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Games Entertainment

The Duel Between Gaming Magazines and Websites 84

Posted by Zonk
from the don't-bring-a-magazine-to-a-web-fight dept.
The New York Times has up a piece looking at the ongoing battle between websites and magazines in the world of games journalism. With magazine subscriptions falling every year and a non-stop churn of news online, the article examines the ways that mags try to stay competitive, and the views of the gamers that read them. "The circulation for PC Gamer, a leading magazine from Future US, shrank to 210,369 this year from 300,271 in 2003, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Magazine publishers say that readers want longer features and in-depth articles as a counterpoint to the short, bloglike pieces they find online. But Kyle Orland, a freelance journalist who writes a media coverage column for Gamedaily.com, wondered if that strategy was working, saying that when a large feature is published, it doesn't get read. 'Attention spans are just getting so small that readers don't know what they want,' Mr. Orland said."
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The Duel Between Gaming Magazines and Websites

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  • Duel? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:06PM (#21338823)
    Doesn't a duel imply that both parties are actively attacking each other? Game sites don't -care- about magazines at all, except for Japanese ones where they can scan the page and show that Mega Pony X3 is coming out over there sometime in the future. Local magazines get no attention whatsoever.

    Gamers only want game news. The interviews with developers and demos are nice, but the best stuff is always available online somewhere. And any developer that ignores the websites in favor of magazines loses a -lot- of free advertisement that gets to the target -immediately.-

    I really don't see anything useful in magazines any more... The stuff they used to have like cheats, maps, etc... All of that is gone. Now the companies sell the maps and walkthroughs directly to the consumer, and cheats are always available online without having to figure out which backissue of Generic Gamer Monthly it was in.

    No, it's not a 'duel'... It's 'I'm not dead yet!' Sorry bud, 'You will be soon!'
  • Lower the price (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Neon Aardvark (967388) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:09PM (#21338855) Homepage

    If sales go down, lower the price.

    People on the whole prefer reading something tangible to staring at a screen, especially for in-depth articles, but those magazines put off a lot of people with exorbitant prices (at least on this side of the Atlantic).

  • Ads (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:10PM (#21338869) Homepage Journal
    My biggest complaint with print media is the ads- almost every other freaking page. I can understand ads when I'm not paying for access to a website, or ads when they lower my subscription costs (not that that seems to have had any effect), but every other freaking page? If I'm lucky, they're back to back, and I can rip out the page entirely.

    Even worse, there are some advertisements that act as if they are part of the magazine. For the most part, these have "ADVERTISEMENT" across the top in small-to-regular print, but if the layout is similar to the regular magazine layout, you can easily read a bit before you realize what's going on. I don't want to have to check the top of every damn page to see if I'm reading some advertising bullshit or the magazine's bullshit.

    I still like print media- it's useful for when the internet goes down, when I'm on the can, or when I'm on a bus or riding with my family. It's not great for immediate news, but I like it for the reviews and features. However, some of the tactics being taken by various magazines (not just gaming) are making it much harder for me to justify continuous purchase.
  • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Liquidrage (640463) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:19PM (#21339013)
    If I am eagerly anticipating game X, and a magazine has an in-depth 8 page preview- of course I am going to read it.

    Whereas I would go to their website and read it. And if it's not on their website, I'm not going to read it, but I'll find the best indepth review that is online. Not all "review" online are stubs. I know I'm sorta-off you anti-ADD point here. But I think the real point is that it's not short vs long articles or whatever. It's that compared to the internet magazies and newspapers are horrid.

    Magazines and newspapers are being killed by the internet, we all know that. NewScientist I pay for. Just to get access to the website since all their mags are on it. I hope what we don't lose is the quality content like NewScienst, so I hope their subscription model works.

    So what magazine publishers need to be saying is "Crap. We're like the horse salesman when cars came along. Time to start selling cars." Financially, sure, some people still aren't online. I don't see how video game mags apply to them though. And airports, sure, last time I read a newspaper, the paper version, was the last time I flew. But even that'll be not needed in a few years as mobile devices with internet capabilities improve and grow in use and features.
  • by Kingrames (858416) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:30PM (#21339177)
    The fact is that we see massive shifts in game technology on a daily and weekly basis. A monthly magazine is just going to be completely destroyed by online journalism. If they want to fix the problem, they need to shift to a weekly or daily format and completely change their organization so that it works that way. You might end up with some issues that are underwhelming, and some that are packed with new stuff, but it'll be a lot easier to keep people's attention when you can keep them coming back for more.

    In my website design classes, they called it "heroin content" because it was something that kept the consumer coming back. It's the reason blogs and websites like slashdot or magicthegathering.com have so many repeat visitors, whereas other websites are really just there to establish a corporate or personal presence on the web.

    Compare the magazine to a newspaper, and you see the difference between your newspaper and the internet. If your audience is shrinking because of the timeliness of your news, then tell the news more often, so that they aren't tempted to just drop you.

