Magazine covers for sale

So I wonder who is he talking about? We need some anonymouse leaking here, or how about some of the magazines that arn’t doing this to just flat call out the ones that are doing it to make them publicly deny or explain themselves?

http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=6228583&publicUserId=5379799

This was sort of discussed here: http://www.quartertothree.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=539690&highlight=#539690

According to what’s written, Mr. Hsu’s culprit is “possibly anyone except his own publication,” which by induction, seems to be “possibly everyone except his own publication.” Other than the explicit exceptions he cited earlier.

Slinging mud (at possibly anyone/everyone) while declaring oneself to be as pure as driven snow? Wouldn’t a magazine editor’s efforts be better spent trying to improve his own publication?

He has, as of now, said that he is not referring to:

IGN
Gamespy
GamePro
Game Informer
Play

We are rapidly running out of options, aren’t we? He should be pressed to absolve even more people so we can narrow this down.

Troy

People seem to think he is referring to Game Informer, which is about as shocking as snow.

EGM hasn’t been worth reading for a long, long time - before my EB days (1994-96) in fact. Biased articles, shoddy writers, and features-for-hire typically plagues them since around that time, if not before. What’s the difference now? Oh wait, Mr. Hsu works for them.

Of course it’s all rather insubstantiated.

— Alan

We also need to define what purchasing means.

On one extreme:

Ultra Mega Flop III (first two games were panned critically, and sold bupkus) gets a cover, because the publisher shells out serious sheckels.

Sure, that is a bought cover.

But what about a more typical case. Each magazine only gets 12 covers per year, and there are generally more than 12 cover-quality games coming out.

So, is it “bought” if the magazine considers things like exclusive access to new material or the developers, when deciding which of the cover-quality games to feature?

Is it “bought” if the fact that one company is buying lots of advertising, and the other isn’t decides who gets the cover, if the decision could otherwise go either way?

So, is it “bought” if the magazine considers things like exclusive access to new material or the developers, when deciding which of the cover-quality games to feature?

Is it “bought” if the fact that one company is buying lots of advertising, and the other isn’t decides who gets the cover, if the decision could otherwise go either way?

If either of those two criterion come up in editorial discussions of what to put on the cover, yes. Though promoting an exclusive interview/preview/review by putting it on your cover and also putting “Exclusive” is not. The second is clearly bad editorial policy, though. Any editor who discusses revenue dollars when deciding on the cover loses immense credibility. Don’t they teach this stuff in journalism school?

We need some anonymouse

The anonymouse who roared?

Seems like a bit of a tempest in a teacup to me. I had always assumed that magazines decide what to cover, and what to put on the cover, in part by (a) who advertises with them; and (b) what goodies they can get in return (e.g., “We’ll put you on the cover if you give us exclusive preview info” or, on the other side, “We’ll give you first screenshots to this game, but only if you put us on the cover”). The only people who think of game magazine writers as “journalists” are the game magazine writers. I’ve always lumped them in with writers for magazines like People. They don’t investigate anything, they don’t generally write “hard” stories, they just take what they’re given and write their opinions about it. Which isn’t a knock – I like hearing what someone who sees a lot of games thinks of a particular game or a beta or whatever. I like seeing previews of upcoming games. I like fun or witty columns. I subscribe to two of the major magazines and pick up another occasionally at a newsstand.

But I would never mistake those for newspapers or newsmagazines. It’s just a different sort of writing. I’ve never understood why game magazine writers are always wringing their hands about editorial integrity, as if they were running a news program. (I sometimes wonder if there’s this subconscious desire to make game writing seem more “important” because popular society is so dismissive of gaming.)

Covers for sale? Who cares? If it gets to the point that it really hurts what you write (like you’re covering Ultra Mega Flop III and that means no room to cover the WoW expansion, or whatever), sales will fall, ad rates will fall, etc. So no smart magazine editor is going to let it get to that point. Of course, there’s always the chance of a miscalculation or short-sighted thinking, but that’s a problem whether you’re selling game covers or not.

