hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

webmaster dojo

Where are they now? photo
Where are they now?

Where are they now? Ex-Destructoid editors in the biz

Papa Niero is proud
Oct 23
// Niero Desu
As some of you may have heard by now, Dale North (our editor in chief from 2010-2014) will be moving on to sunnier, though less 'toidy skies. You can read that announcement here. It's no secret that Dale and I have definitel...

Penny Arcade Report on ad-blocking, breasticles

Apr 18 // Niero Desu
[embed]251936:48205:0[/embed] A ghastly technical portrait of the online advertising ecosystem Replacing third-party flash ads for static ads media buyers have to self-load, self-serve, self-audit, and self-bill is like throwing a warehouse party in the middle of nowhere with no liquor. Nobody will come except your very few best friends, primarily because they feel bad that you're a gimp. The logistics of the business are mind-numbingly frustrating: The most annoying ad units we all hate perform the best, so buyers ask for those first. Third party javascript that bogs your system down is what keep the numbers honest -- its the auditing that helps count views, make sure ads aren't shown in 1x1 pixel hacks, or aren't resold and displayed on a different unsavory site. None of the above is pro-consumer. The speed of your browsing and whether or not an ad accidentally expands without your consent isn't exactly at the top of an advertising executives' conversations. I know this first-hand: I used to work as an ad agency for four years prior to starting Destructoid. I know the trenches too well. It is not realistic, without chopping staff, for most web content publishers to reject animated ads. Not many media buyers will take the time to produce static ads to load without javascript specifically for a site our size. May you also never learn the laziness of many corporate media buyers, quick to scribble contracts against Comscore numbers and hope they only have to write one check and reconcile one report. To be fair, I'm sure they have better things to do than buy tiny bits of polite advertising proven to be less-effective than rich media ads.  The real-world ad revenue split is lower than any online CPM calculator will tell you Kuchera mentions that $5 CPM is a starting point (that's dollars earned for every 1,000 ad views) but in my experience that number is much, much lower. Even a $5 CPM is the advertised price, that is not a $5 CPM earned to the web publisher. It is standard, when working with a company like Federated (which I have), that they take 50% commission. At a certain scale you can probably get a better term, but that $2.50 is the real jumping point unless you have ad sales in-house (in which case you're paying half to your ad sales team and then what remains goes to your creative team anyway).The other thing to take into account thats crucial is "fill rate". Nobody sells 100% of their inventory across all markets. That's very rare. Even if you sell 100% of our ads in the US most advertisers don't want to pay a $5 for ads being shown in Brazil where they can't ship product, so you end up not serving your true 1000 views. This is where third-party ad networks, ad quality control, and all that crazy javascript come in if you break even on bandwidth bills going out of the country.What is more likely is earning less than 0.50 CPM on international traffic, and depending on domestic fill rate and international performance you're praying for a take-home the "true blended CPM" which is closer to $1.25 from $5.00. Next, you'll be wishing that a AAA-domestic title will want to offset that with a $$$ ridiculous campaign when those games come