    Right now PCG is surviving pretty much solely due to its exclusives, which are an opportunity for big game businesses to prepare news releases ahead of time to a specific audience, and to reach as many people at once as they can, with minimal investment. Somebody needs to point it out to them that it's not working. If they shifted to a more regular schedule, they'd pick up more readers, sell more copies, they might be able to save paper, they'd be able to integrate it with their website and as a result, become a big, respected name in PC gaming again. I read PCG every now and then if there's something on the cover that interests me, but it's really turned into a novelty magazine.
  • by llZENll (545605) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:40PM (#21339333)
    Mags can't compete with websites for several reasons:
    1) space, websites have unlimited space, size, and coverage possible
    2) time, websites can publish immediately
    3) media, websites can show pictures, video, sound, and link to demos seamlessly
    4) cost, websites are a fraction of the cost of anything printed
    5) promotion, websites can better integrate with relevant and targeted advertisements
    6) user interaction, websites can offer real time discussion of any article or issue

    In order for mags to compete they must evolve into something different than what websites can offer. Some ideas:
    1) switch to full page color ads with little to no text (I find most ads are quite enjoyable if they are simply/mostly images)
    2) focus on quality of reviews and previews rather than quantity, exclusivity, or breaking news, websites can easily beat you on these so you must focus on quality.
    3) clean up the format so it is super clear and uncluttered

    Ultimately I think all magazines and newspapers will shrink and be shoved in a corner to very specific uses for travel, bathrooms, waiting rooms, basically any public place where you are forced to wait.

    If I owned a print only magazine, rather than trying to beat back the online media torrent that will dissolve your format, I would embrace it and move all resources to my online presense, then allow people to print free mini versions of the magazine for use in the public waiting places mentioned above.
  • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twistedsymphony (956982) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:51PM (#21339535) Homepage
    I can tell you that the Ads are what caused me to cancel my Subscription to Official Xbox Magazine (OXM). I bought it strictly for the disk because there would inevitably be 1 or 2 discs a year with something I wanted and at $24 for an annual subscription and $10 a mag in the stores it was worth just subscribing.

    In the span of a year the magazine went from 80-100 pages down to about 40-50, the disc cases went from nice plastic DVD thin packs down to printed cardboard sleeves and then down to generic white paper sleeves. The disc content went from at least 1 exclusive demo/bit of content a month to nothing more than a 1 month lag of regurgitation of Xbox Live...

    Despite the frustration with all of that there were still some decent articles in the actual magazine mostly industry insights and developer interviews. I canceled my subscription last month however, when they decided to SELL THE COVER as advertisement space. Yes thats right the FRONT COVER of the magazine was an advertisement for the crap-tacular Clive Barker's Jericho. I'm not talking some stick on piece of cardboard that replaced the real cover, the actual cover was an ad. The first page of the magazine displayed what would normally be the cover image and it was your regular flimsy paper magazine page material.

    You might think "well maybe they didn't have a worth while cover article that month" Unfortunately this was also the issue of OXM with their multi-page review/expose of Halo 3... I mean really... People would have bought that issue for memorabilia's sake alone, but I doubt anyone even noticed consider the cover was an add and the issues on the newsstand are sealed because of the disc. GOOD JOB.

    Another thing that bothered me was that the newsstand editions of the magazine were lower quality than the subscription editions. Whatever happened to treating your LOYAL customers well? I seem to remember subscribing to many other magazines before and always getting a higher quality version of the product as a thank you for subscribing.

    The speed in which the information is received was not the issue for me, it had everything to do with the fact that I was essentially buying a poorly crafted product with an overwhelming emphesis on advertisements over anything else.
  • ... In Japan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ecuador (740021) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:09PM (#21339839) Homepage
    Actually there is a solution and the Japanese know it. A few years ago a Japanese magazine emailed me requesting to add a freeware tool I had made to the CD they include with their publication and asked if I also wanted a free subscription. Sure I said, but I must say I was not prepared for what I would start to receive every month for the following 3-4 years...
    So, their magazine was all about games, and multimedia, and naked girls! There was no coherent order of things, on one page there was a game review with adult ads, on the next there was a nude model pictorial, further "decorated" with (regular - non-nudie) pc-software ads, then an article on p2p full of adult, game, software etc ads. There were "combination" articles, like nudie web site reviews, or adult PC game reviews and always in no "sensible" categorization/order in the magazine. The included CD was similar. Game demos, multimedia software, japanese porn videos, all nicely aggregated within the autoplay interface.
    After surviving the culture shock, I decided they probably knew their target audience too well and I should just appreciate the publishers ingenuity.
  • Re:Lower the price (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @04:03PM (#21340613)
    I subscribe to Maximum PC and I love it. It's only $10 for a year. That's less than a freaking dollar an issue. (Ok, so I just looked and they've increased it to $12 for a year... but still, a buck an issue is an amazing deal.) I agree that the newsstand price ($8.99) can be a lot, but if you're a subscriber, it's a heckuva a deal.

    I think it's a great mag. They cover everything from hardware to games and I actually recently built a machine based almost entirely off of reviews from their magazine. I checked around online a bit too but I didn't find anything that I hadn't already learned in Maximum PC. Additionally, they have a number of policies in place to keep reviews and articles objective.

  • Buy EDGE instead. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by emj (15659) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @04:16AM (#21347141) Homepage Journal
    $24 annual seems pretty low, if you want quality go buy EDGE [wikipedia.org] which is the only gaming magazine that I would buy, they don't give it to you for $2 each though... From my own experience with printing 4 color newspapars, it's impossible to good quality and sell for that little.

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