Game of Thrones is over. After more than eight years and thousands of online articles, HBO’s generation-defining fantasy series ended last night with a finale that, well, was a finale, all right!
And now, the only real remaining question is this: Where is a humble blog supposed to get its Monday morning traffic now?
There is a reason that every website, at some point in the last eight years and almost certainly during this final season, has published some form of Game of Thrones content. For Splinter it is because—and this may be revelatory—the show is definitely about politics, but other websites were forced to shoehorn creative Thrones takes into their coverage for one big reason: traffic, baby.
The Thrones effect is very simple: if you publish a story mentioning it, there’s a chance you can break in to the Google News carousel or fickle Facebook algorithm and reap the click rewards. Easy Thrones traffic was a blessing, particularly in an industry where your value to your employer is often directly tied to the amount of web traffic you can bring in. Traffic can even be used to determine a writer’s worth to a company, despite the fact that the correlation between traffic and ad revenue has been almost entirely shattered by the whims of social media companies and tweaks to the Google algorithm more times than I can count.
It was also a blessing because writing about Game of Thrones is fun! The show, which I (unlike some of my coworkers) watched start to finish for nearly a decade of my life, had thrilling high points and scenes that stuck with me for months afterward. It could also be a curse—it sucked every last shred of enjoyment out of actually watching the show from many actual entertainment journalists, some of whom were forced to pound out multiple thousand-word recaps every Sunday night as the show was airing to keep up with their employers’ demands for that sweet, sweet Thrones content.
But overall, for so many of us who spent roughly 73 hours of our lives immersed in this show and so many more steeped in its cultural influence, talking and writing about Thrones was fun. It’s OK to have fun online, and if that fun also means you get a little bump to an arbitrary metric that may or may not determine whether you keep your health insurance plan, then so be it.
But all of that ends, well... not today, exactly. It would be absurd to expect the wheel of Thrones traffic to stop turning today, but it’s gotta end sometime. Over the next few weeks we’ll see an absolute flood of articles about HBO’s planned prequels, sequels, spinoffs or Confederate, guides for GoT rewatches, lists of highlights and lowlights. But eventually, the collective internet will have to turn away from the largest pop culture touchstone in decades, and so too will the blogs. But we all enjoyed playing the game along the way.