Wow! This is a couple of days past due, but we recently celebrated our second birthday here at The Players’ Aid. The past year has been a wild one, there’s been change, growth, and steady progress in what the website offers.
When the website was started back in 2016 we really just wanted a place to talk about the games we were playing and have a platform to voice our thoughts, and have some interaction with other wargamers beyond the (then) 140 characters allowed by Twitter. Since the early days, we’ve tried to provide a consistent flow of quality reviews, product discussions and other wargaming topics. Back in September, Tim departed The Players’ Aid and the website under went a re-branding so to speak where we focused in on wargames to a larger extent. With that in mind we decided to create a new logo and re-brand ourselves. Originally the logo looked like a four sided die with the letters TPA instead of numbers on it. This hailed to our RPG background and also served as the ‘A’ in Players and Aid:
We wanted to keep the idea behind the logo but make a cleaner look that represented (to a greater degree) what you can expect from out website, namely wargames. With that in mind, and after some preliminary testing, we came up with the concept of our logo that you see pasted all over our sites today. I’m too cheap to pay someone to create the logo, and my background is in Biology, so graphic design is something I’ve had to really teach myself for the website. If you look at the original logo above, you’ll see the jagged diagonal lines and the overall ‘pixelation’ that makes it look like it was designed in MS Paint. And that’s because it was. For the re-branding, we wanted a more polished and professional look we could really be proud of. I taught myself how to use Inkscape – a free (and highly recommended) vector drawing software – and after much yelling and cursing came up with the logo to the left. We put our heads together and came up with the two wargame counters that represent both Grant and myself. The Green Paratroops counter is the 101st Airborne division, and the first armoured brigade, in brown, fought at El Alamein and Greece.
As part of that I redid the titles and composed a drum roll for the introductions to our videos over at the YouTube channel. All in all I’m really happy with how that all turned out, and I’m grateful for the feedback and input from our Twitter followers during the design process. Helpful hints about sizing, spacing and individuality helped us to create something that was simple, yet meaningful.
So, with all that said we’ll now take you through a few different aspects of how we’ve grown and where, and then talk about the future and what we’re hoping for the website. But before we do that we wanted to say a huge thanks to everyone that has supported us the past couple of years. Honestly, Grant and I are just gamers at heart. We’ve been playing board games for as long as we’ve known each other. A few years ago we started playing heavier wargames and the responses on twitter prompted us to give back something more substantial than a few pictures to the hobby. Since then your readership has helped keep us inspired and motivated to put out consistent content. We’ve also been able to build great relationships with various game companies, publishers, and other content creators that have helped to keep the reviews coming thick and fast. To those that have supported us along the way, or have written guest posts – another massive thank you. We also want to thank the myriad of designers who have taken time out of their busy schedules to answer our long and sometimes deep questions about their designs in our interviews. Our Designer Interviews series has been a huge success and big part of our weekly posts. Grant works hard to try and stay up on the newest games and give our readers an inside look at the mechanics, design process and game play. I will not name specific individuals, as I don’t want to inadvertently leave someone out, but thank you to you all! You are simply the best.
Now, onto the fun stuff:
The numbers are more of a way for us to measure if we’re putting out things that people
even care about. Since starting the website back in April of 2016 we’re been viewed nearly a million times. There have been 822 posts, which is admittedly a lot. Back when there was three of us, and we all lived locally, sometimes things got out of hand and there’d be three, sometimes four posts a day. After Tim departed, and I (Alexander) moved 40 minutes away from Grant, we’ve found our play time, and as such, our output reduced. We’ve also had to tweak our content to include more solitaire gaming because we also do a lot more of that now.
From our humble beginnings of a few hundred daily views we’ve seen steady growth over the past months and we’re now rising to a plateau of around 50,000 monthly views. We’d discussed briefly trying to get 50,000 views every month for the whole year of 2018, and whilst the above graphic shows that’s the case, there’s some rounding in those numbers.
After graphing the actual totals you can see we missed our calendar year goal on the second month of the year! I take pride in the fact that we so very nearly made it, considering that February only has 28 days. From a daily stand point the averages have risen from 1,400 daily views by about 200 views. This kind of incremental growth helps us to know we’re trending in the right direction, but that we need to keep improving in order to keep trending upwards.
