As usual this time of the year, I am putting together this post because we just survived another year and have been doing this blog/YouTube thing for 6 whole years now! I feel like a broken record in these posts each year but I never thought this journey would make it this far nor reach as high as we have. This was simply an experiment when we started this little endeavor in the spring of 2016. We are continually reenergized by our followers and your comments on our content and want to thank you all for that! 2021 had many challenges, admittedly not as a many as 2020, that have changed our lives forever. But, I also feel like the past 2 years have been a great opportunity for our blog and YouTube Channel to grow and extend its reach into the wargaming community. Overall, the last year was a success for us as we have seen consistent and steady growth in our written blog content as well as in our YouTube Channel.
Happy Birthday To Us!
Before we start talking about anything, we both wanted to thank everyone that has been with us on this 6-year long ride. As you know, we started the blog in 2016. In fact, our first post was on April 17, 2016 and was a very short AAR on our very first attempt at playing Empire of the Sun from GMT Games (I look at the pictures we used in that AAR and notice that the counters were not clipped! Barbarians!). We still laugh to this day that that was one of our first games that we tried to cover. I guess we both like diving into the deep end of the pool! From those meager beginnings, we have posted lots and I think have improved the quality of our content since that first try. Your readership and viewing has helped keep us inspired and motivated to put out consistent content. Its been a lot of work, and does take up quite a bit of our free time, but we do enjoy it and have no plans to slow the train down. We also have been very lucky in the support that we have received from various publishers, websites (such as Consimworld and grognard.com) and designers as they have worked to keep us going as well. From sharing our posts on Twitter, to posting our videos and reviews on the game pages on their websites, a good portion of our views come from these sources and we appreciate that.
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 is a big part of our weekly posts generally starting each week off with a new post on Mondays. I work 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 on these in-design games. We recently have been covering more Kickstarters in this fashion and have started posting those interviews in the middle of the week as the campaign’s kickoff. I have very rarely been told no by someone when I contact them on email to discuss their game and have been able to build quite a number of what I would call friendships with several of these designers. I will not name specific individuals, as I don’t want to inadvertently leave someone out, but thanks to you all! You are simply the best!
The Blog By the Numbers
With those pleasantries out of the way, onto a look at the blog numbers, which is always my favorite part! Statistics are a good indicator of how we are doing and I personally pay a lot of attention to our daily, weekly and monthly numbers. Actually, I might say that I am addicted to looking at them and check several times (which means about 10 times) per day.
Since the blog started in April 2016, we have been viewed over 3.6 million times (as compared to 3.1 million this time last year). These views have come from an astounding 1,120,326 visitors (as compared to 927,002 visitors as of April 2021). This means that each visitor that comes onto the blog averages 3.24 views. This number is down slightly form last year’s 3.34 views per visitor but is still very comparable. It is a good thing that when people do come on they spend some time viewing our current content and sometimes even dive back through our older stuff. That is one thing that I like about how WordPress runs, as they will link comparable articles and posts below the new post so that when the reader is finished they can simply click a link there to take them to another similar article. We have really been blown away by the response that we have seen in our blog. While Alexander no longer writes on it, save when I browbeat him and shame him into doing it (he is really stubborn though and cannot be influenced on most things!), I have really enjoyed continuing to cover games in the written format as I know that there are people out there who prefer it to videos. I know that I prefer written blogs but everyone is different!
You will also notice that we have done 1,847 posts over the six year period that our blog has existed. Remember though that 2016 only included 9 months of content while 2022 only takes into account the first four months of the year, which accounts for the lower numbers for those shown years. If you look at the individual years’ numbers though you will see that we posted a lot in 2017 (432), 2018 (335) and 2020 (355) while 2019 (194) and 2021 (200) were both a bit of a slow year as I had started a new job and was very busy with some travel and out of town work that kept me from my regular routine of writing. Also, early on, remember that there were three of us writing for the blog (remember Tim) and over the past few years it has just been Alexander and I, although at this point as mentioned earlier I do 99% of the posts on the blog. Prior to this past year, one of the reasons that our statistics have continued to rise is that we posted more regular content with at least 5 posts per week, sometimes as many as 7. This consistency kept our blog fresh in our readers minds and on their timelines. Over the past few years, the number of posts has declined because I have simply become much busier in life with my work (the job that pays) and my children as they have grown and are into more activities.
