12 Years of ToolGuyd in Numbers
Number of Published Posts: 7,352
(Some posts have been removed over time, and so the real number is a little higher.)
Number of Comments: 154,824
Number of My Comments: 15,731
Number of Comments by fred: 6,168
Number of Readers Who Lost Commenting Privileges: 6
New Visitors: 32,128,715
Major Life Changes: 3
Did I Make the Right Choice?
The Number of Times I Have Regretted Launching ToolGuyd: 0
I don’t have regrets, but I do sometimes wonder if all of this is what I was meant to do. I mean, I didn’t work hard for my physics and materials science & engineering degrees to be a “blogger,” it just kind of happened.
This is not the path I set out for, but it’s the path I found myself on.
Out of the MILLIONS of people who have read ToolGuyd over the years, surely my efforts have helped or benefited some of them, right? Thinking about this helps to shut down a lot of my what-if questions.
As an aside, I should add at this point that ToolGuyd isn’t a 100% individual effort, as Benjamen, Ben V, Andrew, and others have contributed to ToolGuyd over the years. Benjamen’s efforts have especially been considerably impactful. Beyond his 300+ posts over the past 6 years, Ben has helped with editing and also lends his much-valued and appreciated ear and voice to behind-the-scenes matters.
While ToolGuyd is my full-time job now, this wasn’t always true. I gave myself an ultimatum at the start of 2013, just after I earned my doctorate, where I would have one year to see if I could earn a living from my efforts here at ToolGuyd. I also did some freelance work for other magazines.
Could I grow ToolGuyd enough for this to be my career? I owed it to myself to try.
This (ToolGuyd) is what I wanted to do, and so I didn’t spend as much time or effort job-hunting as I could have.
Then, we had our first child in 2014, and the nature of my work here meant I could be there for every doctor appointment. It also meant that my wife didn’t have to recover from her c-section alone. It was great to be my own boss.
Then, the cost of childcare factored into things. Why pay thousands of dollars for childcare when ToolGuyd was flexible enough for me to also be a stay at home Dad?
This gave me an automatic extension on my “grow ToolGuyd into a business or get a job” efforts. I could look for a “real job” later on, right?
I changed diapers during phone calls, I took my son to media events and meetings. I worked until late at night, and went down after my son’s nighttime feeding.
Searching for and taking a research position in industry or academia would have meant 1) less time with my newborn/infant, 2) a lot of money spent on childcare, 3) time lost to commuting. Why change a good thing?
In 2016, we had another child.
Childcare was inevitable though, as small kids need to develop socialization skills with their peers, and being stretched in so many directions was starting to weigh on me. My son started nursery school at 2 years old, and my daughter at 18 months.
To be honest, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I made different choices, if I had job-hunted with a little more interest and intensity, or if my wife didn’t support my efforts.
I can still look for a fitting research position now, pandemic notwithstanding, but I love what I do too much. Would a more traditional full-time career leave me with any time for ToolGuyd, especially now that I have kids?
The good part about transitioning straight into ToolGuyd is that I don’t know what I’m missing.
Why continue to do what I do? It makes me happy, and I like to think that I’m good at it. I wouldn’t be me and ToolGuyd wouldn’t be what it is without my background.
At a small product introduction meeting once, a brand manager commented about the breadth and depth of my insights compared to other reviewers and editors who are instead more narrowly knowledgeable. I took this as an indication that I was doing things right.
If you’re doing something you love, it’s not really work, right?
Am I as happy as can be? No, but I’m working on it. I’m fairly certain that I’m happier than I would be working anywhere else.
ToolGuyd would not exist without you, your comments, your emails, friendly conversations, and all of the readers who landed on their first ToolGuyd post and came back for more. I recognize that not every reader will always have something to chime in about in comments, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate you any less. Thank you everyone, for making ToolGuyd possible!
I didn’t see ToolGuyd being my business, or my career path. Who aspires to be a blogger, tool reviewer, or whatever title describes what I do? Am I a journalist? Writer? Please, whatever you do, just don’t use the “i” word. I somehow still don’t know quite what to say when I’m asked about what I do for a living, and that often leads to interesting conversations.
I am grateful for our readers, and am largely motivated by your support.
Is this what I will be doing 5 years from now? 10? I’d like to think so.
Every so often I also look at other media channels and outlets of the same age. Some companies have seen huge growth, and others are much smaller. More than a few no longer exist. I guess I could have hired staff and taken a backseat to things, but then what would I do? I’m not in this for fame or fortune, or to manage people, ToolGuyd exists because I want to write about tools.
