A five year plan for Blizzard Watch
Hello Friends and Readers,
Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy behind the scenes at Blizzard Watch, rolling out Off Topic posts and plotting away as we always do. This evening I want to take a step back and write to you about my plans for the site, the business, and just give a friendly zug zug. This is a personal letter from me to you.
Usually, I like to have my writing orchestrated in a way that tells a story — giving the status quo, the reasons for some kind of action, and then the plan. But since this is a personal letter, I’ll get right into the juicy part for those of you who want the TLDR version, then provide context.
The Five Year Plan
This is what Blizzard Watch’s five-year plan looks like. There are a lot more details in here, of course, but for now I just want to give an overview. You can draw a handful of topline summaries from this:
- Off Topic content (stuff unrelated to Blizzard games) is in addition to Blizzard content, as much as possible
- Off Topic content creates an additional 25% to 40% content over a two year period, then rises to stabilize around 70% of additional content per-month over the next three years, potentially (likely) forming in a new site
- In the next 24 months, Patreon is re-invested in and doubles monthly income from where it is today
- PageView growth is secondary, however it is still ambitious, with a targeted goal of 2MM/mo (or about 75k/day) at the end of the five-year plan
- As this plan progresses, Blizzard Watch forms into some sort of “Blizzard Watch Media Group” and has sites like Off Topic, etc…
- Transition to a new site with more article formats, a destination homepage (vs a list of posts), and more focus on galleries and videos. This will include visually separated Blizzard and Off Topic content. Feeds will also start to get seperated.
- Vastly improve Patreon
- Produce more community-focused Blizzard content
- Off Topic accounts for around an additional (as possible) 25% of content on average
- Begin a partner network, both importing other’s content and exporting our content
- Patreon doubles from where it is today to $12,000/mo net
- Off Topic accounts for an additional (as possible) 40% of content on average
- Hire our first dedicated Off Topic writer
- Grow PageViews to 1MM/mo
- Be more established in the non-Blizzard arena and introduce more unique things to Off Topic (put another way: be large enough that we’re recognized by PR agencies and have access to cool stuff ahead of time so we can publish more cool and unique content)
- Off Topic accounts for an additional (as possible) 50% of content on average
- Hire some more dedicated Off Topic writers
- If the Blizzard Watch Media Group is going to be viable, it will launch in 2020 or 2021
- Off Topic accounts for an additional (as possible) 60% to 75% of content on average across the network
- Hire dedicated Off Topic editor(s)
- Comprehensive evaluation of Blizzard Watch and what the next five to seven years will look like, including more focus on community and long-term fandom
- Off Topic stabilizes around 70% to 80% of our content-per month across the network
- Layout framework for the next five to seven year plan for the network
- Grow PageViews to 2MM/mo
Got all that? Sweet. If you want to stop reading now you can. I’ll go into the details next.
Adam, first question, why?
So there are a few reasons why we’re introducing Off Topic and why I’m headed towards diversifying our overall portfolio. To me, each of these has equal weights at the end of the day, however I (or we) may feel more passionate about them at different points. I want everyone to keep an eye on the big picture here, and not the daily (or yearly) oscillations in the community or Blizzard.
The economy is headed towards a recession
I’m not going to get political; but I am going to be economical. All indicators are that while we’re continuing to have a strong economy at the moment, this boom is reaching the end (if it hasn’t already, we usually don’t know these things for sure until a couple quarters after the fact). The effect of this has already been felt across a broad spectrum of industries via some very public and heartbreaking layoffs, and I want to hedge against this as much as possible by bringing in new eyeballs, Patrons, and community members. The way to do this is to diversify our content offerings while doubling down on what we do best (Blizzard, and WoW and Diablo coverage in particular).
Blizzard games are trending down
This is a noticeable trend that has been happening over the last several years, since before Blizzard Watch was founded. We can see this trending through Google Analytics, Google Trends, and other sources. While I can get into more detail and provide some charts and what not, the conclusion is clear: there is less interest today from the global gaming community in Blizzard than there was ten years ago.
