This week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers is to write a “State of the Site” post. I already do this sort of thing every so often, but it might be good to do a more thorough one.
Direction of the Blog and Collecting Habits
I don’t think it’s any secret I tend to go through fads. When this site started in December 2007 (that’s right, the five-year anniversary is coming up), it was heavily focused on DC Universe Classics and Batman. That lasted for a while, though Masters of the Universe Classics began taking up more and more of my attention. It was November 2009 that my interest in DCUC reached its nadir, and I sold off the majority of my non-Bat-family-related figures during this time. My interest in MOTUC continued to rise, though in retrospect, I think even that reached its peak in late 2010. While I still love MOTUC, it’s not the same fierce obsession it was during 2008-2010. And while I have considered selling off some of my MOTUC collection from time to time, I’ve always (wisely) decided against it.
I realize this obsessiveness is not necessarily a good thing. While I think many collectors tend to go through fads, as a blogger you generally gain a reputation for covering a specific line or two, and at any given time, you’re going to have a number of people who areÂ very into that line reading your blog. So if you suddenly stop covering it, you’re going to take a traffic hit (as I did when my DCUC coverage died down, and as my MOTUC coverage has been scaled back).
So where are we now? Well, in terms of my collecting habits, my focus right now is still on MOTUC, but also S.H.MonsterArts. But unlike my previous obsessions, I haven’t been discussing S.H. MonsterArts much here. Part of that is because, for obscure psychological reasons I’ve yet to suss out, I’ve opened hardly any of them. That’s going to change soon, though – hopefully this month, if I can find the time.
One thing I have been trying to do is broaden the focus of the blogÂ a bit with stuff such as: reviewing toy-related comics, commenting on random toy-related things, writing more editorials, and doing more journalistic stuff like the Reviewing Samples series. I’m finding that’s been more fun, and a way to keep blogging – and keep readers interested – even when there’s not a dominating obsession.
During the first two years of this blog, I had a life that allowed me to spend a lot of time and energy working on it. I had a job that wasn’t too draining and left me with more free time. And of course, the blog was still new, and fun. The funny thing is, despite all the energy and effort I was putting into it back then, traffic built very, very slowly (though oddly enough, comments were often through the roof, though largely due to the contributions of just a few individuals – one in particular, as I’m sure some of you will vaguely remember).
In November 2009, I got a new job. This job was much more exciting and fulfilling, but also kept me much busier and left me with less time and energy to work on PGPoA. At the same time, the blog traffic was really starting to pick up, making me feel more obligated to post frequently. Thus began a love-hate relationship that slowly grew to affect me in such a way that I began to enjoy the toys themselves less because of the sense of obligation I had in regard to the blog.
The real trouble began in late 2010. I’ve always,Â always been someone who opened his toys as soon as I got them. I was never the guy with stacks of opened toys sitting in storage. Reviews usually came days after the toy was received. But around this time, toys started to pile up. I’m not certain of the reasons why, but I think it was mainly because I had started buying toys that I didn’t really want, but felt obligated to get – either because the community was excited about it, because people I was friends with were involved in the creation of them, or simply because I thought I wanted them but didn’t really. And so I had more and more stuff sitting around, unopened – while the stuff IÂ did open I was having a harder time appreciating.
By the time I went to Toy Fair in February 2011, I was already having some serious obligations-versus-fun issues. The result was that over the last two years, I came within a saint’s whisper of closing this blog several times. Friends were consulted about the wisdom of closing the blog. Contingency plans for where the content would go were discussed with other toy bloggers. The “goodbye” post was actually written at one point.Â And yet, every time, I veered off at the last moment, finding some way to continue to enjoy the work.
I will say that every time I mention my blog-related malaise, I receive a few encouraging emails from readers. I want to thank those readers for that. That’s the sort of thing that keeps me going at the more difficult times.
It’s still a struggle, though. When this blog started, I often couldn’t wait to work on it – I had to force myself to fulfill other obligations first. Now, I procrastinate rather than getting around to a review. Can I get that enthusiasm back? I’m not sure, but maybe I don’t need to.
Learning to keep blogging, even when it’s a bit more like a job than an escape, is a good life lesson.Â I think I’ve been too quick to quit other projects in the past, and I’m proud of having stuck with this for five years – even when it was really, really hard to keep going – and reached a point where I’m actually seeing some returns on investment, detailed in the next section.
Traffic & Revenue Stream
While I may have been struggling with the blog the last few years, the traffic has never been better. PGPoA had its highest-trafficked day last July during SDCC, and monthly stats have been very good. Blogging seems to build upon itself – the more content you have, the more stuff shows up in searches, the more people find your blog, the higher the traffic gets, and the more results you get in searches.
As for revenue: this blog has never been a way to get rich, and it never will be. The best I’ve ever hoped for was to make enough from it to pay for the costs of running it and – if I was lucky – pay for a decent chunk of my collecting with it. I’ve managed the former for a couple of years now, and recently, I’ve actually had a little left over to put toward toys.
So, please continue to support my sponsors,Â BigBadToyStore,Â Enchanted Toy ChestÂ and Dinosaur Toy Vault!Â And I want to thank everyone who clicks through my ads forÂ AmazonÂ andÂ Entertainment EarthÂ when they order stuff. I know it seems like a little thing, but it makes a huge difference to me in keeping this site running and making this whole venture feel worthwhile.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate to build relationships with other bloggers and collectors. I’ve always treasured my friendship with the Four Horsemen, but I’ve also gotten to know Phil Reed of Battlegrip, Pixel Dan, NoisyDvL5 of ItsAllTrue, Justin of GeneralsJoes, John of Mint Condition Customs, the good folks at Pendragon’s Post, Dr. Rampageo of Doomkick, Brian of CoolandCollectedÂ and the rest of the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, Justin of Weirdo Toys, and many others who hopefully won’t be offended if I forgot to mention them.
