Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Give me money!

UnSubject is writing about games journalism ethics, mentioning a case where a game journalist is promoting his own Kickstarter project on the site he is writing for. And Psychochild is asking for birthday presents, with links to Amazon and Steam wishlists provided. Between wishlists on various sites, Paypal, Kickstarter, and many other ways it has never been easier to give money to complete strangers. My blog has a "buy Tobold a coffee" donation button too, not that it is used very much.

I refuse money nearly every week. The requests are simply based on my Google pagerank. Popularity on the internet has a monetary value, and many people assume that I would be eager to monetize my blog: Advertising, paid-for blog articles or links, "guest posts", and various other forms of monetization. I always respond that I am not interested, that this is a not-for-profit venture. The only reason the donation button is up there is that a donation makes me feel appreciated.

Of course being a game blogger or journalist has advantages that have monetary value. Over the years I have received a few free games or books to review, a press pass to a Blizzard Invitational, and a few "press accounts" for online games. But even before the FCC made disclosure mandatory I had always stated on my blog what reviews were based on free products. And as I wouldn't have necessarily bought the product I received for free, I wouldn't count the retail price of it as monetary advantage. In a way it is more a kind of symbiotic relationship, where of course the blogger or journalist needs access to the product to write about it, and it is in the interest of the company that want their product talked about to provide that access for free.

But when I see the increasingly in-your-face monetization of game journalism and blogging, and how much money some people can collect on Kickstarter just because they have some degree of "fame" as game developer or writer, I wonder if I am just too old-fashioned. Maybe I should just ask for more money more often. It appears that gamers have far too much money these days, and are increasingly willing to spend that for no matter what, even if it is just to express some preference. So, hey, give me money! Or alternatively your opinion on the monetization of game journalism and blogging. :)

Etiquette. Where are the boundaries between strangers in cyberspace, strangers in real life, friends and "acquaintances" on the Internet, via texting, gaming friends and so on?

The Blog issue; I don't see an issue. He/She can do whatever they want on there. If I get a book published, you can be darn sure I'll be hocking it like tomorrow is the last day on Earth, to get people to buy it

Asking for presence online? I dunno. It "feels" a bit gauche, but if you never see these people in real life, never have conversations that reveal much of what they are into, beyond an impersonal, general "any kind of - videogame -" or something else vaguely based on a broad subject, how else do you gift to people something more personal.

If someone wants to give something to someone they don't know very well, that's all on them, whether in real life or via some other medium.
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People can give you money already (PayPal button). You should start a Kickstarter project instead, that would benefit from your large audience for possible funds.
I find that the monetization of game journalism is just the latest in many other hobbyist journalism endeavors that is being corrupted by money. There was a book a couple of decades ago about such corruption in the wine industry (which I can't seem to find right now, but it made for an interesting read), so seeing in the gaming industry isn't a surprise.

From my perspective, what's a shame is that you can't turn your blog into a press pass for, say, GenCon.

Yeah, I once put up a concept on this blog for a trading-card / MMORPG mash-up called Shandalar. I should put that on Kickstarter and ask for $50,000. The crazy thing is that there would be about even odds for me actually getting that money, although I have no chance in hell to ever realize that project.
It's so bad that I'm getting requests to run ads. On my small, currently-inactive blog.
Tobold, you should start a BBS blog with telnet only access. I'm pretty sure the ad spammers will stop bugging you then.

Now that I wrote it, I need to go and see if BBS's are in fact still around. I used to run one, long time ago.
I used to hang out on BBSs, using telnet. By pure coincidence one BBS on which I hung out a lot was at an American university where unexpectedly I had the chance to visit for one month. Very cool to then meet the people in real life, and a much better experience than going somewhere and not knowing anybody. That was over 20 years ago though.
I think gamers are getting older, and thus richer. So yeah, there's more money to go around funding bloggers.