Another interesting statistical compilation that is provided by our WordPress software is a look at not only the number of posts but also the total number of comments, total post likes, total words written as well as some averages across those numbers. I will allow you to look for yourself but our blog numbers have been down over the past year or so because frankly I took a big break (didn’t post anything during August, September and October due to work) and have now come back to only posting 2-3 times per week. Less content to read equates to less views. I get that but I was very disappointed in the interactions we got in the form of likes and comments for our stuff late in 2021 and even now into 2022 so I am not really sure what has changed with that, other than the posting frequency being down. If you like something or just have a comment to add to the discussion, please do so. It is greatly appreciated!
Over the past 6 years, we have built quite a library of content and we still come up often in internet searches which brings a lot of visitors to our site. In fact, here is a look at some interesting data from the blog where you can see our top Referrers from 2021. These are sites that send visitors to our site as they have hosted or linked to our articles, videos or other content and people find us this way. Notice though that Search Engines sent 152,504 views our way, which is about 23.5% of our total views (Total Views for 2021 were 648,347). Social Media is also a good source for views as Facebook brought in 28,463 views (down a bit in 2020 from 35,727 views) and Twitter 13,130 views (down a bit in 2020 from 21,160 views). GMT Games is a big part of our views as they have referred 16,496 views (down in 2020 from 23,185 views) as well as Consimworld which referred 8,440 views. Not shown in the graphic are the myriad of smaller referrers that send views our way. That list is really very long and I couldn’t post the whole graphic but there are about another 100+ referrers ranging from 1,000 views referred all the way down to just a handful of referrals. We appreciate all the views though and will never not be grateful for any help that we can get.
The following graphic shows our Monthly Views since 2016 and tells a really interesting story. As you can see, our monthly views had been steadily increasing over the years, growing from a Monthly Average Views of just 16,153 in 2016 to over 71,856 in 2021. This slowed down a bit though in 2020 with 69,325. As you can see, as I started posting on the blog less starting in July 2021, our monthly views dropped off to the lowest point since 2016. But as you can see for 2022 thus far, we are rebounding and slowly returning to closer to our monthly average views found in 2018 and 2019. I am just not going to kill myself anymore to make sure to get 5-7 new posts per week. 2-3 posts is what I can do and I have committed to continuing to do that into 2022 and beyond.
A few years ago when we posted these stats there was a request for a map of viewers and viewership based on location. The WordPress (powered by JetPack) statistics are pretty good so here’s a heat map of the top country views for 2021. Obviously the US is where the majority of views come from with the UK and Canada bringing up the second and third spots respectively. We are an English language written blog so that’s to be expected. But we have a good representation of views from other countries including Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Australia, Sweden, Netherlands, Greece and Poland amongst many others. I am always surprised when we get a comment or interaction with fans from other countries and when I look at this graphic I realize that we are a global blog with lots of fans in lots of countries and that makes me very happy.
Top Performing Blog Posts for 2021
In the anniversary post last year, I showed you a list of our best performing posts on the blog. So I will continue that trend this year by showing our best performing posts for 2021. The same as last year, it seems that lists of games do the best, including our regular Wargame Watch feature as well as things like Alexander’s Top Wargames, Grant’s Top 10 Solitaire Wargames, Grant’s Most Anticipated Wargames of 2021!, and our annual Top 10 Wargames lists. This year I noticed that my The Music of the Vietnam War Playlist Suggestions Part 1 did pretty well as well as some of my First Impressions posts like the ones on Atlantic Chase and War Room.
