Thursday, October 11, 2012

FEATURE: LoEB ''State of the Site''

This week's League Assignment is something a little different. We're not talking about toys or movies or videogames or even breakfast cereals. This week it's all about being grown-up and presidential and stuff, as we bring you the first ever State of the Site address.

Before we begin though, here's the assignment in full (and for those wondering, here's a link explaining what the heck the League of Extraordinary Bloggers is, what we be do and how to also):

Write a “State of the Site” for your web site. How’s it going? What exciting things have happened this past year? Where do you want your site to be in a year’s time? 

2012 has been an interesting year for That Figures. Although we've maintained a solid base of visitors, it seems as the site has grown, so our audience demographic has shifted somewhat to include a lot of ''stumble in'' traffic. It's surprising how the right keyword or a graphic can direct traffic to the site in unexpected ways, although if you consider that there are now over 3000 posts live on the site, covering such diverse topics as TV schedules (and show cancellations), GI Joe toys, Doctor Who and an assortment of minifigures it becomes clear just why we're picking up so many eclectic hits.

It's always strange to see just which posts are most popular, although I do have to admit that it's a rarity to see my personal tastes and those of the audience come together. In an ideal world I'd love to see the Reviews and News items closest to my heart generating the biggest waves but if a post on a toy or bit of geek culture I'm covering for ''professional'' reasons (rather than because I'm actually that interested in it) brings people to That Figures and they stick around, it's fine by me. Come for the Community air dates and Trash Pack Trashies, stay for the Doctor Who and Marvel Universe Reviews.

Trash Pack Trashies. How I love and hate you.
When I first started That Figures I had no idea how popular it would become in such a short space of time. To say the site exploded in those first few months is an understatement. But I was also foolish enough to believe that the rapid growth in the site's visitors would continue at that same pace. As anybody who ever checks their metrics will tell you, that simply doesn't happen. Whilst the number of page hits fluctuates, we've always had a steady core of - I suspect - the same visitors, with a floating contingent on top of that consisting of accidental visitors who find the site through Google or other search engines.

I have to admit that part of me wishes I could grow those numbers somewhat but try as I might, I've yet to find the key to unlocking that particular mystery. Occasionally I'll get a big push from a Review that is re-Tweeted or posted on another site but such influxes rarely last beyond that bump. Which is an oddity, given that most of the site's content is somewhat concept-compatible. Although this obsession with numbers did grip me for some time, I've tried to subsequently push it from my mind and return instead to the original purpose of the site: namely to post about stuff I enjoy. Although let's face it, whilst every blogger blogs because they want to say something, I doubt there are many who like to speak to an empty room...

Speaking of empty things... One of the other major problems I've encountered this year is that there's simply been a lack of toys to Review. Reviews tend to be one of the major features of the site (and much as I love being able to cover related periphery such as movies, TV and so on, toys will always be the focus of That Figures) but this year has seen a drought when it comes to the lines we've been focusing on. A single wave of GI Joe figures and the Marvel Universe giving way to the movie-themed lines meant that there were simply no 3 3/4'' figures out there to Review. And those that did appear disappeared from shelves just as quickly.

Thankfully it looks as though this drought may soon be ending. The latest waves of Marvel Universe figures have started landing at retail and although we're seeing the same familiar faces popping up in each, Hasbro has also expanded the line with some new - and very welcome - additions, some of which we've been able to snag. However, it's still a long 3+ months until we can expect to see any GI Joe figures invading stores again, so here's hoping that the spandex-clad heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe can keep us going until then.

That's not to say we haven't had some excellent Review fodder our way. Over the last few months we've been Reviewing the rather fun SLUG Zombies minifigures from JAKKS Pacific (and I'd like to give a shout-out right now to all the guys there for their support.) Although much as I love these toys, it seems my Reviews of them have yet to find their audience. It's a little disappointing to put the effort into the Review  - especially when the subject of the Review is worthy of more - only to find it seen by less than a tenth of the audience who follow my Marvel Universe and GI Joe coverage. Here's hoping I can rectify that, not only for the purposes of boosting our audience but also so that more people can catch the SLUG Zombies bug, as these figures really are a lot of fun.

Visit Entertainment Earth

The other major change this year is that we've entered into the Entertainment Earth affiliate program. You may have noticed links to their site in some of our Reviews, the ad on the side bar or even our Affiliate Link updates. Put simply, this is a way to try to fill the That Figures' coffers so we can buy figures and toys to feature on the site. Although there are some rare exceptions (such as a number of the aforementioned SLUG Zombies, which were provided for Review purposes by JAKKS Pacific) every toy Reviewed at That Figures is bought and paid for by me. Now don't get me wrong: I enjoy buying and owning the figures and I'm not trying to claim I suffer some form of financial martyrdom just to bring you a Review. But if you consider that the average 3 3/4'' figure now retails at close to $10 a pop and most waves will feature at least six such figures, you'll understand why I'm trying to generate a little revenue to help out with the running costs. 

Wherever possible I've tried to avoid the ads or links being too intrusive, although I would ask that the next time you're considering making a toy purchase, you use one of our links. You'll pay the same price as you would visiting Entertainment Earth directly but by shopping through us, we earn a commission which we can then use to buy more toys.

We've also made a few new friends who don't pay us this year. The League of Extraordinary Bloggers - organized and administered by Brian at Cool and Collected - has introduced me to a number of new, exciting and interesting bloggers (and hopefully they feel the same way about my contributions) plus I've also found new friends such as the Rapping Reviewer Cordicon (I'm sure he'll hate me for that one), Cool and Collected's awesome Brian and my Blogging Neighbor Shaun at Branded in the 80s, who join old friends such as the guys at Atomic Martians, Battlegrip's Phillip Reed and many others too numerous to list here. But they know who they are and I'd like to thank them for not only their support and friendship but also for their passion and awesome blogging. 

I've also continued to forge relationships with a number of people who actually work in the toy industry for a living, including the guys at JAKKS Pacific, Captain Action evangelist extraordinaire Ed Catto, the insanely dedicated - and talented - Micronauts fan Gold Dober, Man-E-Toys, Gorilla Mouth's Troy Stith and the mighty GodBeast, all of whom have provided support and inspiration. And if there's anybody on either list I've missed, please don't be offended or feel left out: I've simply met so many supportive, friendly and creative people over the last few years that it's difficult to contain all their awesomeness!

As for the future, I'd hope to continue to expand the site's audience and appeal. Plans are afoot to do the latter (with a little help from a fellow toy reviewer - more on that soon) but it's my ultimate hope that That Figures will continue to grow in the manner I've always hoped it would and become a site that featured trustworthy Reviews, relevant News and - most of all - a place that would be fun to visit. How I'm doing on that, I'll leave up to you.



  1. An excellent peek behind the curtains! You're one of the most prolific bloggers I know and I foresee nothing but great success for "That Figures."

    1. Thanks Brian. I've been doing a lot of thinking recently (mainly due to not posting thanks to a family visit) and it's made me realize just why I enjoyed posting so much stuff here. Numbers are fun to watch grow, for sure, but if it becomes a chore or feels like a job then that's the moment the spark vanishes and it becomes laborious. Hopefully the break - along with some upcoming content (such as NYCC and some new figures) - will continue to keep me fired-up.

  2. You truly are one of my trusted sites in figure bring a level of production quality that sets the bar.

  3. I've never been more fascinated with toys, even new toys, as I am reading posts in the league meme. This is my first time to visit your blog. I love the play on the name and look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. Thanks for the link! jen


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