Of Ads and Facebook
May 15, 2015

Though it might not be immediately evident to the casual observer, I'm working very hard to make sure that HonestGamers has a real future, rather than simply withering away and dying like a number of game sites before it. A lot of what I'm doing right now isn't particularly visible and amounts to me just messing around in the database, adding and updating game listings, but today I've made a couple of changes that are more noticeable and I thought I would talk about them here.

The first and most obvious change is that I've eliminated the bar asking people to pledge to the site's Patreon page, while bringing ads back to the site. The second change is that I've set up a new Facebook group, to replace the Facebook page. I'll spend the rest of this post going into detail about those two changes and addressing any questions I can anticipate some of you having.

The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Patreon

Near the top of nearly every page on the site, there used to be a noticeable bar with text directing potential backers to the HonestGamers Patreon page. This was done in lieu of advertisements.

Since the project's inception, a total of nine people have signed on as backers and pledged a certain amount each month to help keep the site going. Most of those backers are members of this site, and it's easy to know why they joined. The others are people I know on social media, where I am active in part because I am continuing to try and spread the word about the site. I don't think there's a single person who has pledged and doesn't know me in one of those two capacities, which is flattering but not how things really need to work if the Patreon page is ever going to do any good.

The problem, of course, is that Patreon always works about this way, and Kickstarter too. You typically can't reach a large audience of backers unless you already have an audience that practically makes backers unnecessary. Traffic to HonestGamers is ever so slightly on the rise, but the site isn't nearly busy enough to generate even enough money to pay hosting fees. I don't feel good about continuing to figuratively hold out my hand just so that my friends can pledge a little, which is the net effect the Patreon has had.

So ads are back, but I felt that it was important to make a change. The change is that if you are signed into the site with an HonestGamers account, you currently won't see any ads. I'm testing the waters with this, and I hope it won't need to change. Basically, the site will look the same for you as it has for the last several months, except that now there is no strip along the top of each page asking you to fund the Patreon. The other change is that now you'll see links to Amazon (and occasionally other merchants) at the end of reviews and on game profile pages. I actually like seeing those links, because they're relevant to page content and sometimes let me know about great deals I might otherwise miss.

My hope is that with the merchant links back, and with ads displaying for casual visitors who aren't using AdBlocker, the site will generate about what it has been with the Patreon page these last few months, all without inconveniencing the site's valuable community. And if you want to back the Patreon on top of that, you certainly can, but I don't expect that much will come out of the Patreon page until the site draws a lot more traffic… which I still hope will happen. Which brings me to my next point…

The Facebook Shuffle Mystery

I know some of you have followed HonestGamers on Facebook. I set up a Facebook page some time ago, and I even paid several hundred to advertise it so that more people would join and see our posts.

Then a funny thing (not really) happened: Facebook changed what posts show on a user's walls. Suddenly, Facebook page posts don't display unless a follower goes to the page, clicks a secret little arrow, and updates preferences. Most users don't realize this, and so our audience of 1000 people seeing our posts quickly dwindled to more like 30. If I want to reach the people who indicated that they would like to see content from HonestGamers, I have to pay $10 or $15 per post, which simply isn't feasible.

Groups work differently. People have more freedom to post there, and those posts show up on their walls for friends to see. It makes having actual discussion easier, which is important to me. That's actually what I wanted from the Facebook page all along: interaction. Instead, it basically turned into a ghost town, with what essentially amounts to a bulletin board that very few people will ever see.

So yeah, now you can find the HonestGamers Facebook group, which is linked from the top of most pages on the site. You can join and you can participate in discussions, even start your own. And those posts will show up where they should have all along, and the social aspect of Facebook can work its magic and alert more gamers to our great content. I hope that people will use it about like we sometimes used Chatter. And of course, blogs will remain active here on the site for when people need to share more substantial ideas, and there are also the forums.

Basically, the idea of a Facebook presence is that people who mostly head online and look at social media will have additional reminders that HonestGamers exists and is still producing great content. It's not intended to replace anything we have here, but I hope it will supplement it and I hope we can all enjoy that process.

And that, as they say, is that…

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Germ Germ - May 16, 2015 (01:31 AM)
I think putting ads back on the site is a good move. I also like seeing Amazon merchant links, so that's nice to have back.

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