Five years ago, October 2013, I bought my first fountain pen; two years later I helped Jonathan Deans with co-founding Fountain Pens Australia; and two years ago today, July 15th 2016, I started this blog, Macchiato Man. I started with fountain pens fairly slowly, and somehow avoided jumping head-first down the rabbit hole. By October 2014 - one year after my first pen - I had 6 pen (but three of these were hand-me-downs) and 4 inks (one ink came with my first pen). Unfortunately the slow start was just the beginning of exponential growth: 6 months laterI had 9 bottles of ink; another 3 months, 32 bottles, and fast forward another 11 months to July 2016 and I had around 300. Boom.
At this point (mid 2016) I had been toying with the idea of making a pen blog. I'd dabbled with blogging in the past, none of which I was confident or happy with, so I wanted to go in with a plan. On Jonathon Deans's recommendation I needed to find something 'different' about what I do. I also needed to find something visually unique that I could turn into a brand, so to speak. It took a while to find something but I settled on exploiting my largish collection by focussing on comparing inks. I wanted to make comparisons a prominent part of my reviews and I wanted to make straight comparison articles with no review component as well. Comparisons I've always felt are important parts of reviews: colours are a difficult thing on the internet as there are so many variables (colour settings, type of screen etc.) so showing various similar inks (of which you might have one) might allow you to make an educated guess about any colour differences that are present (the colours are too warm, too dark etc. when viewing). Also it might be an ink that is difficult to acquire or expensive so an alternative option is good to provide. I also felt that at the time a lot of reviewers were neglecting this area (to what I wanted, anyway). Some were comparing inks that were in different colour families and I never thought that was particularly helpful or didn't compare to enough. (This has definitely improved, however, as these reviewers now own more inks themselves which allows them to offer more comparisons).
My first article wasn't my finest work (though it would be a worry if it was!). The photos aren't crisp, the review isn't clean and it's short with limited descriptions and information. That said I haven't changed the general structure of the review page much; I did spend a while trying to find a nice structure so I'm happy with that. One thing I wanted was to regularly update the site but I was also acutely aware that I needed to be realistic. I decided early on that I wanted to aim for two articles a month and that was something I, mostly, achieved. Some blips but also some months that I went over. Not counting this month I'm averaged 2.08 articles per month which I'm very happy with. Four months after starting I wrote my first break-out (of sorts) article. It came from what I wanted this blog to focus on; an ink comparison. Parker Penman Sapphire, to be precise. I'd do a much better and cleaner job of an ink comparison today but this post still features relatively prominently (for an almost 2 year old post) in my analytics every month. A lot of my comparison articles have been fairly well received, from an analytics perspective, so in retrospect this decision to focus on comparisons has been a success.
I'd say my most successful articles have been the large black ink comparison I spent a quite a while working on and somewhat surprisingly my Sheen vs Shimmer article (which I am still trying to work on a sequel to but am having trouble getting the information I need!). Every month they feature prominently in my analytics. I think it shows that while reviews are important to this blog, articles where a put a lot of thought into them and large-scale comparison articles that show either alternatives difficult to acquire inks or comparisons that show subtle but important differences between inks are my bread and butter. The fact that these articles have quite a lot of words in it is comforting. I'm averaging over 1100 words per published post - which is a decent amount by ink blog standards - and knowing that writing this much isn't negatively affecting the blog is relieving. Photos say a lot, but not everything!
Why do I write on Macchiato Man? I do it because I enjoy it; I enjoy contributing to the fountain pen landscape, and as I have a lot of inks so I believe I can contribute to the landscape. I have all these inks and I have and had no goals to make this venture profitable; that was never even a thought. This blog has never made me any money at all. I have had some inks and pens given or discounted for review and this saves money and I'm grateful for these opportunities but they don't make me money; they don't help me pay for the hosting of this blog. I'm not complaining (at all) but making money simply isn't a goal.
An important question to ask, however, is do I enjoy this? Yes, absolutely I do! All of it? Well, no, but not it a bad way. Setting up my somewhat extensive lighting equipment to photograph reviews and comparisons is time consuming and definitely not fun. Neither is putting it away (though that is quicker). My first ink review had twelve photos but my more recent ink reviews not infrequently have upwards of 45 photos and a lot of these need to be adjusted to be as colour-accurate as I can possibly be (I don't see the point in doing them unless I strive for colour accuracy). I don't particularly find this editing that enjoyable. I also don't enjoy promoting this blog (outside of my own social media). Even though this blog makes no money, pushing my content on others always gives my some pause. One of the main reasons I do this is I want to share what I have so I do push past that when I think what I've written is something useful for a lot of people.
So what do I enjoy? I love making the reviews, I like photographing them, and I love writing them. Pretty simple! Every now and then someone reaches out to me and thanks me for what I've done here and compliments my work. When this happens it's both humbling and motivating. Huge thank you to those who reach out!
What is "Macchiato man". Well, Macchiato means "stained" or "spotted" and I am constantly stained and spotted with ink! I also like coffee…
Lastly I want to address the future of this blog. That isn't as ominous as it might sound! As it stands I have lots of ideas and plans for articles moving forward and it's full steam ahead. I want to continue with more pen reviews as they are fun to photograph and write (and a little easier to prep). One thing I have been toying with the idea of is creating a store and offering up for sale samples of the inks I review, where possible, and maybe some of the compared inks. I don't plan to get rich off this but maybe it'll help pay for the hosting? Another idea was a not-prominent-displayed way to donate or maybe something like patreon? One thing for sure, I will never have banner adverts or google adverts or anything that slows down or makes the website ugly or annoying or worrisome to visit. Making money is also definitely not a goal. If I can take little off my hosting costs then that would be a bonus. I am very genuinely eager to hear what people think about this.
The fountain pen community is one of the more positive communities out there. It's not without it's faults and bad apples but by and large people are supportive, generous and honest and I'm glad to be a part of it.
I'll sign off now by just saying thank you for reading! I wouldn't be doing this without you. :)
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