Sunday, January 14, 2007
Selling 1up, EGM and Sister Magazines To The Highest Bidder
Heard the news? It’s out on every minor blog and gaming site. A few note-worthier ones have refrained from commenting—maybe because they feel that it’s not anyone’s business. But the moratorium can’t be forever. I’ve no inside information but I feel, as a gaming site, we should still cover it. We’re journalists, dagnabbit. Ziff Davis is trying to sell 1up, EGM, and all sister magazines. There. Whew. Someone within the Ziff Davis Empire has finally said it. Out in the open. Like a white banana. How does this news matter to the gaming world? The weakest species are always the first to go in any ecosystem. Think of it as an early warning bell for other magazines, even the ones with healthy subscriptions. But why 2007, right when a possible increase of readership is likely—after all, 3 companies are launching consoles. Let’s pretend we’re Ziff Davis management. Yes, I know. The horror.
Hi, CEO. You overlook 32 websites and 7 gaming publications. Your crowning achievement would have to be 1up.com with about 10 million unique monthly visitors. EGM, 1up Show, and even Retronauts regularly rank among the top gaming podcast charts on sites such as Digg.com and Podcastalley. We’ll just sweep GFW under the rug for now.
But the magazines aren’t doing so hot. In the
But surely there’s hope. The Wii has launched. So’s the PS3. Microsoft’s just renewed their commitment to the 360, and unveiled their hideously obvious strategy of taking over the living room. Prospect a future where gaming consoles situate in the trifecta: in casual, hardcore, and Tivo-centric households. More gamers, more readership, more advertising, more profit. What could go wrong?
The problem lies in the fact that Ziff Davis began in 1938 and have always thrived on printed media. There’s a lot of inertia to change. Even though the charts show that 1up is generally on top, the highest online advertising dollars rates are garnered by Kotaku. The younger sites just have better ad rates/systems. For instance, Kotaku has an actual pricing board and layout specifications linked directly on their site to their parent company Gawker. 1up.com refers you to a contact number to a ZD sales rep.
Also, which of the two media gets the breaking stories? Do you shaft your subscribed publication readers? Or do you hamper the website’s ability to cover the news and miff off the online debutantes? The Crossplayer gameplay exclusive was broken on the magazine and barely mentioned at the website, despite the fact that it was a upcoming game from Valve. This swaddling of two sides miffs off, more importantly, the advertisers, both online and offline, who pay for viewership. 30K a printed page sounds dubious when the online medium can swing more viewers for less money. This sounds like a rebuke against printed material in general but it’s not. Most other magazine sites give their magazines the bulk of their content. Vanity Fair, Playboy, Maxim, they’ve made the choice to give their photos exclusively to their printed editions. Newspapers are a different beast. They have a slower and older base that still rely on the Old Media for information. Also, they cost 75 cents for a billion pages. It’s an Itunes-like buy at the grocery store.
So, CEO, choose. The Magazine or the Website?
If you choose the website, you’ll have to settle for 3rd place, behind Joystiq and Kotaku—sites with vast blog networks that funnel traffic behind them. 1up.com doesn’t exactly have any reputation as a gaming news site either—most of the cover stories are sent to the magazines. Like the 1up Show episode regarding Crossplayer. Selling it to someone else would be easier. But are there any large blog networks left without gaming and PC content? Gawker has Kotaku and Gizmodo. AOL has Joystiq and Engadget. Who’s left? No one, that’s who. The only way Ziff Davis can full exploit their 1up.com success is to create a blog/podcast network akin to the Gawker and AOL model. But in order to do that they have to beef up the content on the 1up site, thereby rendering their magazines obsolete. But moving from simple 30k page rates to the more complex Web 2.0 advertising model is not something done lightly and certainly not the revenue stream you have the most experience in.
Maybe it’s time to change the CEO?