This may well be one of the most bizarre statements I’ve ever seen on these boards. Are you saying people who write about games are wasting their time worrying about integrity?

Videogames are a complicated mix of art and technical design, $50 products that don’t always live up to their promise or even function properly. Game reviews, subsequently, are a combination of entertainment and consumer advocacy. The idea is to provide readers with informed opinions they can trust, that have been researched properly and not bought by a third party. Your content is useless if your readers don’t trust you.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone who visits these boards wouldn’t understand why writers concern themselves with creating and maintaining that trust.

Rywill, the distinction to which you refer is that between journalism and trade writing. A trade magazine is something that is a flat-out PR organ. For example, if you go to mobile phone companies in England, you’ll see 4U magazine on the desks. It’s made by mobile phone companies, for mobile phone companies, and contains PR for all the latest products.

It’s like an industry digest, and they all have them. The neuroscience industry has one amusingly titled “Pain,” which contains the latest and greatest PR fluff on analgesics. You read it to keep abreast of developments in your own area of expertise without too much effort. The scientists will read the peer-reviewed opiates journal. But the admin staff need to know what’s going on as well, hence Pain Monthly.

These are not common on store shelves, but a lot of kids magazines are of a similar caste. There’s a Yu-Gi-Oh magazine, for instance – this does not contain investigation or cutting insights on the card game industry. It contains tons of ads.

You’re basically saying, I think, that you see the gaming press as Pain Monthly or Yu-Gi-Oh: a non-journalistic PR exercise that, at best, is information about stuff, and at worse, is paid advertising for stuff.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s true at all. How can you have been here for any length of time and it not become obvious that the writers and editors here approach their work like any other journalist: as criticism, not a bought-and-paid-for-PR exercise.

If there’s a problem, my guess would be that game writing is relatively poorly paid, so journalist school grads and experienced writers tend to gravitate to other types of publication. So there may be many individuals who don’t know the journalistic ropes, or the ethical standards, or who just don’t care about them or see their relevance. But such people are ultimately of less use to the reader than real journalists, so they get fired, or they get better.

Not saying it doesn’t happen, only that the idea game mags are trade rags is just not the case.

Gimme a break with “consumer advocacy,” but I agree with the rest of it. It’s like movie reviews (if you consider those “consumer advocacy,” we can just agree to disagree on the semantics). I’m not saying the review content is bought and paid for. I’m sure it isn’t. But I have always assumed, and would certainly not be shocked to find out, that certain editorial decisions – like what to cover, particularly in previews or on covers – is driven at least in part by what the magazine gets from the game companies. I’m assuming that if a certain game buys lots of ad space, there is some pressure to cover it when that game is getting ready to release an expansion. I assume that game companies grant exclusives (whether screens, preview coverage, access to work-in-progress versions of the game, etc.) to magazines based in part on what they will get in return. If that’s not so – if magazines do not, for examle, agree to put Game X on their cover in exchange for exclusive preview access – I’d be interested to know that.

Are you saying people who write about games are wasting their time worrying about integrity?

Exactly! They should all cheat on their wives, too. No, what I’m saying is that it seems silly to worry about the lack of integrity involved in selling a magazine cover. If Time sells their cover, that’s a problem. If People puts someone on the cover in exchange for exclusive interviews or even for money, I don’t care that much. Because People isn’t news. It’s opinion and fluff. Which doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading – opinion and fluff can be a fun read and I like it as much as the next guy. Like I said, I buy computer game magazines all the time, because they’re nejoyable. But they, like People, don’t have to worry about their integrity the way a news publication does. Yeah, whatever they write should be accurate and should be the reviewer’s actual opinion, because otherwise it’s all pointless. In that sense they should have integrity. But in terms of deciding what to put on the cover? Doesn’t matter to me at all.

