PCGamesN.com launched on June 5 2012. We’re coming up to our second birthday and my how we’ve grown. We thought we’d share a few things we discovered on the way to building the world’s finest PC games site.
1 Network N Ltd is a shit name
The N in Network N stands for Network. Yes, we actually decided to name our business Network Network. We thought it was funny - a great ice-breaker. It wasn’t. The joke wore thin the first time we said it. Then, we decided to expand by building our own advertising network targeting PC gamers across six partner sites, bringing our total reach to over 50m pageviews per month. When we told Dean Smith, our Sales Director we wanted to call our audience extension the Network N Network he was appalled. That’s why we now call that bit of our business The PC Games Network.
Lesson learned: don’t try to be funny at Companies House.
2. Content is really expensive
When we started PCGamesN, we thought we could cheap out on content by relying on a custom built news aggregator to save on writing breaking stories. But aggregators don’t grow audiences fast enough. We realised that we had to invest much more heavily in content than we’d originally planned.
We ended up spending more than double our original budget, but it did mean that co-founder and Editor In Chief Tim Edwards gets to work with respected talent like Steve Hogarty, great US writers like Rob Zacny and bring on new talent like Matt Purslow, Julian Benson, Jeremy Peel, Nick Wilson and Fraser Brown.
The size of team means we can talk to anyone, turn up at the opening of an envelope and even fly a journalist into Kiev to meet developers caught up in the crisis. As we did.
3. Community takes ages
For our first year we were pretty miserable about the volume of comments we were getting. It just takes a long time to get a community used to the idea of commenting with a new site. We’re now up to over 20k registered commenting accounts, 15k friends on Facebook and 30k total Twitter followers. Adding Steam sign-in has rapidly increased the volume of comments and we finally feel like a living, breathing community. Our commenters clearly care about what they’re reading, and we’re free of the usual fanboy wars and trolls.
4. Geography doesn’t matter to audiences
From the start we decided to make one website for a global audience. That means one voice and no silly geo-targeted content. Local editions for the US and UK might be easier for companies with separate PR and marketing teams to plan around, but the communities surrounding PC brands like Steam, World of Warcraft, League of Legends and Minecraft are truly global. The only thing we geo-target is our advertising. With over two-thirds of our audience in North America, cracking those ad agencies has been agony. We’re now on good North America fill rates, even if it mean checking our phones all night long.
5. 30 channels wasn’t enough
We started out with bespoke channels around the biggest brands in PC gaming. But the channel approach turned out to be limiting. Now we’ve built a really neat metadata system (nicked from Netflix) and tagged over 2,500 PC games with genre, theme and business model. So now when you’re reading about a sci-fi, fantasy, subscription MMO (hello Wildstar) we can show you other relevant content. Oh, and if you were marketing a sci-fi, fantasy, MMO we can target all relevant games on our site with takeovers. Nobody else is doing this.
We’ll be back in a year to update on our progress.
With a bigger cake.