And of course, I want to offer my sincere thanks to my growing list of contributors, especially Doc Thomas, Rustin Parr, Fengschwing, Venenor, PrfktTear, Googum and Monte. Without all of your help to make sure the blog had content during the harder times, I might have actually been forced to close it. And another big thanks to everyone who’s ever submitted to Toy Aisle Trolls – keep those sad examples of humanity’s failings coming!
As for right now, things are going well here at PGPoA. Traffic is high, revenue is better than it’s ever been, and I’m making progress in finding ways to keep the blog interesting. My work-life-blog balance is difficult, but I’m finding my way through it.
I also promise to stop with the “tortured blogger who behaves as if writing a blog about toys is the hardest thing in the world” crap that’s been going on for so long. I’ll either shut up and keep writing, or drive a stake through the blog’s heart. And the fun thing is, you’ll never know if or when that will happen!
In all seriousness, though, the most important thing is this: thank all of you for continuing to read this blog and supporting me and the rest of the online toy collecting community.Â
Please visit some of these other League of Extraordinary Bloggers to read their own State of the Site posts:
First off, thanks for all you've put into PGPoA. I've appreciated your take and honesty on many topics, reviews, etc. throughout these past years of collecting. Through PGPoA I've branched out into other toysites and toylines that I had no clue about too. This is a daily spot for me to check whether it's for current news or looking back at many of the previous posts.
Secondly, thanks for giving me a shot at contributing to the site. It's been fun, albeit a very minimal (to this point) contribution. I'm looking forward to contributing in whatever way I can in the future.
Lastly, thanks for being up front with us about the roller coaster ride with the site. I don't blame you at all for feeling that way. I can relate pretty well with what you said. Through the stressors of a busy job and the constant obstacles in collecting (sparse distribution, Matty blunders, etc.), I started to lose a lot of interest and desire in collecting. But when I felt a bit down and out I had this place to keep me interested.
Great post, Poe! I completely know what you mean about outside stresses impacting the fun/excitement of running a blog. I don't think I've ever even considered closing down my own site, but I can say there have been a few times when it felt like it was growing close to a chore to post updates.
And I can relate to the changing focus and obsessive tendencies. Early on I decided to post about ANYTHING that I wanted to; damn the affect on traffic. My site is for me to unwind and have fun, and that means writing about what interests me at that exact moment in time. And while I know that lack of focus has kept my readership low I also love that a lot of the people I chat with seem to enjoy the randomness of my site.
Keep at it as long as it's fun! And if you change your current obsession then I saw move the site with you.
Thank you all for the kind comments. It helps a lot to read them.
As of right now, the blog is safe. I've got no current plan to close it down now or in the near future.
Poe, you do good work. You are a technically proficient, talented, and most importantly, interesting writer. Keep it up.
Poe, please don't ever close this site. Or turn it over to Yo Go Re ( that man is crazy! He liked "Rise of Cobra"!) I kid, I kid. But I do appreciate this site very much, even when the posts get few and far between.
Cool and Collected
I've fallen into ruts myself and have chosen to just stop and move on to something that's more interesting. If this was your 9-5 job that would be one thing, but this is a labor of love that you do in your precious spare time, so you gotta love it or it's just a longer work day.
As you've experienced, interests change and evolve, and I think it's okay if your website does as well (unless Matty is sending you a bi-weekly check!)
Matty won't even send me a free sample 😛 Which is probably fine at this point…it would feel too much like a devil's bargain now. I'm happy getting the occasional free NECA figure.
I get you on the labor-of-love thing, but one thing I didn't go into in the post is that the degree to which I do or don't enjoy the blog is often affected by outside circumstances (stress etc.). So I've always been reluctant to quit because often I come back around again after a few weeks (or, sometimes, months. And maybe all of 2011).
Glad you've kept it going! PoeGhostal.com is in my top five favorite sites to visit and I do so daily, usually more than once a day. I'd have to say some of your best content has come in the last couple of years.
And I think I speak for bloggers everywhere when I say I'm insanely jealous of the fantastic graphics you incorporate into the site!
I really love this blog for all its content – the reviews, discussion, news, photos, opinions, and even stuff like this.
It's no secret about the photos – anbd actually, though I'd made kind of a hobby out of toy photography for a while, it was finally getting back on flickr to submit things to this group was one of the major things that inspired me to do better with things like backdrops, lighting, and making decent photos. The first was when I started sending reviews to MWC, which got me to actually make a backdrop and a rudimentary studio. Getting on flickr has inspired me to try to be as creative and detailed as possible, and to keep taking photos even when it becomes difficult (such as recently, while I'm prepping for a move). It's been very good for me and my collecting hobby in general – it feels like the collection has some USE now!
So thank you, your blog has not only entertained some of us, it's also inspired us!
I don't know if I've ever said it, Poe; but I'm always just glad to see whatever it is you decide to do. Unless you become a Brony. Other than that, blog whatever you want to, we'll be glad to see it. Keep it up!
Thank you for all the work & love you’ve put in to PGPoA! I know it’s not always easy. I stick with the Dory mantra and just keep swimming (though I could use more sleeping…)!