around, and you better let them get a refund when your reviews editor shits on the game or (a) they'll never buy from you again (b) you let them influence your review and your site is a piece of garbage unworthy of existing. That's the business, in a nutshell.Now, divide all of the above by your ad-block rate and that's your take home, 60-120 days later, when the client pays the advertising agency who then pays you who are trying to feed your super awesome bloggers.On the bright side, surviving and rising up against this absurd level of adversity is incredibly satisfying if you can keep the lights on. Otherwise everyone would be blogging videogames for a living. It takes a crazy person, or an investment group who will sell your life's work to the highest bidder in a few years. TLDR: I miss old EGM. Ad-block rates may continue to soar, so we're marching ahead It's not the readers' problem that the business model I'm currently working on is on shaky ground. Still, sites like mine will inevitably have to move away from online advertising to some degree, and having an honest and transparent conversation is in my mind respectful of the readers. The opposite of that is waking up one morning to find out that 1UP was inexplicably sold three times then shut down, which makes me want to chew foil.  It's refreshing that more publishers are coming forward to talk about this concept of sustainability. Whether its ads, hat sales, venture capital, letting eFax buy you, or whatever -- we're just trying to keep our videogames sites online, because we love our damn jobs.  A writer in the games journalism group pointed to Gruber's SXSW talk, citing a famous quote by Walt Disney: “We don’t make movies to make money; we make money to make more movies.” That's the thing. You could argue that Disney is a little different these days but there's a lesson there too -- don't die (or sell your company) to defend your manifestos.   My role at Destructoid is changing again. I'm scouting new ideas, crowdsourcing I was your first blogger, then webmaster, then publisher to a host of this crazy cast of Associate Editors and Contributors. Now a hopeful CEO looking for ways to navigate us away from dumb ideas like pay-walling content and steer us into better waters, like crowd-funding the production of stuff we can't afford under the boiler that is advertising. For starters, would you like to see more Holmes, Jim, Dale, Conrad, Hamza, Allistair, Spencer and others on camera? As their publisher I'm their #1 fan, so I sure would, and it's on me to figure out how. Look for shiny new changes you've voted on around here this summer when you'll soon get your chance to become the new boss of us. A more intimate Destructoid, perhaps. The NPR radio host chuckled at my solution: "That sounds like more work." Truth of the matter is, if I don't come out of this by soon offering readers a plan for a better Destructoid then I don't deserve my job or a penny from them. Please don't pity my position; the challenge to rise above this and see it through is incredibly fulfilling because I care about it so much. Surviving the Ad-Blocker battle peacefully with those who will forever use them has become a fantastic real-time strategy game. We're going to work damn hard for our pylons. [Header photo credit: Ad Week. Also, cute animal photos rank as the next best thing to breast traffic.]
Ad-blocking photo
More gaming sites are speaking up about the elephant in the browser
[Minor update: I moved my CPM real-world stats from the comments to the post so that its more visible] Whether you're an aspiring writer, an established games critic, or a hopeful webmaster building your first gaming site it ...