Like I said, I don’t think that it’s “paid advertising” in the sense of “EA pays Tom Chick money to say he likes Madden 06.” But I do think that it’s “information about stuff,” and I certainly think that editorial decisions are influenced by advertising, access, and other game publisher/developer giveaways. Again, if an editor wants to come in and say that’s categorically not the case in their magazine, I’m interested to know more about the inner workings. These are just my assumptions.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s true at all. How can you have been here for any length of time and it not become obvious that the writers and editors here approach their work like any other journalist: as criticism, not a bought-and-paid-for-PR exercise.

Well, again, that’s not what I’m saying – in fact, that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. My whole point is that I think writers do approach their work like news journalists, but that I don’t understand that because to me they’re “entertainment journalists,” if that’s a category. I don’t want to get hung up on the semantics – to me, “journalist” means news journalist. I’m sure the term technically means “anyone who writes for a periodical publication or program,” but I’ve always thought of it as being constrained to news (just like when someone says “I’m a doctor” I assume they mean they have an M.D., not a Ph.D., even though all Ph.D’s are doctors and Ph.D recipients can use “Dr. so-and-so” if they want to).

Put another way, I think it’s entirely appropriate for game writers to approach their job as “criticism and not bought-and-paid for PR.” But I doubt that the guys who review movies for People are all concerned if People agrees to give its cover to Jessica Simpson in exchange for getting access to her wedding pictures or whatever.

I don’t expect gaming magazines to be put on the same pedestal as something like Time or Newsweek as it is about entertainment, I just want solid independent writing. I know that magazines put games on covers because they get a good first hand look at a game and all that. But any kind of money being apart of it(even indirectly through agreements of increased advertising), makes the magazine worthless IMO. If any of the ones I subscribed to were shown to do this I would cancel the subscription that day.

What if the website he mentioned was GameSpot? I mean, it’s as high-profile as it can get without being IGN or GameSpy (both of which were accounted for).

I really, really, really doubt it.

Why are you so dismissive about this angle? I can’t speak for other writers, but my starting premise for nearly any review or preview is to explain to a gamer – a guy like me – why he should or shouldn’t care about a given game.

It’s not consumer advocacy in the sense of preventing people from buying Ford Pintos that will explode when rear ended. But it is consumer advocacy in the sense that my priority is looking out for how my audience spends its time and money.

-Tom

I really, really, really doubt it.[/quote]

I know, but it’s really annoying that I can’t figure this out.

Curiously, Greg Kasavin posted a comment on Hsu’s blog asking for GameSpot to be cleared. Hsu did not post a follow-up to that. A 1UPer made a comment (many comments later) asking why Hsu did not respond to Greg. Hsu made the next comment, with no mention of GameSpot.

I obviously don’t know if it was GameSpot but I’m curious as to why Hsu didn’t come out and say it even though Greg posted in his blog.

The most likely reason is that he has realized that if he keeps eliminating major websites, then people will figure out who it is. He clears Gamespot and who does that leave? Yahoo Gamesdomain?

I’m with you though that he should respond directly to Greg.

Troy

Greg can post more about his talks with Dan, but he made another post in Dan’s blog.

He went on to say how he doesn’t think GameSpot did not do what Dan’s mystery publication did.

Why are you so dismissive about this angle? I can’t speak for other writers, but my starting premise for nearly any review or preview is to explain to a gamer – a guy like me – why he should or shouldn’t care about a given game.

It’s not consumer advocacy in the sense of preventing people from buying Ford Pintos that will explode when rear ended. But it is consumer advocacy in the sense that my priority is looking out for how my audience spends its time and money.

-Tom[/quote]
Again, if you think movie reviewers and book reviewers are “consumer advocates,” then I’ll agree to disagree on the semantics of it. To me, a consumer advocate is your second example – someone who warns consumers about harmful products, and/or takes action to see that harmful products are either taken off the market, or made safer.

Like I’ve said many times, I don’t want people to get the idea that I think game writing is useless. Game writing is great and I enjoy reading good game writing. But I don’t, and probably won’t ever, understand it when people insist on equating it with things like news journalism or consumer advocacy. That just isn’t what game writing is, at least as I see things.