Now the tricky part: does that mean the overall population of Blizzard fans has decreased, or are there just more people out there interested in gaming? The answer is likely both, and I tend to feel that the number of Blizzard fans is still mostly there and relatively stable. We see this particularly around BlizzCon when people come back and take a hard look at what Blizzard is going to do the next year. On the other hand, this also means that we have opportunities to increase our reach by producing content that’s more generally accessible than a KYL on the different dragon aspects in WoW that are still possibly producing offspring (Matt, Anne… have we written this yet?)
Our community is changing, and we need to change with it
The death knell for sites is when they don’t change with the community that surrounds them, when they just keep doing the same thing. And yes, this can be said about game studios. I don’t want to name names, but this has happened before and will happen again. We’re not ones to just sit on our laurels and let the theater of our culture play out while posting patch notes every night (that you can now get from a dozen sources instantly).
We have to adjust our strategy regularly to the community, and if we’re in tune with each other, that community will hopefully reciprocate positively. We did this last year and it worked wonderfully. We’re doing this again, but with a lot more thought.
Okay, so that’s great… but why not just keep doing Blizzard coverage and up your game?
We could definitely do this. I thought long and hard about it. But I don’t think in the end we’re going to be able to grow that overall population circle the way we can if we diversify offerings.
If we do keep producing Blizzard-only content at the rate we’re going, I’d estimate that we’ll be down to a small crew within 12 months. At that point my modeling has it stabilizing at that for, well, essentially ever. That’s not really the business that I want to run, and I can’t ask others to join me with the same passion as I can with the plan laid out in this post. Some may say that this means I should step down, and that’s legitimate for those wanting the status quo. However a good leader doesn’t accept the status quo or fear change; a good leader creates a nexus point and propels the group forward. I try, and often fail, at being a good leader; but here I’m pretty confident this is the right path.
But, isn’t this just The Tavern? What exactly is Off Topic?
Consider The Tavern (a thing we tried a few years ago) as the alpha version of this. One of my failings as a leader was seeing that idea through in a more refined way. While Off Topic still has a lot of refinement to go, one of the core tenants that I’ve learned since The Tavern is being flexible and agile enough to adjust the strategy as data and interest indicates it. The Tavern was fixed from the start; Off Topic … is much more fluid. There are going to be times where we post a bunch about Anthem, because that’s the thing we’re all excited about in the community. And there’s other times we’re we’ll post about a new book N.K. Jemisin released, because Dan and I can’t stop be unabashed fanbois. And Metzen help us when a new Dragon Age is released.
Over time, Off Topic is going to define and redefine itself. It’s Off Topic; and that’s the beauty of it.
Does this mean less Blizzard content?
I’m not intending to decrease Blizzard content. I’m intending to increase content production overall. I’d like, eventually, to get back to publishing 20 posts/day. I know other outlets with millions in revenue publish 100 to 150 a day, so if we can do a fifth of that eventually I think it’ll be pretty good.
Cool, how can I help?
Eh… this isn’t a fundraising letter. I’m not pushing Patreon or anything. Although of course if you wanted to subscribe to Patreon that’s cool; but you can also wait a couple weeks until we revise the page and push out new benefits, etc…
For now the best help that you can give is just write back to me. Lemme know what you think. I, my wife Katie, my new kiddo Maddox, and all the folks at Blizzard Watch appreciate beyond belief what you’ve let us do the last four years, and we’re excited to make it happen even longer.
All the best,
CEO, Blizzard Watch
Recent fugitive of the Klingon House of Duras
p/s: I want to apologize for the delay in getting this letter out. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that I’ve had a rougher month health-wise than anticipated. All is good and on the mend now, no need for concern, but it did delay the rollout of this note a bit.
p/p/s: One thing that I’ve encouraged is the Blizzard Watch team to openly talk about this in the community, good feelings and bad. I want you to know that everyone doesn’t agree with all the finer points. Are we all marching in the same direction? I think so, but we all feel differently about things here or there. I welcome, love, this discourse, in the true sense of the word: written or spoken communication or debate. Only through the guidance of truth and transparency are the great communities built and sustained.
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