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Gnome Stew Turns Two! The State of the Stew, Two Years In

Today, Gnome Stew celebrates its second birthday! We launched the site on May 12, 2008, exactly two years ago.

It’s been a great two years — more awesome than I could ever have expected in every way. And it feels totally different than working on a solo blog: There’s just no substitute for being part of a killer team.

I never quite know how interesting these State of the Stew articles will be to readers, but we do them twice a year (the end of the year and May 12th) to reflect on what’s changed and take a look at the growth of the site. I hope you find them as interesting as I do!

If you don’t, why not check out the cover of our upcoming book, Eureka [1], instead? Now that I have two solid years of data, this State of the Stew is longer than usual.

Year Two: The Year of Eureka

We wrote a book! To be published by Engine Publishing [2], it’ll be out before GenCon. It’s called Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters [2].

We’ve basically gone all the way through the excited anticipation phase and come out the other side, like when you’re so hungry that you stop being hungry.

I look at the sections of Eureka coming back from layout, and I do little dances of glee. Actual, honest-to-god, motherfucking glee. And I’m a 33-year-old dad…

So, yeah: We’re a little bit excited. But. BUT. We temper that with the knowledge that if all we did was blather about Eureka, you wouldn’t be getting what you come to the Stew to read: quality GMing advice and ideas.

For us gnomes behind the scenes, though, our second year has been defined by our upcoming book, which we announced in a sort of roundabout way [3] on February 27 of this year.

So how has something we announced less than three months ago defined the entirety of Year Two here on the Stew? Because I first pitched the original concept for Eureka to the gang on June 26, 2009 — 10 months ago! Trying to juggle writing and blogging alongside work, kids, and real life resulted in this project taking longer than we expected.

We’ve been tight-lipped about Eureka because we’ve seen too many projects get announced with a lot of fanfare, burn out, and ultimately fade away. As publication edges closer and closer, we’re starting to share more about the book: Yesterday we announced that Monte Cook has written Eureka’s foreword [4], and today we shared the cover [1].

We have a few more ducks to get in a row (translation: Not only am I a cruel taskmaster here on the Stew, I’m also incredibly anal about getting this book right!) before we publish a big, meaty sample and start taking preorders. As things fall into place, we’ll have plenty more to share about Eureka.

Look, Numbers!

I’m not a math guy, but I do like simple stats — and with two years of numbers under our belts, we can get our first good look at changes from year one to year two.

All our stats went up, which is fantastic to see (and goes to show that even that University of Michigan survey [5] didn’t drive away all our readers…): 55% increase in membership, 56% bump in subscriber numbers, 12% increase in unique visitors, 22% increase in the number of visits, 41% increase in the number of repeat visitors, and 14% jump in pageviews.

I look at those numbers and see that we’re doing a good job capturing readers’ interest and getting folks to come back regularly, but could be doing a better job putting the Stew in front of new groups of potential readers. Something to work on for year three!

On the article count end of things, I see the influence of trying to write a ~300-page book while running a gaming blog! We published 63% as many articles in 2009-2010 as we did in 2008-2009. But, interestingly, 71% as many comments were made on those fewer articles in year two — which makes sense, with more members and fewer articles to comment on. (I should also mention that our target is five articles per week, or 260 articles a year — a goal we missed by just 10 articles, despite working on the book!)

Looking Back at Year Two

Apart from feverishly writing Eureka behind the scenes, Year Two was marked by a number of other events. Patrick Benson [6] left the Stew to pursue development of his RPG, SinisterForces [7]. He wrote some awesome articles in his time here, and he is missed.

In his place, my longtime friend and partner in crime, Don Mappin [8], joined our pointy-hatted ranks. He kicked off with a three-part series about using the iPad for gaming [9], and talked us into launching our own YouTube channel [10].

We also dove into Twitter [11], where the gnomes post bite-sized GMing tips and other geek tidbits, and Facebook [12], where we chat with folks who love the Stew.

