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, 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, it’ll be out before GenCon. It’s called Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters.

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 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, and today we shared the cover.

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!

  • 1,700+ registered members (5/09: 1,100+)
  • 3,175 RSS and email subscribers (5/09: 2,100+)
  • Over 210,000 unique visitors and 387,000 total visits (5/09: 188,000/316,000)
  • …of those 210,000, over 180,000 visited more than once (5/09: 128,000)
  • 708,000 pageviews (5/09: 619,000
  • The gnomes have posted over 650 articles (5/09: 400)
  • …which have attracted over 8,900 comments (5/09: 5,200)

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 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 left the Stew to pursue development of his RPG, SinisterForces. 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, joined our pointy-hatted ranks. He kicked off with a three-part series about using the iPad for gaming, and talked us into launching our own YouTube channel.

We also dove into Twitter, where the gnomes post bite-sized GMing tips and other geek tidbits, and Facebook, 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!