In 2021, the blog hosted 56 interviews with designers (down a bit from 2020 with 63 hosted), with several of those being for Kickstarters. That means that we posted more than 1 interview per week so we were busy. Thus far in 2022, we have posted just 14 such interviews and seem to have no problem finding interested designers who want to share their games. I regularly scour various sources for news and anytime I find information about an upcoming game I add it to my list and try to reach out to at least 3-4 designers each month. The goal here is to have a continual pipeline of these designer interviews in the works, either having sent questions out to the designers or working to format and schedule interviews I have received back on the blog, I am always a few weeks ahead in order to make sure I have a continual flow of posts. For example, this past weekend, I spent a few hours on Saturday and Sunday while watching television to send out 5 sets of questions for new upcoming designs. Here is a look at some of our better performing designer interview posts from 2021:
Interview with Mark Simonitch Designer of Salerno ’43 from GMT Games – our number 1 performing interview is an operational wargame from GMT Games and the master that is Mark Simonitch.
Interview with John Butterfield Designer of SpaceCorp: Ventures from GMT Games – our number 2 performing interview isn’t even a wargame at all but was designed by one of the best in the business John Butterfield.
Interview with Grant Wylie Designer of Tarawa 1943 from Worthington Publishing – Another really great performing interview was with Grant Wylie (what a fantastic first name!) and his bloody and absolutely brutal solitaire game on the invasion of the Tarawa Atoll during WWII.
Interview with Bill Byrne Developer for Great Battles of the American Civil War Volume VIII Into the Woods: The Battle of Shiloh from GMT Games – these Great Battles of the American Civil War Series interviews always do really well and Bill Byrne is simply fantastic as he gives lots of great detail, discussed how the history was incorporated into the design and also provide fantastic playtest pictures.
Interview with Hermann Luttmann Designer of A Most Fearful Sacrifice: The Three Days of Gettysburg from Flying Pig Games – our last highlighted great performing interview was with Hermann Luttmann and his very interesting looking take on the Battle of Gettysburg.
Those were simply some of our best performing designer interviews on the blog throughout the year. To access our backlog of these interviews, just go to our blog and check out the Categories section located on the right side of the screen and enter Designer Interviews. To date, we have posted over 340 of these designer interviews and I currently have 4 scheduled to post over the next month with another 11 that are in the works.
Social Media/Other Platforms
One of our most important marketing efforts is our focus on various Social Media platforms with the most used platform being Twitter followed by Facebook. We share our posts from the blog on Twitter (@playersaidblog) and Facebook (@theplayersaid) daily and have expanded into sharing in around 6 Facebook groups including Wargamers, Solitaire Wargames, Official GMT Games Group (when our posts focus on one of GMT’s games), The Jacobin Wargamer, Wargames are for everybody! and finally THE BOARDGAME GROUP. I always worry about our frequency of posts and upsetting the groups but I do spend time trying to respond to comments and questions on our posts, share my gaming pictures and read others posts and comment on them as well.
As you can see from the table above, I missed noting our stats for these Social Media platforms in 2019 but we have had a lot of growth in our Social Media reach in 2021 with a 16.2% increase in Twitter followers, 7.5% increase in our Facebook follows and 4.8% increase in Instagram followers (which is a platform that we really have ignored over the past year). In just over 5 1/2 years, as we didn’t use social media much the first year, we have built a network of followers on these platforms that really helps us to engage and have discussions on various topics.
Our biggest area of growth though has been in our YouTube Channel as we now have over 13,642 subscribers. Compared to this time last year in April 2021, we gained 2,466 subs or a 22.1% increase. This growth was less than in 2020 but remember we all were stuck at home during COVID and people were flocking to our banner regularly to get updates on new games.
As you can see in the graphic below, we had 858,300 views of our videos on YouTube over the past year (April 2021 through April 2022). Those total views have added up to 131,400 hours of watching, which is amazing to me! Most of our videos are around 40-60 minutes so this means a lot of watching for a fair bit of time. Wargamers are a bit more committed than other gaming groups so watching through an entire video is not that weird for Grognards. My guess is we will reach 15,500 subscribers in late 2022 (We came up a bit short of my last prognostication which was 14,000 by the end of 2021 and it has taken us until now to reach 13,600 subscribers) so please subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already.
