Can Yahoo succeed with esports coverage? Ehh.

ESPN made a splash, as I wrote about at the time, when it announced it would launch a dedicated esports section to host reports covering top tier games. Announcing the vertical alongside widely recognized talent in the form of Fionn and Slasher as well as other respected community figures. 

This afternoon, The Daily Dot reported that Yahoo will begin its own esports coverage. While the major names behind the section have not been disclosed to The Daily Dot, a vague overview of the staff’s contracts was leaked.

Many of the writer staff will be on full-time six month contracts, with the possibility to extend if the section does well, sources close to Yahoo tell the Daily Dot.

With no comment at this point, it’s time to wonder what Yahoo is waiting for–or even if they won’t formally announce at all.

It’d be interesting (not to mention it’d be a nice change of pace) if they skipped handing over content to competitors, as ground breaking and important as press-covering-press process stories are (sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm), and just have their reported put their heads down and begin working hard on producing quality content.

But, real talk: this is Yahoo. The last hip thing they did was buy out Tumblr.

On promoting things with Reddit: don’t.

OnGamers was banned from the entirety of Reddit yesterday due to being systematically identified as spammers, defined by Reddit administration and algorithms. The blog’s entire domain was banned from being submitted for link posts as well as members of its staff shadowbanned, which removes public visibility of contributions made by the accounts unless a moderator approves it. 1

bcdm_journalism_redditImmediately, the staff of the website started making the case that they weren’t spammers and that they would be appealing the decision made by the Reddit administrators. Damage control like this is fine. It’s expected when you’ve basically been accused of being a spammer. As a journalist, you try to clear your name because it affects your credibility.

This is the damage control that I mean:

That all seems well and good. It’s the right message to send out. It’s a temporary problem with Reddit. Reddit is a weird place, right? Surely the application of a little bit of misdirection with some little white lies and the whole thing will blow over before the weekend.

At this point, everything that happens happens behind the closed doors of Reddit administration. Anyone can speculate that CBSi is attempting to get Reddit to overturn its blogspam ban, and that’s probably happening, but the last absolute facts that we’ll ever receive about this situation were published by r/starcraft moderator CandyManCan. The takeaway from the post is the following blurb:

The reasons behind the ban are unknown, but these types of bans have only ever been issued for vote manipulation of reddit.

But what exactly counts as vote manipulation? Here’s how the Reddit FAQ page describes vote manipulation:

Besides spam, the other big no-no is to try to manipulate voting by any means: manual, mechanical, or otherwise. We’re not going to post an exhaustive list of forbidden tactics (lest we give people ideas), but some major ones are:

  • Don’t use shill or multiple accounts, voting services, or any other software to increase votes for submissions
  • Don’t ask other users to vote on certain posts, either on reddit itself or anywhere else (through Twitter, Facebook, IM programs, IRC, etc.)
  • Don’t be part of a “voting clique” or “vote ring”

A voting clique is a group of people who send links to their submissions around via message, IM, or any other means, with the expectation of “you guys vote for my stuff and I’ll vote for yours.” A “vote ring” is a group of people who agree to vote on certain things together, either a specific submission, a user, a domain, or anything like that. Upvote each submission or content for the value of the information in it, a variety of things that you think are interesting and will benefit the community.

Let’s theory craft a bit.

Let’s stipulate that the above rules could be applied to an entity and anyone associated with that entity in the same way that the guidelines above apply to an individual user. With that consideration, the actions of certain OnGamers staff could have very well tipped off Reddit’s vote manipulation detectors. The scripts don’t take into consideration that Slasher has a six-year-old account that’s been active—the only thing that matters is what tips off the indicators.

While there is plenty of folks rushing to the defense of the OnGamers staff being indiscriminately banned, there is this pseudo-acknowledgment spreading around that surely they’re breaking the self-promotion rules. 2 They must be doing something that Reddit feels should be stopped when so much of their publicly scannable traffic comes from there. 3

XavierMendel, a moderator for r/games, commented on the fine line between spamming and promoting (emphasis added): 4

Howdy! Domain bans are largely for vote manipulation, but that’s not the case here. This ban was almost certainly handed out not due to the votes on the content (though it could’ve happened), but due to the scale of the organization and efficiency by which the domain was submitted by a small group of people.