Last year when we posted these stats there was a request for a map of viewers and viewership based on location. The WordPess (powered by JetPack) statistics are pretty good so here’s a heat map of where the views come from. Obviously the US is where the majority of views come from (just over half our total lifetime views) with Canada and the UK bringing up the third and second spots respectively. We are an English language written blog so that’s to be expected.
Here’s the specific numbers from each country. There’s a few anomalies like the 1,092 views that came from “European Union”. I’ve no idea what that means. I mean, I know what the EU means, but I have no idea what WordPress designates as EU and not just under the specific country. There was almost twice as many other countries, but they wouldn’t fit on a readable image, and frankly most of them only had one or two views a piece.
Social Media/Other Platforms
The website saw major growth in our first year, but throughout the second year the growth rate has steadied and we are not seeing huge jumps in terms of viewership. Across our other avenues of access, however, our exposure has increased significantly. The only platform that didn’t particularly grow is Instagram, which is both unsurprising – how many of you grogs are on there? but also inconsequential. Instagram drives approximately zero views to our blog, and is mostly just there for fun to show off game components, in progress games, and miniatures that I’ve painted.
Facebook is one of our smaller mediums of communication but we doubled the amount of people that like the page (and therefore see regular updates). We ran an exclusive competition on the FB page late last year that helped to boost that signal. So, our apologies ahead of time if Cambridge Analytica starts selling off your interest in Here I Stand to other board game companies.
The YouTube channel saw the greatest growth, which is to be expected because we’ve put a lot more effort into the channel over the past six months. We started at first just doing a few unboxing and quick board game reviews. Through various comments it became clear people wanted a little more than a 10 minute overview of what a board game “felt like” to play. This was particularly pertinent with our older video reviews of games like Wing Leader: Supremacy. Since those early days, our equipment has become more sophisticated and we’ve got rigs to be able to shoot more of the board and components for rules explanations and much more in depth analysis. After a lot of trial and error I finally found, and figured out how to correctly utilize, a good microphone for much better audio capture.
I’m very grateful for everyone that subscribes. The channel will only get better as we do more solo play through videos and some more discussion based videos about styles of games, genres, designers and the like. For anyone interested, I use Adobe Premier Elements for video editing and Audacity for audio processing on the rare occasions I need to do that. Audacity if a free open source audio processor, and Premiere Elements is anywhere from $80-120 depending on where you look and if you can afford to hold out for a sale.
Since last year the Twitter followers have doubled and it’s been the most interactive forum of public discussion for us. If there’s questions and comments on YouTube, those typically always get replies, but Twitter is actively trawled by Grant most of the day. I watch and read everything as well and sometimes post pictures of painting/miniatures projects. If you want a friendly chat or have requests, Twitter is a really simple way to get a hold of us and get a quick response.
The wargaming hobby is one of the most interesting groups of people out there. So many of us hail from different walks of life, but share common interests in military strategy, history, and engaging social activities. We’re really lucky to have been put in a position to be a resource to all of you that share our common interests. As we look forward we’re trying to keep up our quality of content with written reviews, designer interviews and other wargaming news.
This year we’re hoping to head to both Origins and GenCon. We’ll bring our mobile recording kit (now with audio you can actually hear) and sitting down with some faces of the hobby for news, interviews, and insights.
We’ve recently put in orders for stickers, badges, business cards and a couple of T-Shirts to help promote the brand at conventions and videos, etc. Depending on interest we might make T-Shirts for sale, but that’d need more than just two of you to get the ball rolling. If you do have interest let us know though in the comments. Some of the stuff will be available via Patreon, which we’re brand new to and have just launched.
Patreon is a platform where you can donate monthly, or as a one time gig that helps us to keep going. Our next investment is going to be in a lighting rig for our videos and a few of the pricier games we cannot get review copies of. We’re a little hesitant about Patreon, it feels really weird asking for donations, but so far the donations have helped to renew our domain name and WordPress account, so thanks already. Just to be clear, we started and have done most of this of our own volition, so there’s no risk of us going away or having to shut up shop. We just wanted a way that’s a bit more official and we can more easily manage a few perks for those that do donate!
Thanks again to all our followers who we really consider as friends. You guys are what make The Players’ Aid successful.