Crowdsourcing Worldwide photo
Crowdsourcing Worldwide is live, crowdfunding games worldwide

Gaming's own Kickstarter
Mar 22
// Niero Desu
[Disclosure: I'm a volunteer on their advisory panel, along with some other familiar faces you may know.] The floodgates have opened at, a new crowdfunding company focused on the games industry with inte...

Half of Destructoid's readers block our ads. Now what?

Mar 09 // Niero Desu
"Almost half of your readers block your ads. We don't think we're mistaken." BlockMetrics was easy enough to set up and monitor. At first, it was about 10%, then 20-something. When I dared to blink it just increased faster. Over a few days it never got better, averaging at an ominous 42-46% block rate. I thought their tech might have been flawed, so I performed my own tests and contacted another company who returned a similar result.  This means that we're working twice as hard as ever to sustain our company, as if keeping a group of game writers fed isn't difficult enough. We see gaming sites shut down or selling out so often these days. Feeling my pain yet? So, what would you do, standing in my one shoe remaining? I took these sobering stats to Twitter, and this is what people close to me said: [embed]247904:47442:0[/embed] Nobody wants ads in the way while they're trying to read something I know there's a fine line a publisher must walk when inviting ads in. We work with a very reputable outside company that respects our readers and is quick to ban ads we don't like. Destructoid does not allow ads that play automatic audio, and also doesn't allow ads that automatically expand without your interaction. If you ever see any of those, please report them. Also, if you stay logged in on our existing free accounts, you'll never see a full-page interstitial advertisement (the skip to continue kind). We've also moved most of our new videos to YouTube, which allows ad skipping in most circumstances. Despite adhering to what I believe are best practices for all parties involved, we're having this conversation. Still, I assume most of you haven't singled out blocking Dtoid for malicious reasons, so I went onward with my appeals.    Would you kindly un-block Destructoid? BlockMetrics' technology allowed me to overlay a special message to those who have Ad-Blocker installed. I didn't mince words: My appeal read something to the effect that ad blockers primarily hurt our writers, and if you are reading our site, we'd like your support. Indeed, our ad rate dropped slightly overnight. I didn't like guilt-tripping our readers, but it seemed like a better option than hijacking the site away from them. Ultimately, the best feedback came from one reader who, despite willingly denying our passive revenue, thought I was being too bold. A frank letter to the editors: Dear Destructiod,  Just a quick feedback. Today I found a message in red on top of my browser window telling me not to block ads on your site. I have an ad blocking software installed my my browser, as many of the more tech savvy users who are often gamers, do. I understand that you need to make money off the site traffic through ads. For a moment, I considered making an exception rule in my ad blocking software. However, there was no way to turn off the intrusive red message until I 'do what I was told'. I was intending to have a quick read of an article you have posted before proceeding to 'support your writers'. This made me uncomfortable, and alienated. Your site was no longer welcoming.  I have therefore decided not to visit your site or any of your affiliates. I can get my gaming news from similar sites that do not 'dictate' my actions, such as Kotaku, Eurogamer, vg247, Gamespot, Joystick, IGN, Giantbomb, Edge-online, Polygon - the list goes on. In this day and age, you might want to rethink the way you make money against the way you treat your readers because your competition is way too varied and strong to pull sustainable readership. I'm sure many others felt the same way as I did and a handful might actually give a damn to give feedback as I have. Just something to consider.  (Name Withheld)  What was most annoying about the letter is that he was right, and I knew it.  When I first read the letter, I felt like I was reading those kinds of hippie stories on the news where the guy comes into your house to rob someone; then when he gets beat up, he wins a lawsuit for aggravated assault. The principles of the matter don't matter -- you're just wrong and you can't punch your way out of it. It didn't help that my appeal was presented in a red floating box, and my tone was all wrong. Dating site OKC had the right idea. (Thanks, Chris) Still, I had to say something to this person that I've offended. Deep breath:  First of all, thanks so much for your candid letter and caring enough to write. May I ask why you use an ad-blocker on Destructoid? I'm also taken back that, despite learning that you had the option to indirectly help us fund the site by doing almost nothing, you found this request to be offensive. Was it what we said, and/or how we said it? I know you have many options in gaming sites, but I urge you to notice that gaming magazines and blogs are increasingly shrinking and ad-blockers are not helping. Every website relies on ad revenue. Sure, some new ones will pop up with funding but once they get running they'll rely on ads, too. While others may be less forthcoming about it we're all in the same boat, and that's not an easy boat to keep afloat. Even IGN, who arguably has the most successful ad-free subscription model, was sold last week. If I can't