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Candied, crushed sago't gulaman

Co-Op Ed: Adblockers and Games Journalism

coop journalizm

Pictured: Journalism happening.

This past week, the gaming blogroll got itself into a tiff when Ben Kuchera published this impassioned critique of mindless, popcorn articles that act as placeholders to post boobs in exchange for unique hits. A possible cause of this problem, Kuchera launched off, were adblockers and readers who use them.  While general interest sites can disregard the dedicated fraction of their ad-filtering readership, tech and gaming sites, like the PA Report and Destructoid, see a much more significant percentage of their readers actively using adblockers, effectively reducing their ad revenue by about half.

And it’s not that people are mad about it. Just sad. Ads on your favorite sites are an annoyance. But most of these tech dudes know ads are a  pain the butt aperture. They didn’t want to be sparkling, iPhone-scamming, schmaltzy viagra wastelands, but it’s a necessary transformation to take if you want to alchemize a business in this interest-driven information paradise. It’s a good thing that alternative income sources are finally becoming more viable. There are Kickstarter, paywalls, and donations. However, those avenues have their own set of problems. Kickstarters are a crapshoot, donations are unreliable, and subscriptions are exclusionary. So is the ad system sustainable? Is getting a lucrative job in video games that’s not connected with game development and publishing an utter pipe dream? If this trend of adblocking continues, will the Internet collapse in a heap of tawdry list articles and breasticle shots? What’s Kambyero’s stake in all of this? Did you know that your PC is infected with spyware and that your security and privacy are in danger? Click here for a free scan!

Click for Lukas's secret origins!Full disclosure: You might see ads at the bottom of Kambyero articles, but those are ads that WordPress runs for some reason. We, your loyal Kambyero Krew, get nothing from them. The ads are annoying and a bit intrusive, and we have to pay WordPress to have the ads removed. We’ll do that soon, but at the moment, whether you block ads for Kambyero is of no matter to us.

I believe that John Walker hit the nail on the head with his reaction to Ben Kuchera’s piece– there is another way of doing things. Sure, chasing hits with tits and lists is a way to allocate resources towards “actual journalism”. But I think the Rock, Paper, Shotgun way is the better way. John Walker notes that while RPS does post news on the latest big budget games, those are not always their heaviest hitters. It’s their longform features, the ones that involve actual research and interviews, or shed insight on a particular facet of a game or the industry at large, that get the highest views.

coop walker

John Walker, physically demonstrating the amount of work they put into their articles.

It’s all about the essays, and this is a philosophy that Kambyero follows and espouses. We exclusively publish critical articles on our own experiences and opinions, as well as write reviews of games that may not have been deemed “important” enough by the bigger sites. Our review of Cart Life is our top post ever, which gives an indication to the audience that our (excellent, I might add) content attracts.

I’m damn proud of what we’ve built so far, and conversations like this are things we think about constantly. Do we want to grow bigger, like our role models at Destructoid (whose founder, Niero Gonzalez, also put up a response to Kuchera’s piece)? And perhaps have ads that actually benefit us, and not WordPress? Of course, but we’ll do it our own way, and carving out our own niche, like our heroes at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

He's handsome.

This is Kieron Gillen, one of the founders of RPS. He is Lukas’s hero.

Now how about a Kambyero Kickstarter?

Click for Job's secret origins!

Oh man, we should workshop our stretch goals first. $10 and we’ll video ourselves giving each other high-fives whilst shouting your names. $20 and we’ll perform South-East Asian voodoo on a chicken we’ve christened on your birthmonth. We reach $50 and we’ll send you a sample of our blood for us to be your loyal flesh puppets. These are all good ideas.

I’ve used adblocks all my life. Ever since my sweet Mama Duanan popped me out of her responsibilities and into the paternal guidance of the Internet, I’ve always managed to find a way to block out extraneous content I’d rather not see. From the late 90s, I’ve used several permutations of the adblock/flashblock software. There was that cracked version of AdAware during my formative, porn-free Internet years. Opera and its natural Flash screening options were my souljam in the early 2000s. Adblockers make my Internet browsing flow to the tune of a charming Karen Carpenter single. Why do birds suddenly appear? Oh, wait. They don’t anymore. My Chrome extension saw to that.

I miss you everyday, K. By Greg Joen.

I miss you every day, K. By Greg Joen.

Speaking as an Internet guy, no, I am not a fan of stiltedly-worded viagra surveys. No, I don’t want to shoot the gold iPhone. No, I wo–well, I’ll probably play that sweet paper football sidebar game. That thing’s rad. Anyway, ads are awful because the most egregious examples are categorized as online trickery. To force unsuspecting Internet neophytes in buying the virtual equivalent of snake oil.

So it pains me to acknowledge that this is a thing. How hard is it to invest in a click? They don’t even need that click. You just have to look at it. There’s a weird Internet alchemy at work there, somehow turning the time spent glancing at ads into money. It’s a thing because it’s easy (and probably also magic). And that it will continue being a thing until the Internet’s collective disgruntling reaches maximum disgruntlevels. Much like the sinister shadow of Bonzi Buddy gripping the hearts of twenty-something Internet dwellers, ads as a source of revenue won’t go away.