Apart from that, our focus has been where it always was: on publishing the best system-neutral GMing material on the web. We’re passionate about that mission, and we absolutely love talking shop with the community of fantastic GMs that’s grown up around this site.

Every site says that they have a great community, but we can prove it: The 8,900+ comments here feature no spam, almost no vitriol, and a whole lot of quality GMing discussion, brainstorming, feedback, advice, and from-the-trenches takes on what it’s like to be a GM.

To everyone who reads the Stew, shares links to our articles, comments on our articles, subscribes to our RSS/email feed, or kicks it with us on Facebook and Twitter,

Thank you!

You rock in every possible way!

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Gnome Stew Turns Two! The State of the Stew, Two Years In"

#1 Comment By Don Mappin On May 12, 2010 @ 7:36 am

Congrats on 2! This was a fun read from the airport (on the iPad, of course). 😉

I love stats; thanks for sharing! It helps validate our assertion that Martin is, indeed, a slavedriver. :p

#2 Comment By steamcrow On May 12, 2010 @ 7:49 am

I always look forward to the new Stew posts, and I’m also anticipating Eureka!

Congrats on your success! Keep writing good stuff, and I’ll keep coming back.

#3 Comment By DNAphil On May 12, 2010 @ 10:56 am

I tip my pointy red hat to my fellow Gnomes, and more importantly to all of our readers and commenters. You are the reason we put out the best GMing advice on the Prime Material Plane.

Thank you for all your support over these past two years.

#4 Comment By Scott Martin On May 12, 2010 @ 11:34 am

I really enjoy our community, and the comments often make the article twice as good. Thanks commenters, lurkers, and fellow gnomes– I’m still enjoying the stew and hope you are too.

#5 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On May 12, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

I’ll add my voice to the Gnomish Choir – The community is what makes this work. Like the good GMs we aspire to be, we often run with the ideas presented by you the community, and take your feedback into consideration for future articles.

#6 Pingback By Tweets that mention Gnome Stew Turns Two! The State of the Stew, Two Years In – Gnome Stew, the Game Mastering Blog — Topsy.com On May 12, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andrew Ambrose, Stewed Gnomes. Stewed Gnomes said: Gnome Stew turns two years old today! Reflections on Year Two here: [13] Thank you for two awesome years! -MR […]

#7 Comment By rocketlettuce On May 12, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

Really love this blog, gnomes. Thanks for two years of quality material. (Really more than that, as I’ve been enjoying ya’ll since the TT days.)

I can’t wait to read the book!


#8 Comment By BryanB On May 13, 2010 @ 9:50 am

The stew has been good for the most part.

Sometimes there is a little too much salt.
Lately, there has been way too much sugar.

But we’re usually content as long as donkeys and giraffes are left out of the pot.


#9 Comment By mougoo On May 13, 2010 @ 9:59 am

Congratulations! The Stew is most definitely on the top of my gaming blog list. I appreciate its tone, platform agnosticism, and the way its authors interact with us lowly commenters.

And I hope the stats in the State of the Blog point to a similar use of stats for Engine fans a’la Evil Hat! I like publishers who pretend to care about their audience!

#10 Comment By Razjah On May 13, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

Congratulations on two years and counting!

I look forward to more articles and further reinforcing my bad habit of: jump online, open email, open new tab, check Gnome Stew, finally check mail, go back to the Stew.

Once again Great Job Gnomes!

#11 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 13, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

Thank you, everyone! I know it sounds cheesy, and I know I always point out that it sounds cheesy, but without awesome readers and an awesome commenting community, we wouldn’t be doing this.

[14] – I, too, love the transparency of Evil Hat and other smaller publishers. I don’t think I’ll feel differently AS a publisher, so this is pretty likely.

And there’s nothing lowly about you or any other members, lurkers, or fans of the Stew! We’re just guys who love GMing. 🙂

#12 Comment By mougoo On May 14, 2010 @ 4:27 am

[15] – Aww, you just made me cry a little bit!