In the latest episode of the PokerRoad.com award-winning podcast the Poker Beat, the Beat crew along with Pokerati’s Dan Michalski end up discussing the future of the Poker Media in light of recent legislative developments.
No point in me regurgitating the opinions of these competent industry professionals – please go listen to the podcast here, but I think it is fair to say that they paint a somewhat gloomy picture.
A sad attempt at creating a collage representative of the poker media
To the surprise of noone who frequently reads this blog, I support the notion put forward in the podcast that the affiliate money that fund many of today’s poker media outlets will dry up. I support this notion because I think the concern has merit especially when discussing a regulated US market fought over by companies who certainly do not lack databases full of gaming customers, but I also support it because I sort of want it t be true.
I’ve always stated that the current relationship between online poker providers and media outlets is not healthy. In my [intlink id=”177″ type=”post”]“World Series of Pollack”[/intlink] piece I touched upon one example briefly. When acquisitions drive business, content will suffer. In a sense, the pressure created by draining affiliate money flows may force the poker media through a very necessary cleansing.
But the reason I don’t share the overall gloomy view is because the poker (B2C if not otherwise mentioned) media has not been doing its job properly in the past, and because it hasn’t, there is still a lot of room for growth. I write this knowing that it full well might be the one sentence on this blog I will come to regret.
The general poker media has simply failed to cover a lot of ground it should be covering and the fact that it has managed to remain relevant regardless means the opportunity to evolve is into something bigger and better is still there.
So here’s my magnificent claim:
The future of the poker media will depend heavily on its ability to break free of its current single-minded, player oriented focus.
Quick comparison. Looking at the video gaming industry, how much of the content produced by magazines, blogs, podcasts and TV shows targeting video game players focuses on the players of the games? Or the results of tournaments where players compete in these games? More and more for certain, but marginal compared to the mass amount of content produced based on the games themselves and the people making them.
How big is this percentage in poker reporting? 70% 80% 90%?
Why? Maybe it is just another result of the obsession with skill that I wrote about in this piece on insidepokerbusiness.co.uk. Maybe it has to do with the fact that poker is gambling game and thus winning and losing money (preferably large sums) always will be the central theme of the game. But I think that’s a lame excuse, because one does not exclude the other. Certainly the supplier’s failure to promote other aspects of the game and the industry behind it to end-users plays in as well. And lastly I also think one must consider the fact that the poker media is perhaps not the media core in the world with the most merits within the field of journalism. There are many exceptions to these broadly stroked points of criticisms of course. I will get to those.
When was the last time someone with credibility wrote an extensive and thorough review of upgraded or entirely new online poker software? I am talking playability, usability, capacity, clickability, reliability, social interactivity, resource requirement, sound, graphics, 3rd party software integration, the lot? When was the last time someone published detailed analysis of various player reward programs from an independent point of view discussing monetary value, entertainment value, difficulty etc?
Those site reviews I see all over the place are mostly SEO content there to drive acquisitions. To feed the affiliate beast.
As someone who has dedicated a couple of years of trying to casualize poker (yes, that as word from now on), I’ve found this relentless focus on reporting on players and tournaments frustrating. While little of what I have been working on has made it past the Guardians of Priorities and into production, when it has made it, getting coverage has been very difficult.
Oh, I’ve always been able to venture onto 2+2 and find comments there, but it doesn’t really help me to have thirty nitty grinders tell me they hate what I have released and that I know nothing of poker whatsoever when they aren’t the target group and I’d be more worried if they didn’t hate it.
Promotions, new features, new tournament formats, new promotions new applications, new items in shops, new people leading companies. The gap between what the online poker B2B media and the online poker B2C media reports about is huge and I don’t get why.
I think players are really interested in a lot of content they are not currently being served. The few occasions when incidents have caused a flourish of in-depth journalistic activity, like in the case of the UB super user scandal, players were certainly interested. And not only for their own egotistical monetary reasons like “maybe I can angle shoot a refund”. They were interested because it was interesting stuff. Well investigated and well covered.
I am not advocating giving up blogging WPT events or telling stories about drunken binges in Vegas. People like Pauly and Benjo have proven how much journalistic integrity can be injected into the most degenerate aspects of the industry. It can be done with style and flair without becoming repetitive. But it is limited in scope.
I long for the day when magazines dedicate as many words to reviewing the latest “invention” within Sit & Gos as they do to review a specific hand between some guy and some other guy.
The market split is of course a problem. The US poker media’s interest in what goes on the European poker scene, particularly online, is of an indirect nature. But I still think even content not directly relevant to the reader can intrigue him or her. And the situation will hopefully change eventually.
The Japanese gaming scene, just to make one comparison, is eagerly covered by European video gaming media. Despite it living a life of its own.
I sense I might be overly harsh in my criticism. I tend to start up in that end and then soften up as I read through my material and realize what a douchebag I can sound like.
I have the profoundest respect for people who’ve taken it upon themselves to be poker media. I have done the seventeen-hour-a-day tournament coverage stint like seven times. Others have survived70 times. I’ve managed to keep up with the shenanigans of maybe one or two known pros. Others manage to keep up with all of them in order to get the odd story, odd snapshot or odd tip on what happens behind the scenes. I’ve written one or two things that people I only know digitally have been upset about. Others have dared to, in the name of journalism, insult people they end up playing with the next day.
And it’s not like the money is any good.
I don’t read every issue of Cardplayer or every issue of Bluff – even the European version. As often, I’m running with a hunch here. I think I am at least partially right though. And while being right means being slightly critical it also means that the opportunity to evolve into something bigger and better for the poker media is there.
The poker media needs it, but the rest of the industry does as well. It is only when the media really hungers for this type of content that initiatives into revitalizing the game, trying brave new angles and moving poker software beyond Web 1.5 in order to diversify and grow the game will grab the attention of top managements.
I also hope this post might encourage other people than I, who couldn’t write a short and concise blog post if my life depended on it, to venture into the gap between the B2C and B2B poker media and start closing it.
I don’t advise on copying my non-existent business model though.