If you’ve ever worked in software development you’ve likely had to do a “retro” before. The idea is to take a look back at the work you’ve done over the past few weeks and see how you and your team are performing based on what you set out to achieve.
A year after taking the reins, I wanted to do the same thing for Reckoner. I’d set goals to grow Reckoner’s audience, to bring on new writers (whom can be paid) and for the website to become financially self-sufficient. It was a lofty target but one I had hoped achievable.
The website was completely redesigned as a first step along with the first of a series of giveaway competitions to follow. We started two new podcasts “The Week That Was” & “I don’t quite know” and returned the main show to a more regular fortnightly schedule. Social media and video played took a front seat in our focus to grow whilst a Patreon campaign drive and affiliated purchase links for reviewed & recommended products were added to fiscally support us. Finally a series of new writers were approached with some great talent emerging that continue to write with us today.
Some of that worked and we’ve begun a journey to achieve a subset of those goals set. Others we are far, far from it and features or ideas have fallen flat, which you’ll see in the figures below.
Website uniques: ~70k (+10%)
Pageviews: 110k+ (-10%)
Facebook: ~450 (+50%)
Instagram: ~260 (+110%)
YouTube: ~150 (+150%)
Podcast subscribers: 3500+ (+5%)
Website posts: 341 (Reviews: 26, Features: 12, News/Links: 298, Other: 5)
Podcast episodes: 71 (Big show: 20, IDQK: 3, TWTW: 48)
Videos created: 53
Affiliate programs: <$20
Google AdSense: $140
Video: Surface Go review (>10k views)
Feature: “Up” ushers in a new digital age for Australian banks (> 1k pageviews)
Review: ASUS ZenBeam Go E1Z (> 1k pageviews)
Podcast: I don’t quite know – Stephanie Bendixson (> 10k listens)
The Week That Was – < 200 viewers/ep across all platforms
Sadly the first thing that becomes apparent is that financially Reckoner is anything but self-sufficient. If every feature had been written by contributing authors (and not me) they would’ve been paid <$50 a piece. That is, if every bit of revenue went to paying writers! 90% barely covers hosting the website, podcasts and the tech stack that keeps the site running.
In addition to failing some level of financial solvency one of the most fun and regular new features “The Week That Was” has never taken off. Averaging less than 40 views of its video version a week cannot justify the > 3 hours it takes to produce. News is available so readily and likely presented better that it will likely mean the show not continuing as is if at all in 2019.
On the positive side “I don’t quite know” was a huge hit, spurred by the guest invited on the show pushing it on their social media channels. This hasn’t translated into Patreon conversions as intended and despite it being the greatest revenue earner will need to be re-thinked also.
YouTube and video content have been by far Reckoner’s biggest growth area. Whilst slow to begin with it has picked up significant steam off the back of some big reviews. Sadly YouTube cannot be monetised without reaching 1,000 subscribers, which is quite distant at this point. Video production is also the hardest and most anxiety riddled thing to do. A 10 minute video taking upwards of 6 hours to write, record, edit & produce.
In terms of written content our reviews remain king however they skew towards tech & peripherals instead of games. This is clearly an area for us to focus on more in 2019 and dip into gaming when appropriate or for niche titles that others don’t always have access to.
Socials have been slow and engagement relatively low with the most activity around opinion based features such as “I don’t own the latest iPhone & I’m OK with that (I think)” & “Maestros or morons? What’s Apple’s game plan for the Mac?” that I think we should explore more. Focusing on Instagram or social followers seems to be unimportant as its growth is largely driven by competitions and bots that disappear as quickly as they come.
As a takeaway. Content creation (especially written) is a hard gig in today’s world. Reckoner is a long way from achieving those goals set a year ago and I’ve learnt a lot in the past 12 months. It’s hard to justify the 20+ hours spent a week creating, curating and publishing the content but for not the sheer fact I love doing it, but it needs to be done better.
I want to say thank you once more to our Patreon supporters. As you can see you’re quite literally the lifeblood of Reckoner and I’d love to grow that and offer more as a reward for your patronage.
As always, if you have any suggestions, comments or feedback on we’d love to hear from you and you cant do that by commenting below or using our contact page.
Here’s to an amazing 2019!