People always point to Slasher to say that we’re two-faced with the self promotion rules, and from their point of view they’re right. However, knowing the situation and knowing that he’s making an effort to get a better ratio (and doing so; his ratio has dropped from ~86% to under 30% in the past couple months), you can see that he’s not a spammer.

I have little doubt when it comes to him and the domain getting unbanned, however, I have major doubt that it won’t end there. Some accounts banned by this wave were at a 100% ratio over a long period of time. 100% isn’t an anomaly, it isn’t something you can shake off or fix too easily.

I don’t know what the admins are thinking right now, but I doubt whatever they’re thinking will please everyone. And honestly, that’s the way it should be.

While acknowledging that the statements he makes about the causes of the entire action are not fact, I’m going to assume that a moderator of r/games has a little bit of experience with exactly this scenario.

What can OnGamers do at this point, though? The damage has been done and while it seems that there might be a chance that these bans could be rescinded, what’s to say that we’ll be having this conversation all over again in a few weeks or months? If not about OnGamers, perhaps another esports personality?

A lesson to be learned, here: don’t post your own content to Reddit. Just don’t. Please. No. Don’t do it because of the self-promotion rules if you don’t agree with them, but because your content gains a little bit of legitimacy every time it’s shared by someone else. That’s the best thing about other people sharing your content–and it’s always been that way.

However, if you absolutely must promote your corporately subsidized news site on Reddit, why not give advertising a shot? is a news site that deserves your consideration.

The Mittani is a polarizing figure in the gaming industry and for good reason.

On one hand, he’s historically the most visible player in the EVE Online community who stood as a Council of Stellar Management chairman and helped to revolutionize the relationship that is possible between engaged customers and game development companies. On the other, he’s the stark visage of a griefing villain who leads the largest coalition of EVE Online players whose primary goals include raining on outsiders’ parades and perpetuating a vocabulary that could be described as slur-filled and early-2000s-era politically incorrect.

One moment he can suggest to a crowded room that they could encourage a down-on-his-luck player to commit suicide and the next he can spearhead a massive donation drive for a key alliance diplomat killed in the Benghazi embassy mob attack. Controversial and legendary at the same time.

Lending his persona to brand a niche game journalism blog doesn’t seem like a bright idea, but that’s exactly what he did just over a year ago. Regardless, is the fastest growing and probably the most popular EVE Online information source available to the public.

In a scene where intelligence is a meta that is both controlled and valuable, private forums and messaging services continue to become simpler to implement, and subversion is a legitimate tactic, a public news site shouldn’t have as much gravitas as TMC controls.

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 8.50.41 AMIn the past year, the news organization has broken milestone after milestone that other news sites in the gaming genre could only wish to achieve. It attracts quality writing talent even though it only compensates its staff with a game-based currency. It’s one of the only organizations that filed for press credentials to E3 for its first time when it was less than a year old and received access. It was able to enter into a Twitch partnership program with one of the lowest average viewerships per game on the service. It doesn’t offer premium access and it hasn’t Kickstarted itself because the operation is self-sufficient. Even though it owes its namesake to an EVE Online personality, it covers five other online titles as well as the ever-more-relevant commercial space race and notable science fiction novels.

If you needed an example of how an esports news site could succeed, here it is. And it doesn’t claim to be anything more than a gaming news site. It doesn’t even touch the term esports.

I would love to contribute to a place like that. Sure the comment section can be toxic and spin to its own meta most of the time, but to be included in a group of folks like that would be a dream come true in a way. I’ve worked with dedicated news folks in a genuine setting and I’m still jealous of the participants in an experiment turned authority like TMC.

I’ve never applied to become a writer there, but I’m strongly considering it because I want to help grow something like TMC. But finding something to contribute is the challenge. I want to bring more general news to the site. Perhaps I can start there.