That doesn’t mean we have to like it. Niero Gonzalez doesn’t, despite his site’s use of obtrusive and unwieldy ads. He’s an odd duck, that Niero. He knows of the Adblock problem. He ran extensive diagnostics on how many of his readers actually use adblockers, turning up an absurd number (46%). But he gets it. Doesn’t make him any less sad–he could be paying his writers a little under a 100% more, but the facts won’t get him down. Because he understands that while necessary to his whole business, ads are still little morsels of shit readers have to swallow. What does he do instead of whining about it? He turned to the community he’s built and asked them how he could make things better. Class act.

coop sexyniero

Sexy act, too. Mee-ow. 😉

We can be class, too. Hey, gurl. Boy. Whatever your chosen gender is, transethnic otherkin or whatnot. You like us, right? If we gave you a chance to give us money, will you? We will literally do anything you want. I’ve eaten garbage before. I am willing to do it again.

Click for Joseph's secret origins!

Walker and Lukas have it right. NOT-QUITE-FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for an Internet inbound marketing company, and the nine-or-so months I’ve been employed there as a writer with no previous experience in the industry, I’ve learned that “content is king”.

It’s an adage that was true when it was first coined in the 90s back when the Internet was still just a place for nerds to dick around (and maybe put up some important information every now and then). It might have become less true in the mid 00’s, but with Internet users being more tech-savvy now, having their lives deeply integrated into the online experience, they want quality content. Less and less people are willing to put up being bombarded with ads telling them to buy shit they don’t need. People can customize the way they want to experience this virtual realm, and they can’t be forced to intrusive advertising anymore.

THERE ARE FACTUAL NUMBERS.

Pictured: Not the actual facts.

Pictured: Not the actual facts.

Paid ads in their form right now probably won’t completely disappear, but they’re a money-making method that will probably decrease in effectiveness. It’s the content that people want, and if it really is good enough (and marketed correctly), there will be people who will pay to keep getting that content.

Because we just love video games that much.

Click for Mix's secret origins![Mixka couldn’t join us today so here’s a picture Job drew of her as Jack from Bioshock instead.]

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3 comments on “Co-Op Ed: Adblockers and Games Journalism

  1. Ryan
    5 May 2013

    Great editorial, guys.

    As someone who’s tangentially worked in games journalism in the US, I believe there’s an underlying financial reason behind the impassioned debate for or against site ads, advertorials, and cosplay clickbait. People who work in the editorial side of games journalism—to put it bluntly—get paid shit. To put that into perspective, the average editor’s salary for an online publication is about $25,000 less than the US’ average, median wage.

    The recent (final, and merciful) demise of 1up just underscores that fact; ultimately gaming sites are entities owned by larger companies who (sadly) could give less than two shits about the wacky and kooky personalities their audiences care about.

    I started a blog with three of my friends mostly because we work boring desk jobs and have a lot of downtime to write about our nerdy obsessions. We run ads on the site to cover hosting, domain, and advertising costs. I say advertising because—as we learned—good content is almost secondary to actually having eyeballs on your site in the first place. Haven’t quite cracked what makes the average Filipino reader tick; it seems (from looking at more popular sites) like regurgitating press releases and posting photos of underage cosplayers is what draws readers in.

    Congratulations on the site — seriously spent a good hour scouring through the archives. I’m glad that there are more outlets covering the “srs” side of games journalism here in the Philippines.

  2. Lukas Velunta
    6 May 2013

    Thanks for the high praise, Ryan!

    This is an issue that affects us as we continue to grow our readership. I know of the strength of our work (thank you for reading through our archives!) and am very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far in terms of criticism and analysis. The site’s been completely funded out of pocket so far, but I know full well that won’t be sustainable in the future.

    Apart from our own local terms, I think about these issues in the “Western” perspective as well. I write for a volunteer US outlet, and I can only imagine how it must be actually doing it for a living. There’s a reason even the biggest sites continue to use unpaid contributors to make their “filler” content, like (ugh) lists. Then you have the sites that are backed by megacorporations to make their snazzy documentaries, constantly change review scores, and act as apologists for the shitty practices of games companies.

    It appears practically exclusive to the games medium where people who are supposed to be the watchmen themselves become part of the industry– see the masses of people using outlets as stepping stones to make games. Seems like a conflict of interest to shill for the corporations that you’re supposed to be critiquing.

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun seems to be the last big site that actually puts their writing and their writers and actual journalism at the forefront, as evidenced by John Walker’s response to Ben Kuchera’s assertions. I’m glad Destructoid remains independent, as well, especially since GiantBomb was quite hilariously and ironically bought by GameSpot.

    Incidentally, we also number four over here at Kambyero. Apat dapat? Aha.

  3. Ryan
    7 May 2013

    Indeed, but “cheering in the press box” is an endemic problem in the enthusiast press; it’s not unique to games journalism.

    Journalism used to be a lucrative career for most, but with the death of print and blogs “cheapening” the entry barrier to be part of the press, it seems that most parlay their infamy in the press circles into careers in the industry. Not that this is a bad thing—I have no qualms about people trying to make a living—but it does bother me a bit if getting future career opportunities is a primary motivator.

    Locally however, it’s a whole different ballgame. PR agents and marketing folk don’t really seem to know how to handle the press, choosing to either blackball or ignore outlets that posit any sort of criticism to the products that they represent. Most tech and gaming blogs out there straight up copy and paste press releases without any sort of meaningful analysis. The worst part of this (in my experience) is the cronyism. Some companies simply won’t work with you unless you know “someone on the inside.”

    Since companies are content to hand press releases only to select outlets in their social group, and said outlets are also content to post these releases as-is, it creates a disgustingly positive feedback loop. Nobody really helps anybody out.

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This entry was posted on 22 April 2013 by in Discussion and tagged , , , , .
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