From your professional standpoint, what are some of the key differences between bloggers and major MMO news sites?
David Bass: Either type of site can forge a strong relationship with a company very easily, but I see MMO sites to be a much broader "Voice of the People," while a blog can potentially be considered "One Man's Opinion." Obviously the exact opposite could be true for both cases, but I think that's the general perception you see when looking at the different types of sites out there. I enjoy working with both equally, because they're so different, and both have different needs.
Shaun Brodie: In a way, bloggers are more like the local news cast, and a major MMO news site is going to be more akin to CNN. Bloggers and podcasts like the MMO Junkies, or the folks at STOked, have a more targeted audience. They're already interested in the game, and are wanting to share that excitement, and hear what other people who like the game are thinking as well. Massively has a broader audience, which may not know much about Star Trek Online, Champions, or our communities. You could say that one is more about keeping current fans interested and involved, and the other is more about spreading the word to people who aren't involved yet.
Sean Kauppinen: The quantity stands out the most. Quality can happen in a single post or hundreds of posts, however quality is hard to duplicate when there is a team of copy editors that verify information as factual.
Tami Baribeau: Honestly, not as much anymore. Since even major MMO news sites have writers that were bloggers before working there, and more news sites are catering to user-generated content, the line is thinner than ever. In the past, you'd see MMO news sites skewing to side with developers because they were given advance copies, early developer demos of the games and freebies. Their opinions were often masked by editorial standards for the site they worked for. Blogs used to be the best place for the straight up opinions of the masses. Nowadays, community teams are wiser and reach out to the smaller blogs and directly to players via social media mechanisms, spreading the word grassroots style without the need to be as reliant on major news sites. This means that bloggers and MMO news sites are closer than ever in terms of content and opinion.
Tricia Jenkins: MMO news sites are interested in pretty much everything that may be going on in the MMO industry, whereas bloggers may be interested solely in certain games and/or certain elements of those games. Additionally, bloggers may or may not have studied journalism and news writing, so how they write may be very different from what you might read on an MMO news site.
Wonder Russell: I can only give my personal experience, and that is coming from a tiny company where most of the news contacts I have now had a "Who?!" reaction, or totally blew us off. Having that background, I really like maintaining good relationships with bloggers who, like us, believe in what they do and want to do it well. It's kind of like the indie outlet for the indie company.
Right before launch, I took an early chance on Stephen Bray, a Scottish youtube blogger. Here is the email he sent me:
I am an amateur computer game reviewer presently creating video reviews posted to YouTube. A friend and I are looking at setting up a real site some time next year, but that's just something in the pipeline right now.
I would like to ask if you would be interested in providing me with a copy of your upcoming game Torchlight for review.
I appreciate that I am just some random guy and that video reviews on YouTube aren't as prestigious as something like IGN or GameSpot, but I have close to a thousand subscribers and almost all of my reviews have many thousands of views (my World of Goo review has had over fifty thousand views), so I am quite capable of reaching a broad audience.
I appreciate that this may be an irregular request, but consider that the way people consume content is changing. I find a lot of people prefer to put their stock in the word of the independent man on the street, when the alternative is the corporate-owned profit-centric website.
Should you be interested in perusing my library of reviews, you can find them all here:
Thanks for taking the time to consider my request,
That review has over 80,000 views on youtube (you can see it here) and it turned out to be one of the most detailed and interesting reviews we had.
On top of that, here is an excerpt of a note I got back from Stephen, that made a few of us a wee bit emotional:
"I'd like to thank you sincerely for sending me a press copy of Torchlight. I've asked a number of developers (most small/indie companies) for review copies of games, and not only are you the first to acquiesce, you're the first to even respond. I really appreciate it."
I'm so glad we sent him a copy. It was a risk (especially because we had the game on an FTP site!) but turned into an awesome opportunity.
"It can be disappointing to have a relationship with a blogger that fizzles out because they burn out on the game, get too busy to write or just lose interest in blogging."
And perhaps most critically, bloggers can really dig into how they *feel* about a game. They can rant. They can gush. They can discuss games from every emotional angle. This is something that major game news sites can't do, because readers will accuse them of being biased. In this sense, bloggers can shine.
