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It’s Another Bad Day For Games Journalism

It seems like ReedPop doesn’t know how journalism makes money either

2:53 PM EST on November 27, 2023

ReedPop

The news broke this morning that events company ReedPop is exploring the sale of its UK-based games journalism sites, including Eurogamer, RockPaperShotgun, and GamesIndustry. Given the state of games journalism the last few years, it’s hard to see this as a good thing.

ReedPop is the company behind events like PAX and New York Comic Con. It bought these sites, and others, as part of its purchase of parent organization Gamer Network in 2018. At the time, then ReedPop head Lance Festerman told GamesIndustry, “Gamers are connected 24/7 and we feel we need an online offering to help them connect and provide them with information and entertainment outside of our live events.” Eurogamer echoed ReedPop’s sentiment in its own announcement of the acquisition, writing, “Just as we, over a decade ago, figured that the online communities we'd built around our websites might want to meet up in the real world to play games, ReedPOP wants to find ways to talk to the communities it has built around its events outside of those events. It reckons our websites and video channels provide a great model for how to do that, so it wants to keep them and expand on them.” 

ReedPop notably did not keep or expand on USGamer, which it shuttered in 2020. Now, it’s jumping on the bandwagon of so many other media owners over the last few years, and looking to divest of more of its gaming sites.

ReedPop’s purchase and now potential sale of its journalism outlets speaks to the same problems we’re seeing across the journalism industry, where no one knows how to make the kind of money that satisfies the people at the top. Maybe supporting games journalism with events revenue wasn’t a more outlandish gamble than supporting it with ads, though both can easily blur lines that journalism requires to maintain independence and reader trust, and both can easily fall prey to trends and currents outside of the field.

ReedPop felt like a weird fit for journalism outlets to me, though maybe not any weirder than companies like Gamurs or Enthusiast owning events and guides and esports teams in an unholy mixture of muddied priorities. RPS points out that ReedPop aims to keep its UK-based events and its website Popverse, which covers, in its own words, “that delectable media people come to conventions for.” This is a clear tie-in to ReedPop’s events business that surely makes companies who buy convention floor space happy. It seems like a much more sensible fit than websites devoted to journalism, an activity that often does not make companies who buy convention floor space happy.

Maybe the sites that ReedPop wants to sell will go to someone who will ply them with resources to keep doing the good work they’ve always been doing, and everyone will keep their jobs, and the sites won’t degrade into ad-laden SEO farms like so many other sites before them, or won’t shutter altogether. Given the recent history of video games sites like Waypoint, Launcher, Fanbyte, Upcomer, and others, this does not seem likely, but I can hope.

It’s hard to imagine who a potential buyer might be, especially these days, so it’s no wonder folks across games journalism have reacted to the news with alarm. As ever, these corporate moves feel completely divorced from the staff of the sites or the work they produce, and as ever, it’s the journalists and the readers who will likely pay the price for the money people not knowing how to make their idea of the right amount of money.

(Editor’s note: Co-founders at Aftermath worked at Waypoint and Launcher.)

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