Hello all! As promised, today I want to tell you what I’ve learned in one year of blogging on AR/VR (and also startups). Ready? Go!
Blogging is hard
Blogging is damn hard. Really. Before starting this adventure, I thought that being a blogger would just mean going online, writing some words sometimes during the week and then being happy thanks to a lovely community giving me a lot of money with which I could afford living by the Caribbean beaches. But this is not the truth.
First of all, blogging is time consuming. Writing a good article requires time, both to prepare the article and then to write it. When I wrote my article about the sense of taste in VR, I had to spend some time googling around and search for all the researches in the world about this topic; when I wrote about how SteamVR Tracking works, I found myself reading lots of docs, including electronical specs of Triad Semiconductor sensors; when I interviewed Alex Colgan of Leap Motion, I spent more than one hour interviewing him and another hour to listen again to the interview and writing down all the most interesting parts of it.
And this is only for the preparation: then I had to actually write down the articles, choosing the pictures, adjusting the layout (writing key sentences in bolds, etc…), caring about the SEO (internal links, etc…). This really requires hours of work for each post.
Then there is the marketing to be performed: writing on social media, writing posts on other platforms like Medium, etc… (more on this later on). There are e-mails to be answered. News to be read every day to stay updated with the fastly changing VR environment. And so on.
Then there’s always the anxiety of: what I’m going to write this week? Sometimes there are big news that require absolutely an article, while other times (like now, in summer), there are not that big news, so inspiration has to be found to write interesting articles. Because every week you have to write something good, even if you’re tired, even if you don’t want to, even if you have only 3 readers. Blogging requires a lot of discipline and willpower. You have to fight each day for each single view and subscriber… and all this without having much in change (see next section).
It ain’t easy. Really. It is a job, like all the other jobs. A job that I like, but a hard job anyway.
Ok, so blogging is hard. But it is surely profitable, you may say.
How much you can earn by blogging mainly depends on how much traffic you have. Currently VR is a niche, so an enormous traffic on a personal blog about it is almost impossible. Big blogs like UploadVR and Road To VR have a good traffic for sure, but have also a bigger budget and a bigger team 🙂
I’ve verified that advertisements are poorly profitable if you don’t have a big traffic (at least 100.000 views/month). Google Adwords banners that you can see in this blog make me earn small change at the moment.
Affiliation should work better, but I’m still not deep into it. I’ve tried with Headjack, but affiliation with them just got me $0. People have tried their cool solution, but no one has bought a paid plan, so I got nothing. So, even with affiliation, I should try with different programs until I find the best for me.
About self produced products (books, etc…), I’ll think about them later.
So, earning money with a blog is far from easy, unless you have a huge traffic, that is difficult to be set up within a niche. What is cool to get is free goods: I’ve got a good amount of keys to test cool VR games, like The Wizard or 4D Toys; I’ve also got some cool VR gadgets from WIDMOvr, like their VR cover or VR bag. Playing for free is one of the best part of being a blogger 😀 . The problem is: I have very few time to play, so I never manage to finish the games they send me. Damn.
Experiment a lot
Blogging requires a lot of experimentation, on everything:
- For advertisement, you have to try different position and size of ads, to see which configuration performs better;
- For earning, you have to try different forms of income (for instance I want to try with various affiliation programs now);
- For articles, you have to understand which kind of articles people like the most
- For SEO, you have to try different strategies of linking and outreach
- For marketing, you have to try all social media and understand which one performs better
For instance, I tried at least 4 configurations of the newsletter widget to find one that drives me a decent amount of subscribers. Having made it sticky, with highlighted words and a personal touch has been the winning strategy (ehi, if you haven’t registered yet, subscribe now… what are you waiting for?). So, experiment, experiment, experiment. I know, it requires time, but I’ve already warned you that blogging is hard!
Your personal space should evolve. At the beginning, you just report news of others with your point of view, then you start publishing news other big magazines do not publish, then you start creating your news yourself, by interviewing people and stuff. Your website must evolve if you want to make it succeed, don’t forget that: spend some times once in a while to think how you can make your blog to evolve and to make it more worth reading.
Adding something personal is fundamental in blogging. People like storytelling, this is something that in VR we know really well. So telling something personal makes your audience feel they’re reading something written by a real person and this makes them more interested in the articles. It is like you and your readers meet at the pub and start talking about VR.