ToolGuyd in 2021 and Beyond
I have a LOT of plans for this year, and hopefully you’ll like what you see.
I sometimes have a hard time believing that I have been at this for TWELVE YEARS. I’m not the same person I was at the start, or even when I decided to make a go at this full time. Still, my heart is in this. This is my passion. Who would have thought!?
But, things have gotten trickier and harder.
Many tool industry brands have been mesmerized by “social media and influencer marketing” trends, and this has led some of them to cannibalize and even effectively dismantle their former press and media communication efforts.
Basically, some brands have become very difficult to work with.
Mobile content consumption dominates the industry, and reading habits have changed. I have been working on ideas to redesign and optimize the ToolGuyd.com experience, or at least the front page. That’s a slow process, but it’s moving along.
The competitive landscape has also changed. Instead of there being a small group of content creators, there are now scores of “influencers” on social media and YouTube, plus many more with “influencer” ambitions.
When it comes to web content, there are hundreds if not thousands of websites that do nothing but scrape Amazon’s bestsellers list to create “best tool” rundowns. Google has given up trying to filter out such content that only exists to trick you into an affiliate link click.
Basically, it takes more to attract new readers, it is harder to keep readers on-site, and an increasing number of tool brands are either not willing or capable of meeting my editorial needs, such as with timely information and answers to typically media-type questions.
What I have realized is that I am more experienced at press and media communications than many of the junior marketing reps on the other side of “social media and influencer marketing” efforts. My practices and preferences, not to mention civility, were molded and influenced by adept individuals who were accustomed to working with channels such as nationwide newspapers, magazines, and the like, and these practices are no longer adhered to by an increasing number of tool brands.
On the business side of things, our mobile web layout has a strict self-imposed limit on banner ad size and placements in order to avoid detrimentally impacting the user experience. In general, advertisers are also spending more on sponsorship campaigns and less on banner ads. These changes tend to go hand-in-hand with the abandonment of traditional press and media communications norms.
I have been stubborn to recognize that industry norms have changed around me.
For the past 12 years, I have been guided by several unwavering philosophies. ToolGuyd is about informing readers, and I have built ToolGuyd to suit my own preferences as a reader. Because, if I wouldn’t want to visit ToolGuyd for tool news and reviews, why would you? This means no pop-ups, no sneaky advertising, no gimmicks, nothing I wouldn’t accept as a reader.
Some magazines and websites have gone in new directions, and they’ve lost me as a reader. Maybe it makes sense for them from a revenue or growth perspective, but I fail to see how lowering content quality is a good strategy.
If it’s not something I would want to read or watch, why would any of you be interested?
None of this will change for me.
I have one goal – providing you with timely, detailed, and insightful tool coverage. If a brand that I have worked well with in the past is no longer reliable and cannot or will not facilitate this, then why would I continue to treat them in the same manner as friendlier and more helpful brands that do continue to meet my editorial needs?
I get it, I really do. Social media and influencer marketing is the hot new trend these day. Some tool brands might feel that there’s less of a need for press and media communications, or that they don’t need my cooperation. With so many “influencers” on social media these days, why provide website like ToolGuyd with timely information and insights anymore? But, communication and cooperation is a two-way street.
I have tried to ignore how one-sided some of our press and media relationships have become, and then I tried to express my dissatisfaction about this, and other practices I considered objectionable, such as deceptive sponsorship and advertising practices I had witnessed. Some of these conversations were productive, others were not.
Expect to see more unapologetic candor. No brand can I say I didn’t try hard to be civil.
ToolGuyd is a business. YOU, dear readers, are my customers. My content, even though it’s provided for free, is my product, and you deserve the highest quality product. It seems that we’re having some issues with past “suppliers” that helped make the highest quality tool coverage possible.
I will not be accommodating if brands I have worked with in the past cannot satisfy my requests for timely information, timely insights and accurate answers, or other editorial resources, but then ask for my cooperation when it suits them.
As a “dad voice” needs to be firm in conveying the message made necessary by whatever invoked its tone, I must find an appropriate new voice for dealing with unamicable tool brands who have sacrificed their press and media communications in favor of social media and influencer marketing.
Readers, and readers’ interests come first. This has gotten ToolGuyd where it is today, and I see no reason to change that now. I have always been honest with you, and will continue with that policy. I will hold steadfast to the way I run ToolGuyd, and will do whatever it takes to ensure that you get nothing but the best tool coverage.