mike Shea or Sarah Darkmagic to name recent examples. I also have found that often the solution to getting more writers is to simply ask. However, I like to think that Critical Hits is held to a relatively high standard, and that can be tough for someone who is not a regular to our site.
To answer the question of “what is the high standard” and to navigate all the complexities of our posting system- there’s about 5 different things that need to be filled in on every post, and our category taxonomy is probably bizarre to anyone not familiar with it (though I hope it makes sense on the user side!)- I need to write up a set of writer’s guidelines. For a blog that started out with me encouraging my friends to post whatever, it’s certainly a big step for me to do something so official, but it seems to be necessary.
Publish or Perish
I tried a few times in ’08 and ’09 to put something together worth publishing, and really for no one’s fault but my own, those efforts fell apart. After seeing the totally awesome fantastico job that the Gnome Stew guys did on Eureka (seriously, go check it out, it’s amazing), my desire to get some publications out there with the Critical Hits name on it is redoubled.
Part of the challenge has been that so much of our content doesn’t translate well to book form- reviews and news don’t have much of a timeless feel to them that a book would need. I have leaned a bit on the Chatty DM and we’ve come up with what could be a very cool book that uses a lot of his classic content in a new way, and would hopefully be the first publication from Critical Hits. I’m sure he’s talked about it already (being Chatty) but I’ll let him handle whatever kind of big announcement he wants to make.
That would probably be the first, but if all goes well, not the last.
Also important: I personally want to pitch more to Dragon/Dungeon magazines, Kobold Quarterly, and other gaming magazines. That’s a personal goal, but getting the Critical Hits name out there in those places helps the blog too.
Create a Mailing List
Experiences with my day job and the Ennies have convinced me that there’s probably no better promotional tool right now than a mailing list. It’s another way to get our content out there, and is a more direct way to get people to buy books (see above) or otherwise advertise things. I won’t want to do it before I know that we’d be offering the audience something better than what they’re receiving now (so a non-annoying way) and in a way that won’t take up so much more of my time.
BTW, did you know you can already subscribe to daily updates of our RSS feed by email already? Most of you probably didn’t.
Make More Money
Highly related to the previous two is that we’d like to make more money. Contrary to what some may think, we don’t have a corporate overlord paying/bribing us to write what they want- it’s just us.
It’s never been a primary goal of CH like it has some other sites, but running ads alone just isn’t cutting it. I would dearly love to be able to pay writers, and pay for new projects, and so on, but the money just isn’t there. We’re doing better than most blogs probably, still, I’d love to have more cash to work with for any number of things.
More ads (and more annoying ads) aren’t on the table. We’ve discussed doing a marketplace of some kind before where we’d pick a bunch of products we like, tell you why we think you should buy it, and take a kick-back from each one sold. Moreso than that, I’d love to be able to have cool stuff to sell you, especially the aforementioned publications. The trick is getting it out there with almost no budget in the first place.
Do What We’re Doing, But Better
Those are all “businessy” goals, but first priority is going to be continuing to do what we’re doing: great posts by great writers regularly. Our website traffic has never been higher, and I’d like to continue that trend while producing new content. At the same time, I want to become a better editor and get better at giving feedback or suggestions to everyone else, which in turn will make us all better writers and producing better stuff.
As I’ve been recently reminded on several occasions, almost every post is someone’s first, and they might not have heard of you. Heck, there are still people who come onto a BoingBoing post who have never heard of it before. Looking at posts through that lens can be very helpful, while also staying true to our existing audience.
Ultimately, we need to do what we’re doing, plus more, and better. No problem, right?
Keep On Playing
In ’09, I swore that I would make an effort to play more, and in ’10, I can say definitively that I succeeded. I attended more conventions and focused more on playing new and cool stuff, and got into more game groups to try new things. That’s a trend that needs to continue, especially as I acquire more games that need to be played.
Why does this matter for the website? I truly believe we’re at our best when we’re writing about a game we love, and why, and poking and prodding at it to make it even better, and helping others to play their games better. If I’m not playing, I don’t know what’s fun and what isn’t, and it’s hard for me to rave about what I like. It also lends credibility- I can think of so many times when I’ve read a post by someone who clearly is disconnected from what they’re writing about, and it shows. I don’t want to be the guy that just makes uninformed speculation, I want to be the guy who is playing and knows what’s going on. I hope that others will join me in this too.
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