Since I started this blog almost 10 years ago, a lot of fellow RPG bloggers have stopped blogging or moved their activities from their blog to social media. I am quite active on Facebook as well,but even though I haven’t blogged that often recently, I am not planning to close down the blog anytime soon. There are a lot of reasons why I will not do so, and I’ll use this post to share some of my thoughts on the matter.
RPG Bloggers of all countries unite …
Back in 2008 the RPG Bloggers Network had just started. If I am not mistaken it were mainly the people behind the Critical Hits blog and Philippe-Antoine Ménard who started the whole thing. The RPG Bloggers Network was meant as a community of like-minded RPG bloggers and featured a central site which aggregated all member sites’ blog posts. The site was a hot mess consisting of a WordPress page with a RSS plugin which more often crashed and burned than not. But all these technical issues aside, it was my #1 place to go if I was looking for RPG-related news, interesting articles, reviews, interviews et cetera.
In addition to that the small, but growing community was very active. Everyone read everyone else’s posts, commented, gave advice, and helped new voices to be heard. It was an exciting time. Quickly the network had become quite large and reading a day’s worth of posts from the RPG Bloggers Network was akin to drinking from the proverbial firehose. It was not perfect, but it worked. A lot of people who started blogging in these days actually made the jump into the RPG industry.
Unfortunately the RPG Bloggers main site was exploding all the time. Maintaining it was obviously a chore, and adding new sites, editing member entries, etc. was a very manual process. It was pretty clear that this was doomed to fail eventually. I don’t exactly remember how things went down, but the RPG Bloggers Network changed hands eventually and the new owner announced a lot of improvements. But unfortunately not much, if anything at all, happened. The network still existed, but slowly it started to fall apart at its seams.
The Social Media exodus
During that time Berin Kinsman started the RPG Media Network, which was basically a social network for RPG fans, bloggers, podcasters and the like. It was actually a great alternative to Facebook and other social networks (I think MySpace was still a thing back then), and a lot of people in my personal circles were quite active there. Back in these days the trend to move one’s activities from blogs to social networks became much more popular. Why bother running a blog when you could just post stuff on a social network? Often it was also much easier to find an audience that way.
In a way, I agree. I still use social networks daily and I share links to my new posts on Twitter, FB, and Google+, but at least in my case, longer articles, interviews, reviews etc. are published first and foremost on my blog. One reason is that my blog is my own. It’s a self-hosted WordPress blog. The content is owned by me (and my co-authors) and I can move it to new hosting service if needed. If a social network shuts down you may quickly lose your content.
You can also easily lose control of your content, since the social network usually retains the right to use your material as they see fit. A debate about these rights was actually what killed the RPMN in the end. I don’t want to go into details here, since it’s ancient history, but if you are curious, there should still be articles about that kerfuffle on my blog.
Google+ is (not) dead
Eventually RPG fans, bloggers and podcasters begun to adopt Google+, the social network from Google. It had been called “dead” more often than I can count. And it has always been pretty far from the truth. Google+ has been thriving for years now – especially in the RPG community. Unfortunately it has lost a lot of appeal for me in the last years. Google has basically messed with G+ almost constantly and features I loved were dropped, while the focus of the whole network shifted. I have the impression that Google doesn’t really know what to do with G+, and it shows. I also noticed that the discussions on Google+ became a lot more hostile over the last few years. This was among the reasons why I limited my activity there recently.
I’ve had problem with spammers, and trolls on this blog over the years, but it has never been as bad as what I experienced on Google+. Sure, you can block and report people, but it sometimes felt like fighting against windmills. Curiously enough I haven’t had that many issues on Facebook so far (aside from when I post about politics or religion). One reason why I think there’s less of a troll problem on blogs is probably because people accept that a blog’s your turf. If FB or Google+ are public places, a blog is more like my living room.