Just a couple of interesting facts about the YouTube statistics. To date, we have had 2,875,681 total views of our videos, which is absolutely astonishing! I also say this often but I was the one that didn’t want to go into doing videos. I sure am glad that we did though! This breaks down to 380,056 hours of viewing which equates to 43.4 total years! That was calculated by multiplying 24 hours per day x 365 days per year to come to a figure of 8,760 hours in a year. Then divide the total hours watched of 380,056 by 8,760 hours for a year and you come to 43.4 years! So, I guess that we owe all of you an apology as you have lost nearly 44 years of collective time off of your lives watching the 2 of us prattle on! Another interesting tidbit is that 47% of our viewers are also subscribers. Most channels see a 25-35% range for this statistic so we are really pleased with that.
In 2021, we started the Monthly Debrief Series of videos where we talk about what games we played the previous month and what we plan to play in the coming month as well as what games are on Kickstarter and a protracted discussion on a chosen monthly topic. These videos have been very well received. We did one of these videos each month in 2021 and saw them garner a total of 70,196 views. This equates to a total of 5,850 average views per episode, which is a number we are very pleased with! We tend to ramble on in these videos and they are over an hour each so thank you for watching and sticking with us as we go on and on!
We also picked up a new sponsor for our Monthly Debrief Video Series in Noble Knight Games. They have provided us with a discount code PLAYAID to give users 5% off any purchase. Please use this as we receive a small kickback from each purchase and we use the funds to do any number of things like attend Cons, pay for games we would like to play and review but cannot get review copies for, upgraded equipment, etc.
We have now been on Patreon for four years now and if you didn’t know you can donate a fixed dollar amount monthly ranging from $1 to $25 to help us to keep going. The added revenue from this service has allowed us to upgrade our video and audio equipment, purchase some new lighting for the bunker, get me a nice video stand for when I shoot solo videos, add some soundproofing foam to the ceilings in the bunker (that really hasn’t helped all that much but you get what you pay for!) and has also allowed us to attend a few more gaming conventions than we normally could. We have also purchased our TPA banner that you see in our videos and take that with us to conventions as well so you can find us. As of now, we have 94 Patrons which is about 21% more than last year (78). We have quite the good discussions on our Slack Channel and have also started asking our Patrons for ideas on topics to discuss during our Monthly Debrief Video Series. We’re still a little hesitant about Patreon, it feels really weird asking for donations, but we have put those donations to good use, so thanks already. Just to be clear, we started and have done most of this content creation of our own volition, so there’s no risk of us going away or having to shut up shop because of a lack of money. We just wanted a way that’s a bit more official for you to become a part of what we do and we can more easily manage a few perks for those that do donate!
One final thing. We have had a deal for a few years now with TeeSpring who sells our t-shirts for a fairly reasonable price as well as a few other pieces of swag including logo stickers, blankets, mugs, sweatshirts and even face masks (we are proud of our logo as it was designed by Alexander with my input and feel it conveys a lot about who we are and what we stand for) so when we see it on a t-shirt in the wild or at a convention, it brings us great joy! Here is a link to that page: https://teespring.com/stores/the-players-aid
To wrap this up, we simply want to say thank you for all of the support that you give us and for your interest in our content. Ultimately blogs and YouTube Channels only really continue with consistent posts if there is a response. The work involved, while it is a hobby and something that we do for the love of the games, does take us away from some of our other responsibilities at least partially and it is good to see that our content is having an impact on someone. We have made a lot of good friends through this little blog experiment of ours and we look forward to seeing many of you again soon once we get back to going out and attending conventions again, hopefully that will be later this year.
Please let us know what you would like to see from our blog and YouTube Channel and also tell us what you enjoy about our content. Thanks and here is to hopefully another successful 2022.