Former Editor Leaves the Nerf SceneDecember 13, 2016
Friends, readers and acquaintances, this will be my final post as Editor of Blaster Hub. While I have no doubt the uniquely varied contributions of the Blaster Hub team will allow it to remain one of the world’s most-read sources for all things Nerf, I will be retiring from active involvement with this or any other blaster-related website. I wanted to take a few moments to explain my departure and express my gratitude for your years of support.
As many of you know, I was a co-founder of Blaster Labs, which went online at the end of 2013. In less than a year’s time, we had earned a following that resulted in hundreds of thousands of views from readers all over the globe while garnering the attention of decision-makers at the world’s largest toy companies. As a blogging team, we began visiting with toy companies, attending industry trade events, and conversing with members of the fan community–all in an effort to advance the hobby we loved and promote the development of better products for fans. To a large extent, I believe we succeeded.
I’m happy to say that in the few years we’ve been blogging about toy blasters, we’ve been instrumental in promoting the hobby (particularly among older audiences), we’ve helped draw attention to up-and-coming Nerfers (and their sites/channels), we’ve helped ferret-out myths and misconceptions by going right to official sources, and we’ve relentlessly pushed manufacturers to up their game in blaster development: better accuracy, legit range claims, triggers on more models, two-sided deco, and better value for the money. We haven’t always been successful, and we’ve definitely ruffled a few feathers in our quest for better products and more professional coverage of our hobby. But in the end, I think we can safely say our efforts had a positive impact on the industry and the community.
So why am I leaving the Nerf scene if we been so successful? There are a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is the fact that the relationship between Nerf bloggers and blaster manufacturers has changed. When we first started blogging about Nerf and blaster toys, major companies like Hasbro worked hard to support fan sites like ours. We often received official info at the same time as larger media outlets, and we received product samples several times a year. We were even invited to private events, both at Toy Fair and typically another one mid-year. But in 2016, all of that went away. There were no events for blaster fan sites like ours, and despite repeated requests, I received all of two Nerf product samples the entire year (even the “value” brands supported us better). But it wasn’t really about the perks–what has become challenging is that information has become increasingly hard to obtain. For whatever reason, Hasbro (in particular) has started to pull inward and not supply information like they did before, and we have even less access now to people who are responsible for the products we love. And they’ve all but shunned the fan community by opting to do new product reveals on places like, uh… Snapchat. In fairness, Mattel has been an even harder egg to crack, and despite welcoming us with open arms a year or two ago, the folks responsible for BOOMco have become completely unresponsive and their new product releases have been equally few and far between. The lone ray of hope has come from the “value” brands (BuzzBee, Dart Zone, X-Shot, etc.), who have remained enthusiastic supporters of the fan community and sites like ours. I expect they will receive a fair bit more coverage in the future for this very reason.
But putting aside the politics of manufacturer relations, the truth is that it’s very hard to keep a quality website running. That was one of the main reasons I shut down Blaster Labs and moved to the Nerf channel at About.com. Blaster Labs was fun, but I lost some of the resources I had at the start, and the income that could be provided by About.com helped it make sense for me to keep going. Unfortunately, About.com had its own issues (people hated the ads and click-bait style headlines, among other things). And even though I was able to make the Nerf channel one of the top 1/3 of all About.com channels visited in less than a year, a change in direction with that company meant the Nerf channel was no longer part of their vision. So I re-joined the remaining Blaster Labs folks who had started Blaster Hub to help get the Hub the kind of attention it deserved. But that has also required a lot of time and attention, so with my growing family, a successful professional career, and a strong team at Blaster Hub already established, now seemed like the right time for me to part ways and go back to simply being a fan and enthusiast. I may still contribute as opportunities arise, but I’ll no longer be a day-to-day part of Blaster Hub or the Nerf sub-Reddit.
For its part, Blaster Hub was and remains an awesome idea… simply bring all the best Nerf bloggers under one roof and let them do their thing. With my Blaster Labs co-founder, Peter, continuing to drive things, I have no doubt Blaster Hub will remain one the world’s best sources for all things Nerf. And with awesome story contributors like JJ Reviews, Outback Nerf, Buffdaddy, WalcomS7, DerpMods, and many others, content will never get stale. I hope Blaster Hub keeps growing and manufacturers continue to see the value sites like these provide to both fans and the industry as a whole.
For anyone who has ever visited Blaster Labs, the Nerf channel on About.com, or Blaster Hub, I’d like to personally thank you. All of our success came about specifically because of your interest in what we had to say. And to the manufacturers and marketing partners who have supported our endeavors, I am equally grateful–I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience far more than I ever expected when I first started writing about this fun little hobby. Thank you again to everyone who has given me the opportunity to write about something that gives joy to so many people.
Keep visiting Blaster Hub (I know I will). But most of all… keep on blasting!