10 Things I Learned Working on ‘Westworld Daily’

10 Things I Learned Working on 'Westworld Daily' - Sufia Banu

November marks the first anniversary of Westworld Daily, a fansite that I run singlehanded (not preferred but my friends have day jobs that take up most of their time). The website covers everything surrounding HBO’s much-hyped western sci-fi show Westworld developed by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.

Over the course of a year, I have managed to amass 36,650 pageviews with an average 1.37 sessions per visit. That’s not bad considering the show will return two years later and the secrecy surrounding the plotline allows bare minimum news to roll out. To celebrate a year of Westworld Daily, I thought I would I’d record and reflect on the things I learned running the site.

Nov 1, 2016-Dec 5, 2017 - Westworld Daily Stats
Nov 1, 2016 – Dec 5, 2017

To start off, I’d like to explain why I created Westworld Daily (WD)?

I love stories. Reading stories, watching stories unfold are some of my life’s greatest pleasures. This combined with my knack to learn new things on my own lead to the birth of WD.

What do I hope to achieve with WD?

In past, I discovered fansites like Watcher on the Wall, Wiki of Thrones, and Welcome to Twin Peaks that has a very active community and draws millions of monthly visitors. Being a fan of these sites made me want to see if I can build something of that scale. It’s a personal challenge. And I’m big on goals and challenges.

Westworld is one of my favorite TV shows and from what I’m hearing HBO has big plans for it. Before season 1 aired, the media dubbed it as HBO’s next Game of Thrones. I saw an opportunity and jumped for it.

It’s worth noting that Westworld Daily’s main traffic source is Facebook and here’s what I’ve learned running both the website and FB page:

1. I can write well

Being a non-native English writer leaves me vulnerable to imposter syndrome. Every time I push that ‘publish’ button, I’m terrified someone will laugh and criticize my writing. When I worked for FabNewz, a new website, someone left a mean comment on a post written by a colleague saying the writer must be Indian to have written like this (or something like that)!

It’s been a year of publishing on WD’s website and FB posts. Over 36,000 people have visited my site and hundreds have liked, comment and shared the FB posts. No one has complained about my writing. Not once. That’s a relief!

When I sometimes look back at some of the posts, I do think I’m a good writer and I’m fairly confident about my writing skills now.

2. Fans provide information if they trust

Early on I knew I have to build trust by posting good content (not just click-baits) on a regular basis on the Facebook page. I was hoping fellow-fans of the show will reach out when they have something important to share with the community. One fan did reach out and told me that HBO is hiring extras. The news was covered by some major new sites but no one had the flyer that the Westworld fan shared with me.

Westworld-Extras

3. Tag actors for exposure and attention

We live in an attention economy and attention is hard to get.

When actors are very active on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, tagging could lead them to like or even retweet the posts. Westworld Daily’s posts have been retweeted on three occasions by Evan Rachel Wood (who’s part of the main cast) twice and Louis Herthum (recurring cast), once. They retweeted because I tagged them.

Of the two posts that Evan retweeted, one was a surprise. I don’t know why she retweeted it because it wasn’t an exclusive news. Perhaps she just wanted to appreciate WD’s efforts?

And the second one, as you can see in the picture below was strategically created so that the actress may retweet it. I photoshopped a small part of the interview onto the picture of the actress and then tagged her. She tends to retweet posts talking about her work and is generally interactive with fans.

And behold!

She retweeted it.

Westworld Daily stats
Evan retweeted the post and the number of retweets and likes surged

The short-term benefit of being retweeted by an actor of the show is the immediate flood of retweets, likes, and comments. And the long-term benefit is an increase in the number of followers.

4. Actors validate information

Once I discovered an interview of Katja Herbers, a new cast member of Westworld season 2 in what appears to be in Dutch. Using Google translate, I figured she mentions the return of a certain actor. I wrote about it, shared the news on Twitter and tagged her.

She actually read the post and replied saying her words are misrepresented in the original interview. I have to say, this was a proud moment for me. I made the necessary corrections and thanked her.

Westworld Daily stats.

Some actors love interacting.

Louis Herthum on Facebook
Louis Herthum talked to us on Facebook

5. Ask for help and help will come

One of my main concerns with the website was that it took too much time to load, almost 7-8 seconds. The theme was pretty heavy and I was using too many plugins. I didn’t realize this was the problem.

Two months back I began getting involved with a few Indian blogging groups like the HellBound Bloggers and ShoutMeLoud Forum. I made friends and was surprised at how eager some of the members were to help newbies. I meet Hitesh on both the above-mentioned forums. One finds him regularly helping out novice bloggers. While talking to him I mentioned the speed problem in Westworld Daily. He offered to help.

