Feel free to call bullshit on this post, but despite my admitted bias, I would like to hear other people’s thoughts on this one.
When I found out that OXM was going to break the news about 360 players using their Avatars in Guitar Hero 5, I realized it was also the perfect time to pay attention to some details. This is exactly the kind of small-but-significant info that the daily blog sites love to report on, so I wanted to see how long it would take between the arrival of our magazines in subscribers’ mailboxes and the appearance of this news on Joystiq and Kotaku. (I was particularly interested to see this after the last time that information from an OXM feature was mangled in transit en route to the blogs.)
The 100th issue of OXM with the GH5 Avatar story (and a blurb on the cover about that particular story element) hit subscribers roughly two weeks ago, and we’ve gotten a ton of reader mail about the issue already. However, Kotaku and Joystiq posted their GH5 Avatar stories just this morning. Why? Simple: They waited until the information came to them, in the form of a PR release and a video (in Kotaku’s case, a custom one). “Xbox 360 avatars will be able to jam in upcoming rhythm game Guitar Hero 5, Activision announced this morning,” reads Kotaku’s story. Well, there you have it: this is a story based on Activision’s press release. And even though the information was reported before Activision’s press release, the content was very clearly fresh news to the commenters.
When an OXM reader brought the print scoop up in the comments on Joystiq’s story, he was roundly shouted down, because on the internet, people don’t like to feel like someone else has more information than they do. Some suggested that OXM had the information first was irrelevant, and that OXM is not a valid news source to the readers of Joystiq. (Of course, that does not change the fact that OXM is a valid source of this information — if the audience accepts it when Joystiq reports the same thing that OXM reports, it’s a reader bias to suggest one is more valid than the other.)
So here’s my actual question: If your job as a “games journalist” is to seek out new and interesting tidbits about videogames, and you get paid by the tidbit…why are you limiting your sources? I would think it makes sense to subscribe to the last few print magazines out there and cull them for information. Instead, I generally see “news” on blogs when PR departments deliver it. It’s clearly what happened in this case.
So if the info is out there…why wait? If it was important enough to report today, surely it would have been important enough to report two weeks ago. Are the blogs being told not to report it until Activision says so? Or are the blogs not actually aware of news happening around them? Either one is bad.
Now, nobody can stay on top of everything, but reading enthusiast magazines on your specialized topic seems like a pretty easy (and dare I say occasionally enjoyable) way to stay on top of how information is being conveyed to different segments of your audience. Sometimes the mags are going to have gaming information later; sometimes they’re going to have it first. All you have to do is read them to stay aware of that ebb and flow. And maybe this is too obvious to mention, but you can blog about whatever you read. And then you get paid more, because those bloggers get paid based on post traffic. (The win for the print mag is that they are cited as a source…or, journo-ethically, should be. Hence my bias.) So, considering that we’re still talking about a form of information that comes to your mailbox as automatically as an e-mailed press release…why aren’t you subscribing?
Information gathering and research defines the role of the news media. If you are not actively seeking out sources of information, are you really a journalist?
UPDATE 8/11: Hello, Slashdotters. It’s probably worth reading the short followup post too.