I also think that long posts just don’t work on social media. Sure, Twitter is limited to 140 characters (or is it 240 now?), but even on Google+ or FB, reading long texts is a hassle. Formatting is pretty limited. On your blog you usually have full control over how you present your content. As someone who mainly consumes content it’s also easy to miss interesting articles posted on social networks. In a way, we’re back to the “firehose problem” of the late RPG Bloggers Network.
Am I against social networks? Not at all. It’s a perfect tool to keep in touch with people, share ideas, spread news, etc. but for me at least it’s important that I have my blog to retreat to, if I want to expand on some of my ideas, to share my thoughts in some verbosity. My blog is my castle, so to speak. It’s also a place where people interested in my stuff will always find me. It’s a constant in a quickly changing internet world…
So what are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think RPG blogs are still relevant in this day and age? Or do you prefer spending your time on FB and other social networks when looking for RPG-related content. Or is it actually both? Please share your thoughts below… or on my social media stream/page/or whatever it is called.
More relevant than ever — you said it, it is owned content, removed from external management decisions and algorithms. However, at the same time it is less visible without the social media promotion effort.
Blogs have beend declared “dead” far earlier than G+, I distinctly remember a discussion to that effect in 2006.
They are still around, though.
“There’s life in the old dog yet.” 😉
I am no fan of social media. I am forced to have a FB account because of my work, I need to have access to the Ad Manager side of FB. Apart from that I have as little to do with it as possible.
Blogs on the other hand I love. As a writer I feel I have far greater control over what I write and how it looks and what I link out to. I write here and on two other blogs, each has a definite theme and as they are distinct entities it keeps those worlds nicely separated.
I have used G+ in the past. For a while it seemed that G+ was attracting more creative people, particularly writers and programmers, and it seemed a really positive environment but to at least some extent that appears to have dissipated. I cannot remember the last time I logged into G+. I have no idea what G+ is mainly being used for these days but I cannot imagine Google wanting to pull the G+ network. A quick search just show that there are about 50M users that regularly post more than 50 updates a month. That is a decent size asset for any business and not one to be lightly thrown away.
Interestingly, I get approached probably monthly in real life by people who ask us for either free stuff or payment to mention us on their social networks. These people have followings in the high tens of thousands to low hundreds of thousands. We have never accepted a single one and their emails are almost certainly consigned to the bin. Bloggers on the other hand we pay people to regularly blog for us on our own blog, we feature guest bloggers and offer to do post exchanges. We also pay video bloggers to create content for us.
So for us bloggers have a far greater perceived value than social network users. I think this is the firehose principle. Where social media spews out a constant stream of posts, each post has little value. With a blog you tend to get less frequency but a far greater investment from the blogger and greater emotional connection between writer and readers.
My view on Blogs vs Social Media goes something like this. Social Media, quick short term visibility. Someone fires something off, it’s seen for a while and then forgotten about. It’s hard to find it after a short period of time. Blogs and the like create more long term visibility. For example on a blog I have that has infrequent posts on, I have a single post that accounts for about 25% of my daily traffic and it’s a post that I did nearly 18 months ago. You are not going to get that with a FB post.
I pretty much agree with everything you said. I like some amount of discussion in FB groups, but that’s different from the editorial/article orientation of a blog. It just … feels different. I also have one or two game writer friends as FB “friends”, but I don’t look to that as RPG content, I look to that as “knowing them as a _person_” as opposed to knowing them as a writer.
I could see having a FB group for Stargazer’s World that essentially posted links to your new articles on here. And then was open to discussions posted by the writers/readers in the community discussion part of the group. But I wouldn’t ever suggest FB as a substitute for a blog.
I see FB groups as being more like an evolution of old web forums, in some ways… not as a replacement for blogs.
I just started RPG blogging again after almost 9 years. I didn’t stop because of social media, but I’ve come back because of it. I think we need a network to help people find new rpg blogs, but there’s no way I’d attempt it again. Nope nope nope.
sure they are still relevant. They are like the fanzines of yore. Social networks are good for short term discussions, but blogs are an easy point to reference.
But yes, we would need a better way to find new blogs.