[BLOG] The written media’s DUI: Dying Under Influencers

“Oh man, you’ve got the good life. Getting stuff for free and all you have to do is write about it”. That has pretty much been what I’ve been hearing for the past ten years. And to some extent, people were right about it. Being an editor for a gaming website absolutely had its perks. Publishers loved us and we loved them. As a gamer, taking part in a group of like-minded editors, feeding subscribers fresh content and getting recognition for it from the consumer and publisher side… nothing could beat that. Until influencers did, and it has shown me the ruthless side of the industry.

Yeah, I apologize in advance. This is gonna be kind of a sob story. But what I don’t want you to do is pity me. I’ve chosen to continue a path, knowing the possible outcome. But what I do wish to bestow upon you is insight, because I feel it is much needed nowadays. As I said, people still have the general consensus that everything falls our way. Some of you might even think that we – and by that, I mean written media – are being paid large sums of money by publishers to talk about their product. If only. You see, the current developments have taught us that the gaming industry is a cut-throat business. A business in which we – the written media – are deemed obsolete and expendable. And boy, does the industry make that abundantly clear.

But first, let me take you back a decade or so. Ten years ago (give or take), a lousy gamer called Patrick Meurs (a.k.a. me) got asked to join a group of Assassin’s Creed fans to write stuff about our beloved franchise. That turned into an editor’s function at a site called Mycreed, for which I still thank its founder Michael Braam. It was the start of a wonderful journey of which every content-creating gamer once dreamed: becoming a journalist. Ever since I’ve been hopping from website to website until I eventually landed at Gamersnet. I never entered Gamersnet because it would be my ticket to the big league, but once it could have.

Unfortunately, that big league is no longer as big as it used to be. AAA media – once flourishing with free content up the wazoo – has fallen into decay, hiding some of its “Premium content” behind a paywall. And everybody asks why, as they bail on their once favorite media platform. The answer is painful but simple: influencers. Yes, influencers have been a major game-changer. Big props to them for making shit tons of money, but for the written media, influencers are a death sentence. And if you don’t see the big picture yet, imagine paying your bills and employees when your largest source of income decides to cut you off. Now, do you see?

But honestly, I’m not going to thrash influencers for this. They’re just playing the long game really smart and who can blame them. No, it’s the publishers who are at fault here. The publishers that once shook our hands and made it feel like we had a friend in them. Because that’s how it felt. Year after year, PR reps reached out to us when E3 or Gamescom crept near, inviting us over for a nice chat and some behind-the-scenes previews. Year after year, until they didn’t. Suddenly, the love affair went cold. “Booked up solid” the minute registration went live. Once at the venue, queuing up for a last-minute spot was futile. I’m telling you, being told to “give it a try at the consumer stand” as a dozen brightly-colored YouTubers are shoehorned backstage – where you were once welcome – feels like a heartless breakup.

So yeah, publishers are giving written media the cold shoulder and it shows. The days of devs and publishers supporting websites that work diligently to plug their games, are over. The cash flow that once came from game-related advertising – which was designed to not interfere with your browsing experience – has dried up. Publishers aren’t spending their resources on us anymore, it’s mostly being reserved for streamers with exorbitant demands. Because trust me, I’ve seen the insane amount of money that some of them ask first hand, and it’s absolutely mental. But hey, once again, can you blame them? If I could ask a developer $25000 to stream their game, I would too.

The bottom line is that the future for written media – or at least the written media that isn’t grossing millions yet – is looking grim. History repeats itself. Those same publishers that dropped small business owners for internet sales are now leaving written media in the rain. The companies that once made me believe that they liked me, now show me that their affection is for sale. It’s survival of the flashiest. Just make sure you have it on camera.