Furthermore, just reporting the news would be useless: why someone should read a news on my website, when he/she could find it on a more authoritative one? Answer is, to know my opinion, to listen to my point of view on the topic and maybe discussing it with me in the comments section. So, go personal.
Your readers must trust you. This is an integrity bond that you should never break. NEVER.
Sometimes some marketing agencies have contacted me to offer me money in change of fluff marketing post written by them on my website. I’ve always refused that: my readers should trust that on my blog they can only find good quality articles.
And about reviews, I’ve always tried to be honest. I like to see the positive side of each VR experience, but I’ve not saved bad feedbacks even on very famous VR experiences like Ghost In The Shell.
Your relation with your readers is priceless, no money can buy it. It’s ok to earn with your blog, but you should not do that at the expense of the quality of your magazine.
One thing that scared me the most about blogging was feedback of people: what if someone says that I’ve written all bullshit? It’s a fear that never goes away, but I’ve learnt to deal with it, by learning that:
- Most people do not care about you and are too lazy to write bad comments about you
- A lot of people just wants to be supportive. Someone express his opinion in a strong manner, but most of times they just want to express their point of view and open a debate with you. And a lot of times these debates are something very interesting and through which you can learn something new and improve.
- There are people that really want to push you to success: comments of this kind of people sometimes have really made my day
- Some people are jerk, but if they’re this way, then honestly I’m not interested in their point of view. These are not the readers that I want on my blog, nor people I’d like to meet. Of course bad words hurt, but if you see them as said by someone that has little value, hurt a lot less.
So, don’t be afraid of feedbacks. Enthusiastic ones make you happy; Sincere ones make you improve; Evil ones are not interesting.
If English is not your primary language, it’s easy to make lots of errors. If you can afford it, use some proofreading services, otherwise start using some proofreading apps, like Grammarly. I’ve started using it and every time it spots me at least 10 errors for each article. It’s all started with a sincere feedback by my Canadian friend Sasha that made me notice that I was doing too many errors in each post and now, thanks to its critics, I’m doing a lot less.
Blog migration is a pain
I started my blog as a free blog hosted on wordpress.com . This made me set-up this webspace in really little time, but at the expense of having my hands tied. When I felt the necessity of having more freedom to make my blog better, I switched to a self-hosted blog. In my article about this topic, I said that the blog migration was easy and painless.
After some months, I can say that this is far from true: being on wordpress.com gives a huge SEO boost to each blog and I was gaining followers very fast. Once I went self-hosted, I had a huge drop, especially of search-engine traffic. And with huge, I mean something around 50%. And I’m not the only one: I’ve read people that have lost 70% of their traffic after such a migration.
And apart from the traffic drop, there is the webspace to be paid, the SEO to be performed by hand, manual backups and a lot of other nuisances of the website management. So, if you have to migrate, be prepared for the shock.
Anyway, I’ve never regretted the decision: thanks to migration I’m completely free to do what I want with this website and I’ve managed to give to it the appearance and functionalities I’ve wanted.
Due to above reason and unpredictability of search engines, I advise you to always have a newsletter for your website. Have a list of loyal readers to which you can send your articles is important. This way, even if Google changes completely its algorithm and start penalizing you, you have people you can contact directly and that will continue reading your website. I started it too late and I regret it.
Of course, reward your newsletters subscribers with some special features: for instance every week I send to my subscribers a digest containing all the best VR news of the week, so they can continue remaining updated about the VR scene even if they don’t go reading posts on VR communities every day.
Sharing your work on social media is fundamental to reach new people and to create a community. But what about all the various platforms?
Good for reaching out to new people. The problem of twitter is that you write the tweet and after some seconds it gets diluted in a thousand posts from all other people your readers are following. So, if they’re not following you specifically, most probably your tweet will get lost. This is why Twitter requires to be a bit spammy, re-posting your posts various times at different moments of the day so to reach the most number possible of people of the world. What I like of twitter is that you can meet new people and interact with influencers of your industry (in my case with UploadVR journalists, for example). What I don’t like is that it is dispersive: you can have 5000 followers and get only 1-2 likes to your tweets. Anyway, everyone has twitter, so you have to use it as well.
Some months ago, I said that Facebook was quite useless for VR. I’ve been proven wrong. If you enter the right facebook groups, talking about VR can be awesome: you publish VR news and then take part of debates in the comment sections. You can actually make new friends, especially if the community is little.