Major MMO game news sites have the ability to reach large numbers of people, but they're often constrained into avoiding the personal and emotional angle when it comes to discussing games, due to a journalistic distance. That's not a negative thing at all, but bloggers can cover a game in greater detail and with a more personal perspective than major sites.
EM Stock: Bloggers have more freedom. They don't have to answer to or be censored by anyone. Their opinions are their own and they're usually more than willing to take complete ownership of them. MMO news sites are, after all, businesses and because they depend on the support of the game companies to provide them with the information they need to write their articles, they tend to be more politically correct with the content they write.
Meghan Rodberg: Bloggers have more freedom to express their opinions about a game, while MMO news sites tend to stick to the news and the facts. Bloggers also can spend more time on the "little things" that an MMO news site might not want to spend resources on – for instance writing guides or fiction. The Road Goes Ever On is a stellar example of the freedom a blogger has to choose what to spend their time and real estate on that an MMO news site might not. Another key, but unfortunate, difference is that blogs and bloggers can tend to come and go, and it can be disappointing to have a relationship with a blogger that fizzles out because they burn out on the game, get too busy to write or just lose interest in blogging.
Many bloggers have sites unabashedly dedicated to whatever MMO they are currently playing, but because they maintain the site throughout the rise and fall of many MMOs, they develop a constant following. Other bloggers create blogs focused solely on one MMO, and the readership is based on the sole MMO's popularity. Is there necessarily a better way in your opinion, especially with regards to building relationships between bloggers and your company?
David Bass: I think in terms of building a stronger relationship between a blog and company, you'll always be more effective if you're dedicated to the company and/or game. It's much easier for a company to spend resources for you if they know that you'll be dedicated to them and will help promote their game(s). But there is always that element of risk involved by focusing on one game. If the game's not successful you'll either need to change your blog's focus, or risk it dying out entirely.
Shaun Brodie: No. We really do want to talk to everyone in our community, and we want to hear as much feedback as we can. The only difference between someone who plays Star Trek Online only, and someone who plays Star Trek Online and another MMO is that one person has found two MMOs they love, and the other one hasn't quite yet.
Sean Kauppinen: Focus on depth that is of value to the players. New players tend to be acquired through portals or major sites.
Tami Baribeau: I don't think there is a better or worse way. Create good, well-written, regular content with a unique perspective and it doesn't matter what you write about -- you'll have a following. As far as its effect on building a relationship with my company, I don't think it matters either way. Game companies will look at the size of your readership and the blog's prevalence as the biggest factor in determining whether to provide content. This doesn't mean you have to be big to receive attention from developers, it just changes the kind of content the company may be willing to provide.
"Create good, well-written, regular content with a unique perspective and it doesn't matter what you write about -- you'll have a following."
Wonder Russell: Not to my way of thinking. Hopefully if they liked X game they'll like Y game.
Regina Buenaobra: I don't think there's a One Best Way to approach MMOG blogging, and I don't feel that one or the other method would give a blogger an edge in terms of a company building a relationship with that blogger. I think what is important is that the blogger conveys their ideas clearly, writes well, and brings honesty and integrity to whatever they write.
I enjoy reading bloggers who write about different MMORPGs on a blog because they bring a breadth of perspective and experience to the MMO game that they're currently discussing. It's really interesting to see bloggers tie commonalities from different games into a single discussion or idea.
However, I also believe that a blogger who covers one game, and really drills down into that gaming experience also brings value to the MMOG blogosphere. For instance, a blog dedicated to one game can chronicle the emotional (in-character or out-of-character) experience of being immersed in a game world, writing about achievements, challenges, and failures, and the blogger can do this over a long span of time. Reading a chronicle like this can be very interesting to devoted fans of a game and to game developers.
EM Stock: This is one of the reasons why bloggers are so great -- at the end of the day, people who are managing online communities should listen to all the different kinds of voices that are out there. Whether a person has created a blog as a conduit for their passions around one single title, or whether they create a blog to share their thoughts on gaming in general, our job is to listen, and when we can, support those individuals.
Meghan Rodberg: If a blogger has a lot of followers, it's likely that we're going to find a lot of value in what they write whether the blog is dedicated to our games or not; and since a blogger might be very influential with their followers, if they're writing positively about our games, we're all for it whether or not it's a dedicated blog!