appeal to people to at least passively support it with ads I'm not convinced you'd be willing to reach into your pocket and help us either, because there are and always will be free options that come and go. Am I correct in that assumption? As a personal note, I love that we give everything away for free. If I can continue to do that without silly things like pay walls or begging for donations then my company will face no uncertain future. That's all we're asking for here. We could offer twice the coverage, a bigger travel budget, better computers, and have more well-fed team running the show if everyone just passively allowed the ads. That's not reality, and I get that. The results so far are not good, but show promise. Since we put up the message only 3% of people have accepted our appeal, so you're correct in stating that others do feel the same way. Since I received your letter I've revised the alert from red to a soft blue so it isn't so jarring. What else might you do if you were in my shoes? Re: "I certainly was not expecting a reply." Thank you for respond to my feedback. I am aware that the competition is tough and downsizing/ bankruptcy is rampant in gaming industry as well as game-related media. Moreover, journalism itself is under immense pressure - I should know because I, myself is in the news business (editorial design, not a reporter). I did not activate ad blocker only on your site - the plugin blocks almost all ads automatically and I can tell it not to block anything on certain sites. So it is only a few clicks away to disable that if anyone really wanted to help out. I think you missed my point on why I was not willing to do it. It is a question of choice. If I was given a choice to unblock the ads out of good will, I would have done it. but the pop up doesn't seem to go away UNTIL I unblock. So there wasn't any choice to keep viewing without having it 'nagging' me all the time whenever I visit your site, and covering search fields etc. I think that is what put me off primarily. Maybe a gentle reminder that runs across the banner (there is plenty of space between the search field and sign up/ login buttons) or even posting an article about all the facts you've sent me will further enlighten the community and even shed light on the innerrworkings of your site might help. I find that 98% of the rolling news and pictures are repeated in most of the gaming sites and I'm sure you are aware there are reposts for exclusives (albeit with a credit and link to the owner) plus twitter etc so the only reason to check a certain site is for reviews and original content. Therefore, when reading itself becomes a hassle, the battle is already lost. I hope somehow this shed some light to the matter. This is of course, an opinion one one person but I have a feeling I'm not the only one that thinks so. As for my support, your sincere reply has made me unblock the ads on the site without a second thought and I will be visiting often.  I wish you and your team well and the best of luck in your future endeavours. If this were a movie, I'd dramatically turn to the camera with puppy eyes and blurt a dramatic call to arms: "Where were you when your favorite gaming site died?" Maybe I've won this battle, but I've lost a war I wasn't even aware I was fighting. I'm not alone -- ArsTechnica once fought back by limiting access to those running the plug-in and saw an immediate backlash. Clearly, fighting your readers head-on is not the right solution.  Ad-blockers have gone mainstream. Actually, it probably hit gaming sites the hardest because gamers are some of the most savvy computer geeks. We're tinkerers and tweekers, so what's a simple browser plug-in? Only 4% of our Internet Explorer users block our ads, which the tech elite have written off years ago. Another citing: When GameSpot's Total Access program ended three months ago, the news was met with the most ghastly of comments. It's one thing to see it on a spreadsheet but when you see your readers bragging about it, it's pretty fucked up: The solution must be weirder, more creative. No wonder Valve is selling hats If left unchecked, small publishers like me may face an ad block rate of 75% or higher with no way to pay my bills. I'm not going to lobby congress to make ad-blocking illegal. That ad block percentage is not really negotiable, and is only going to go up. Other technology trends are also closing in on independent publishers: ad rates are dropping, mobile adoption is booming and dragging old ad models that don't work into them, and (let's be honest) my Internet generation expects everything to be free, cheap, and plentiful. As a pro-consumer site operator, I'll be the first to admit none of that sounds unreasonable, so it's on me to figure it out. Yes, I can raise capital and wait for the market to evolve. I'm not going to do that. Everyone that's raised capital gets sold to someone they will later wish hadn't bought them. To quote a founding editor of a recent downsized publication: "Never lose control." "Just disable the flash ads" [Updated April 11]: If I've not made this clear, let me spell it out: I don't necessarily ever want Flash ads on the site, expanding ads, hovering ads, audio ads, gutter ads -- I didn't build this site to have ads on it.  Those ads are a means to an end: they support a staff.  