There’s a nice VR Italian group called “[GDI] Virtual Reality” with which I discuss everyday about VR news… we discuss and support each other and it’s awesome… I’ve never meet them, but I’d really like to do that one day. It’s a group of fantastic people, with competencies and sense of humor: love being there. Then there’s a huge group called “VIRTUAL REALITY” where the right post can have lots of comment and so create a good debate. This also means generating a great amount of traffic, if you’re publishing something interesting.
The thing that I love about facebook is that it is the social where the groups feel more “closed”, more like a group of friends that discuss about VR. I’ve not the same impression on other social media.
AR/VR Linkedin groups are not that active. They bring me some views, but never got me to make friends, partners or anything else. The only good thing about Linkedin is that if someone goes to your website from it, usually is because it is truly interested in the topic and so reads all the post.
My advice about Linkedin is: start the connection rage. Take everyone working in AR and VR and connect with him/her. This way, you can see the interesting *R things that people have posted and you can also have more views on posts you publish.
Honestly, at the moment, Linkedin is the social that has deluded me the most. But you must use it and it can be useful to get job proposals (I got two which I refused).
I love reddit communities. I’m on /r/virtualreality, /r/oculus and sometimes /r/vive. On reddit you can meet other VR passionates and discuss about VR news. Reddit is great for the following reasons:
- It makes you stay updated about VR news: most important VR news are shared there
- It lets you read news from all sources: Youtube videos, Oculus blog, Road To VR, UploadVR, Forbes, etc…
- Furthermore there are not only news, but also advices and tips by skilled people. My post on how to use Oculus Mirror, for instance, has born thanks to Reddit
- If you have some problems, you can ask the community for help
- It can drive you an insane amount of traffic. One day my post about SteamVR Tracking got an insane spike of views (thousands of views in a single day): I discovered that someone shared it on /r/virtualreality
So, my advice is being on reddit. It’s incredible. Of course there are downsides, too: for instance there is too much fanboyism in /r/oculus vs /r/vive communities. And /r/Vive community is becoming pretty strict and mods are putting restrictions on almost everyone (me and Reverend Kyle, for instance, have been almost censored there… a Vive mod also defined Road To VR and UploadVR “flimsy blogs”). So, it’s cool, but not perfect.
I have a blog, so why publishing on Medium, too? Well, because Medium makes easier for people to discover you. If you write the right post with the right tags, you get hundreds of reads and then people from that post come to your blog and become your readers there, too.
Medium is a good platform to get new readers. It is like a second blog, where you put opinions that are worth reading for people.
I’ve already written a long post on Quora, so I invite you to read that. Long story short: it’s cool to appear as an expert in your niche, cool to get some steady traffic to your website. But usually doesn’t generate spikes in views… and being VR a niche, you won’t get that many upvotes and that’s pretty frustrating.
Great community. The graphic of the website is terrible, but people there are very smart and news published are always interesting. Sometimes can get a huge spike to your website, but you have to publish a news really worth reading.
1 Year of VR
So, after having talked about VR for a year… what is my impression on the current state of VR?
Well, first of all we’re really going slow: in one year we have seen no new generation of most famous headsets. Adoption is going worse than expected and only cheap mobile headsets are performing quite good… but their VR is very mediocre.
But things are slowly changing: Oculus price cut increased adoption; Microsoft headsets, thanks to their user-friendliness are expected to help it more; at the end of the year a lot of standalone headsets will be revealed, offering 6DOF with no cables; AAA VR games have been finally announced; and thanks to Apple, AR will become mainstream.
I see the next year with VR going wireless, or wired but with a super-easy setup. To target standard consumers, a 6DOF mobile/standalone headset could be enough to offer a good experience. More content will come. And Apple surely will give a big shake to the ecosystem: iPhone 8 will surely allow for mobile AR and mobile VR with 6DOF, something that no other smartphone can offer.
But, who knows… in VR everytime everything seems calm and then someone drops a bomb and disrupts everything. For instance at Oculus Connect 4 surely Facebook will talk about its Camera platform that is ready to fight against ARKit…
Being a VR blogger in this year has been satisfying. I’ve been able to talk about the topics I love; I met a lot of new interesting VR people; I’ve had the honour to interact with notable people in the VR field, like Alex Colgan of Leap Motion or Robert Scoble; UploadVR founder Will Mason wrote me very kind words; I’ve received lots of compliments.
I regret nothing. And I thank you all for making my experience so awesome.