I quickly installed Teamviewer and allowed him to view WD’s dashboard. He got rid of unwanted plugins and installed a light theme. He shared a theme that he had bought and did not demand any payment in return. Who does that?

I thanked him and offered to do a project together if he had something in mind.

Now WD loads in 1.9 seconds.

Westworld Daily speed

6. Take screenshots for future references

Once Louis Herthum (recurring cast) announced on Twitter that he’s happy his friend Zahn McClarnon (known for Longmire) is joining him on the set of Westworld season 2. No website wrote about it and there was no official announcement.

The makers of Westworld insist upon secrecy which makes casting a challenge because it tends to give away plotlines. Therefore this announcement on Twitter was important. So I took a screenshot.

Later, upon searching the tweet was nowhere to be found but I still had the screenshot to validate the news.

Louis Herthum on Twitter

7. Offer more than your competitors

I mentioned Watcher on the Wall being an inspiration behind Westworld Daily. The same group of fans made a Westworld theme fansite – Westworld Watchers – thus becoming my rival. They are based in the US. I learned a lot from these folks but I also know that I need to beat them which is practically a little difficult because of the timezone.

When I’m fast asleep in India, US-based news site posts Westworld related news and Westworld Watchers quickly pick up the news and post it on their site. By the time I wake up, fans of the show on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit already know the news.

How do I stand a chance here?

By offering something more than my rivals.

Case in point, a few days back HBO announced that they are looking for hundreds of extras. Westworld Watchers (WW) wrote the news before I could. Almost 24 hours later I published the news on my site but I offered a picture of a flyer that I got from Craigslist. I got the flyer because I was looking to add something more to the news.

My post has got 133 shares while WW’s post received 0 shares. Since both websites draw traffic mainly from social media, let’s see how we faired on the social side of things:

Westworld Watchers

Facebook: 22 likes, 4 shares, 1 comment

Twitter: 2 retweets, 5 likes

Tumblr: 2 notes

Westworld Daily

Facebook: 48 likes, 23 shares, 12 comments, 3629 people reached at the time of writing this

Twitter: 3 retweets, 5 likes, 2 replies

Tumblr: 6 notes

Somone even shared my post on Reddit where it garnered 5 genuine comments and 31 upvotes.

Westworld’s Looking For 300 to 400 Extras for Shooting Season 2 from westworld

8. Posting without proofreading is sacrilegious

Proofreading is the final and the most annoying step before publishing. I didn’t proofread some of the early posts on WD. Inevitably I made a mistake and someone pointed it out. I posted a wrong date. I promised to proofread at least once before publishing.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing a few months back. The man was on point when he said:

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”

I’d take the liberty of replacing ‘edit’ with ‘proofread’ in this case.

9. Using Facebook, MailChimp, and Buffer

Of course, I learned to manage a Facebook page whose audience is most active when I’m asleep. That called for scheduling and I started using Buffer, a tool for scheduling and sharing posts on social media sites.

I also set up MailChimp which can be a little daunting at first but there are several YouTube videos that one can follow. I’m not using the mailing service right now because I’m not sure what purpose it will serve. When I need to collect visitors email, I’ll just place the service on the website again.

10. What do I get in return?

I’ve stopped asking myself that. To run a website, one needs to be consistent and in days when I don’t want to write for Westworld Daily, I make this excuse to myself. Also, there are no monetary benefits. I’ve bought 3 years of hosting for $220. I applied for Adsense in August 2017 and over the last 4 months, WD garnered $10 through ads. This was never a business venture. I’m learning to quieten that voice asking ‘what do I get in return’ and enjoy the process.

Westworld Daily earnings

That’s it, folks!

To summarize on things I learned running Westworld Daily:

1. I can write well
2. Fans provide information if they trust
3. Tag actors for exposure and attention
4. Actors validate information
5. Ask for help and help will come
6. Take screenshots for future references
7. Offer more than your competitors
8. Posting without proofreading is sacrilegious
9. Using Facebook, MailChimp, and Buffer
10. Stopped asking what do I get in return?

What’s next?

I came across Buffer when looking for scheduling post for Westworld Daily. It was while using Buffer I discovered what a revolutionary company it is and they are partly responsible for this post. At Buffer, people are big on sharing what they learn and some of their posts convinced me to write this one. Buffer is one of the few companies that are transparent about what they do, why they do it and how they do it. They have even published their salaries online.

I have decided to share Westworld Daily’s progress every month starting from January 2018. I’ll share how some posts receive more engagement than others, the problems I face running the site, the little experiments I’m doing as well as the income via ads. These and other things like stats and future plans will be shared every month on this blog. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading 🙂

(This post is part of my On Planning to be Consistent challenge where I write 2 blogs every month for a year. Through this challenge, I am hoping to – you can guess by the name – attain a level of consistency and perfection.)

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