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

4:00 PM on 08.31.2011 // 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 professional third-party ad companies that keep the shenanigans invisible from my writers. Every once in awhile, however, I do get these gems in my inbox that are just too mind numbing not to share. 

One particular media buyer has seemingly given up on trying to "buy" review scores outright and has found a new divisive method to produce results: going around the EIC and hoping to either hand-picking their reviewer or groom one consistent person over time. This is fantastic news as it surely increases the effectiveness of junkets and lowers the cost for all sites, as we can all now fire our managing teams. Nothing builds loyalty like a repeat customer, right?

I don't want anyone to lose their jobs in this economy, so the names have been changed to protect the daft.

Hey guys,

I would like to ask for your assistance. I love working at Cobra and plan to be here for a long time. I want to be sure I establish a great relationship with the press, especially top tier sites such as Destructoid.

On Monday we sent you a press release for our premier game Shoot Them Thangs which I am attaching again. It was not posted on Destructoid. It was sent from our [email protected] account, and I wanted to see if perhaps since so many were sent out it was marked as spam. I am sure had you seen it it would have been posted so would you mind checking your spam folder for me? Can you also tell me what is the best way to ensure our press releases always get posted?

Also my CMO asked me to follow up on an issue with you; According to Dr. Mindbender, when he arranged our ad buy with Flint a few months back, he agreed that Destructoid would review our game. I understand you can't allow your reviews to seem biased but we only wanted for our game to be assigned to one of your writers for the purposes of a fair review. I got a lot of flack for the missing review and The Baroness is no longer with us. 

What can I do to encourage you to assign these games to your reviewers? Obviously we will provide resources, in game perks, assets, and what ever else it takes to make the job as easy and fun as possible for your crew.

Lastly as the director of operations, I want to be sure our ad guys always have your current rates. Once the reviews are posted I want to be sure I have your information to make additional ad buys as smooth as possible. Can you send me your latest rate card as well as site demographic. Pretty much as much info as you have in addition to any discounts you may be able to offer us for multiple buys and for being as sexy as we are. That way we can be sure we always have the best possible quote when making decisions.

Croc Master

Hello Destro,
That was not the agreement we had in place with Golobulous.  We agreed to an editorial post which we did and promoted on the site.  Any agreement to do a review was a miscommunication between parties.
I had removed the editorial team and added in Dusty who handled the final spend and the owner of Destructoid.  We can help to answer any questions regarding the media spend from Crank Case, but a favorable and guaranteed review was never discussed.



No sweat. miscommunications happen. While we love Nemesis Enformer, this is one of the reasons why we doubled our marketing staff and are no longer using outside PR agencies. Not only do we want to avoid such miscommunications in the future but we want to be sure we have the people in the office to support the news sites.

As I mentioned to Lady Jaye, at no point did I ever ask Chuckles to secure a favorable review, the idea that anyone would even consider asking for such a thing is frighting. Since many of us here have worked in the gaming press we understand that review sites have limited resources, but do assign reviews to writers. I only asked that in exchange for continued media buys, one of the writers be assigned our games, but the nature of the review would of course be left to the reviewers own evaluation.

I hope that clears the air and we can move forward with a great relationship. The reason I cc'd Duke on the email to your editors is that I feel it is important to CC people you mention in the body.

I would still like to request a review since everything we are taught as marketers stresses repetition, so I want to be sure when we give items to sites and buy more ads it increases the odds that players will see the ad and say, hey ya, I think I've heard of that before, and click on it. I will however pursue such reviews separately with your editorial staff.

Thank you for replaying quickly. I look forward to working with your network for many years to come.


Cobra Commander,

Thanks for the clarification on the review.  I understand that you are not asking for necessarily a positive review, but I still can’t guarantee coverage. We do not sell editorial.

During all our conversations with Sgt. Slaughter we only talked about doing an editorial for in game codes to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign.  At no time did additional review coverage come into discussion.  If that were the case, we unfortunately would have had to pass on the advertising buy. It is against Destructoid’s nature to secure additional coverage and reviews for games purely based on a media purchase.  We try to keep our advertising and editorial teams completely separate. As such, I work at a different company than Destructoid’s editorial team to keep this separate and with the highest integrity.

The editorial team is assigned reviews and coverage based on what the Editor-in-Chief feels is the best to cover at the current moment based on the press that is being released with the bandwidth that his team has.  I’m sorry if this was a miscommunication with Beachhead, but as I mentioned, in no conversations were reviews brought up.  Below is the exact email I sent to Footloose after we got off the phone with Dial Tone.  I even mention how we hadn’t covered any of the games previously, but that she said that Destructoid covered it pretty well.  I’ve also included a link to the post.  You’ll see that it both talks about the game and includes your full press release.

I don’t mean to come off as rude, but I just want to make sure that we aren’t penalized for something here that we didn’t agree to with the PR company that handled this ad purchase in the past. We are very interested in forming long term partnership with our developers as we know that effective advertising is essential for you to grow your product and continue to have a partnership with us.  With that said, we have a lot of experience putting together advertising packages that will drive users to your site and promote your game that don’t have to incorporate reviews.  We’d be very happy to expand and talk with you about this if you’d like. 


This is an ongoing saga, by the way.  The dude will not stand down. He just doesn't get it or refuses to. Can you imagine if this was a date?  "If you ever want me to buy you the lobster again..."

Has Destructoid ever lost ad campaigns due to unfavorable reviews?  Sure, we've had a half-dozen of them pulled -- but that's no news to anyone.  It happens to every gaming site and its really not a matter of integrity.  I fully respect that marketers should move their monies where they best feel they can capture their audience, no harm done. In every case it happened the ad rep had no idea our editors hated the game, so I can empathize where they are coming from. Its an almost comical trend to characterize the gaming press as the "good guys" who can do no harm, but lets not forget there are hundreds families on the line. Critics fuck people up. If someone shipped a crap game the least I can do is wish them luck to go peddle it elsewhere.  It's releasing a wounded pigeon in a hailstorm. Chin up, winner.

Beyond integrity lies a mutual empathy for those that enter the Dojo: companies need to sell products, but the gaming sites that succeed in the end are the ones that design their editorial processes around the readers instead.  That said, I'd like to thank you, dear Destructoid supporter, for allowing me to piss in the wind when it does happen. If it ever gets out of hand I hope you'll upgrade to a Dtoid Gold account.

So what is today's lesson in Gaming Webmaster Dojo, kids?  Keep an eye on your press relations.  Its one thing have designated editors that specialize in genres, but its a completely different game when you're inviting over a fat tipper to put down a ten course meal.

Yo! Joe!

[Webmaster Dojo is a monthly column by Destructoid's blog-moguling, code-writing, robot-wearing founder. Every month I will pay-it-forward by sharing what I've learned, in hopes that others may live the dream with less kicks to the head along the way. While my lessons speak primarily to independent start-up gaming web sites and people that want to work at them, the lessons may be relevant to anyone who dares to brave a job in consumer publishing.]

Niero Desu, Blogsmith
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