As for kickstarter, my understanding is that there is some work required in applying and convincing them that you're legit. They don't want to be known as a haven for scammers. But if you quit your job, put together a Shandalar project schedule with concept art, established funding levels and awards, and uploaded a video (required by kickstarter), I'd kick in $100 USD to fund it.
Well, I don't feel I was so much asking for presents as allowing people to give me presents. A subtle, but important difference. It started when I was running Meridian 59 and the players asked if they could send me presents. There was no way I wanted to give them my home address (even though I'm sure they could have found it), so I linked to my Amazon list.

I don't think this is some sort of violation of "journalism ethics" as it's a blog, not a news site. (Yeah, I know that sites like Joystiq, etc. use that same excuse, but it's much more accurate in my case.) I take time that I could be spending looking for my next gig to write the blog. I appreciate anyone who sends me a gift as a thanks for writing the blog.

MMO bloggers used to be a pretty tight community. A lot of other social media has replaced blogging, so I don't think we're as in touch with each other as we used to be. But, still, it's a little different than begging stuff from complete strangers on the street.

Few people do send me presents anymore. Only one person sent me something this year that I know of so far. But, still, it's the thought that counts. :)

My thoughts.
Your obsession with that FCC ruling is kind of weird.

It's not even applicable to you; you aren't operating in US jurisdiction, you aren't a US citizen, it has nothing to do with you, anymore than I give a damn what the Chinese Communications Commission thinks about how I communicate.

Hell, I'm pretty sure its an entirely toothless ruling even for US citizens. Jaywalking is illegal too; the idea of some FCC investigator snooping around to see if you didn't disclose compensation from some MMO company is laughable.

Over 50% of my readers are American, according to Google Analytics. I think you have a very wrong idea how law is applied on the internet: It doesn't matter where the producer is, it matters where the consumer is. Something that is illegal in the USA, e.g. internet gambling, doesn't become legal if the provider is offshore.
I think you don't understand how the law is applied on the internet.

I mean if you want to comply with that, fine, but this idea that you could be penalized for not complying with US law re: disclosure is loony. They couldn't get jurisdiction over you, which means they can't do anything to you.
Money makes the world go 'round, unfortunately. I forget who said it, but celebrity is like a currency. We see people earn it all the time (big movies, books, or shows), spend it at various intervals (charity requests, bad movies, books, and shows), and sometimes even go bankrupt (Lindsey Lohan?).

Out of curiosity, would it make you more interested in any of the offers if they weren't asking for money but simply interested in working with you for your input? I read recently in a book on making ideas stick better (Called Making it Stick, I think... guess the title didn't), that often the "extra" incentives can de-incentivize a certain behavior, like offering fire fighters a popcorn maker if they reviewed a video on fire safety. The fire fighters were insulted that the video distributor felt they needed to be bribed, and after a few of those kinds of interactions, the "free stuff" pitch was dropped. I obviously don't mean that every offer would suddenly interest you, but have you been driven away from some you might have participated in because of the "extra" incentive?

Also, do you want to co-write a D&D adventure that we'd offer for free on our sites? I promise NOT to pay you! (;

No issue at all with bloggers sharing news about what they are interested in, including those projects they are personally involved with. To my thinking that is the nature of the brand that I am interested in when i read a blog.
A blogger can choose to ask for anything, I choose to give or not. It seems a little greedy to ask the internet for a birthday present, but then that would not be the worst waste of money.
I choose to not have ads because essentially I don't think that I have the readership to make the effort worth while, and do not want the hassle of maintaining it. Each to their own.
Also, do you want to co-write a D&D adventure that we'd offer for free on our sites? I promise NOT to pay you! (;

I might be interested in that. Can you mail me how you want to proceed?

And yes, I usually react better to "Hey, look at this game" than to "Hey, want some money?".
Well, if you can make money from advertisements I wouldn't see it as compromising the integrity of your site in any way. Most respectable newspapers have no problem with it. Guest blogs and such-like are more iffy.
I don't think either Tobold or Psychochild has ever called themselves a games journalist, unlike RPS' Jim Rossignol.

RPS was also able to break the news this morning that his Kickstarter was successfully funded, but there's still time to pledge more money to Rossignol's project.
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