Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 12, 2020
I'm glad I got out of the "influencer" business

You are probably very aware that blogging isn't what the cool kids are doing these days. And that my particular blog is way past its prime, with a lot less regular updates, and a lot less readers. Even I these days spend more time as a content consumer on Twitch and YouTube than on blogs. But fundamentally blogging a decade ago and creating YouTube content today has a lot of similarities. I could say that at the time I was an "influencer", long before that word was even invented, and probably at a much smaller scale. But when I watch some of the things that go on at these new social media platforms, I am happy that I got out of the "influencer" business.

Admittedly, the increase in scale has had some positive consequences for today's influencers. Especially in monetary terms. Some of the people I follow on these platforms do that as a full-time job. And while I question the wisdom of that to some extent, e.g. due to the fact that Twitch doesn't have a pension plan, I do admit that it must be nice to make a living by talking about the stuff you love.

But the downside of the increased scale is an increased entanglement with the brands you inevitably end up representing or promoting. Me, I never was big enough to cause Blizzard any trouble. I once got "press" access to a Blizzard convention, but in general I wasn't on the radar of Blizzard marketing, and it didn't matter what I wrote about them on my blog. If you are a YouTuber with a million subscribers, marketing departments look at you differently, and not all of that attention is positive. The current controversy on YouTube is about exactly such a case, a YouTuber with a million subscribers, who got dropped from the Nintendo Brand Ambassador program, presumably because Nintendo thought that he wasn't a good fit with their brand. They probably imagine their customers to be younger and more innocent.

When this year I was using YouTube to research Roll20, I came upon a bunch of older videos with a similar problem on a smaller scale. Roll20 had pissed off a lot of YouTubers with successful channels about role-playing, because it had told them that they didn't want the people promoting their brand to be white heterosexual males. One can see the "woke" attitude that would lead to such a decision, but Dungeons & Dragons isn't exactly a hobby for which the audience is a great example of gender equality. Sure, we are way past the "girls don't play D&D" meme. But I am member of a role-playing club, there is no discrimination against female membership, but white heterosexual males clearly make up the large majority of the membership. It wouldn't be unreasonable to accept that demographics of the influencers match the demographics of the audience, instead of trying to enforce some arbitrary diversity criteria. Being discriminated against because of the color of your skin is bad, regardless of what exactly that color is.

Fundamentally the problem is that influencers often just "happen". Somebody decides to talk about a game or game company, his channel takes off, and suddenly he is "internet famous". But of course the game company didn't choose the person. They might offer him freebies or add him to some sort of marketing program, but they don't really control him. So there is a risk that an influencer is seen as representing a brand, and then somehow goes off the rails. Google "pewdiepie on a bridge" for an example, which probably caused the marketing team of PUBG to have a collective heart attack, even if he wasn't particularly attached to just that brand. You end up with brands trying to keep their influencers at arm's length, because they are seen as a risk as much as they are seen as an asset.

I've never seen you as an influencer, more like "a virtual pen friend". Even though I really don't know much about you, I consider your blog (and you too, in some way) a nice part of my life. As weird as it sounds, I come to your blog at least once or twice per day. And I've been doing it since your very first posts in 2003. 17 years ago. It's a lot of time. Some of the influencer you just mentioned... Weren't even born. Others were little toddlers.

I am 45, I hope I'm just halfway in my journey of life, but when I come here I always think "Hey, wouldn't it be nice to actually meet that Tobold guy, drink a beer with him and share some thoughts about our past 17 years? What if some day, for some reason, he just stops writing and all we've got are his posts and some virtual memories?". It's a weird feeling.

We've been traveling on different paths, in different countries, with different objectives and different backgrounds. But here, on your blog, on the web... It's like we're old classmates who never met.
Given that there are now books written about "how to be an influencer" which often read like a much less dense version of a Marketing 101 class, I'd say that more than a few of today's new generation of influencers are actually approaching it with the design of making money from the gig.

Me, I'd never put ads on our blog, mainly because the readership is so small that it is silly to make my friends see ads (and likely blocked anyway) just to read my own ramblings.

But if you look at blogging as less than a activity or a passion project and more like a full time job, then yeah, you're gonna be out there marketing and making connections, and doing all of those things that people in the past would have relegated to traditional sales/marketing jobs.

I'm patiently waiting for you to show me which hair gel to use.
I feel like Rufus on this one.

I'm not following your blog since 2003, but its been a while, and i feel like you're a friend from oversea and you sometime send me a text to read about your day, your dnd or video games, your 3D printing journey, ... Never felt like you were an influencer even when you do (or did) a review of a game you really like and tell us to go get it if its the kind of game we like, it feels more like a friend telling me about the new game he tried and push me to play with him :)

@Stabs and for the perfect hair gel, id suggest Olympus, the Gods Hair Gel! ;) And if you dont know the reference, its all good, its from the Asterix cartoon "The Twelves Tasks of Asterix."
We can't be young for long.
Your "fights" with syncaine were legendary...and that guy who spent bunch of money in wow to prove...something, forgot hs name..
Yeah...that was 10 years ago if im not mistaken.
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