By removing Flash ads it would mean removing half of my writing team. You simply can't have GIF or Static ads at our size and expect to keep a time of this size fed. It's just not realistic. Allowing even semi-obtrusive ads (rollover to expand) is a difficult reality to explain, and one that I admittedly stumbled over while on an NPR talk show. I appreciate the well-meaning comments proposing that we simply remove Flash ads, but if it were that easy I would have done that long ago. In the words of our ad rep, they make us "competitive". That is to say I haven't fired anyone in the last seven years over the matter. Advertisers are also in a desperate position to use the web to advertise their products inexpensively. We're talking thousands of people the cost of a fast food value meal. Ad agencies are even more desperate: they're trying to keep their clients happy and also win more business by wining design awards. The most cunning (or annoying) ads win the clicks. Go punch a monkey. While we can afford to turn away auto-expanding and auto-audio ads, we simply cannot turn away all interactive ad units. There isn't a professional ad sales company that would take us as a client. I'd lose half my team, and there's no data that supports a mass ad-block appeal would lift even if we did. Let's also not be idealistic: there are plenty of Internet users who hate ads on principle or wants ultimate non-tracking privacy will eventually just use a different ad-blocker that doesn't have a whitelist policy. Just skim through the comments and you'll see that some people are above appeals, no matter how much we bend the advertising industry.  If you're big enough you're in a better position to try this, though. Indies, not so much. Larger websites with massive inventories with in-house control of their ad supply chain can appeal Ad-Blockers to whitelist them, but unless you're at the massive scale of Reddit you're not going to convince lazy/busy media buyers to specifically create ads for your smaller website. We're a medium-sized site and it wouldn't fly.  Sites smaller than us are in an even worse predicament: They solely rely on the wild west of ad networks where quality control is all over the place.  An ad network will call a script or two, not have an ad to display, and will bounce it to another provider. We've seen happen upwards of 25 times per page. The tech sucks, but then again, the Internet ad industry has only been around for so long. Its improving every day, but some of these ad serving systems are really showing their age.   Destructoid will somehow offer you an awesome membership program this year  I needn't point out to anyone that the videogames press has shrunk at record speed this year. Whether you're a freelancer for an established site or well-fed at a temporarily funded business that relies on ads, this ad-block trend will eventually take a slice from your livelihood. Take stock, do your diligence, and have a quiet conversation with your staff and readers about it. Yes, it is a business issue, but it also a matter of the viability of the independent press.  If you had to choose one single editorial or swag perk, ad-free browsing aside, what would make an annual membership on Destructoid worth your while?  That's the magic question. To offset ad-blocking or advertising altogether some top bloggers are trying the unspeakable: asking their readers to become the customer. Giant Bomb, ScrewAttack, and Penny-Arcade have all famously made this work. From the research I've done, the perks that these programs offer seems like the most respectful alternative to slinging the advertising hustle. We'll follow suit, and aspire to do the right thing. I certainly wouldn't put up the sites you know today behind a paywall. Instead, I'd challenge my teams to justify a network-wide membership with a bunch of bonus stuff, and the money we earn would go towards making even more perks. We're having those conversations internally right now, so we're open to ideas. Speak up. This is an interesting time to arrive at these crossroads, as our company turns seven years old next week. To be clear, we're not going out of business anytime soon nor will I be using this an excuse to lazily panhandle for dollars. No offense to those which have gone the one-time crowdsourcing route, but you won't find me on Kickstarter shopping for a temp quick fix. We want to remain a 100% independent and are willing to work that much harder for it by offering our readers something MORE, not by hiding what we already do behind a pay-wall. In the 7 years of our company we have never irresponsibly raised venture capital money, or have had massive layoffs. We believe in running a company the good old-fashioned way and want to stand the test of time. That's what makes working at Destructoid such a great place. Thanks for sticking with us, blocked ads or not. We'll make it our way. [sad keanu by implyingrope]
Ad-blockers hurt Dtoid photo
Hug it out
[Webmaster Dojo is a column where I share my experiences running Destructoid, one of the last sites not owned by a media conglomerate or venture capital velociraptor. I'll sling exotic coffee bean water to keep servers on.] R...


Webmaster Dojo: Run your own gaming site presentation

Sep 13
// Niero Desu
Hit it. I'd like to send a thanks to everyone that attended my little gaming workshop at PAX.  I honestly thought a few dozen people were going to show up, so to find a near-full theater waiting for the presentation was ...

Webmaster Dojo: I bought ads, so I pick the reviewer

Aug 31
// Niero Desu
As Destructoid's resident publisher one of my primary duties is to protect that fine line that separates church and state: advertising from editorial. Throughout the years I've been very fortunate to work with a variety of pr...

Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...