Adam McCann by on Oct 4, 2016

The VideoGamer Vision: Behind the new Website and Editorial Direction

VideoGamer.com started in 2004 with the goal of being a great resource for gamers, a place to get the latest news, find out if the latest releases are any good, and to discuss games within a vibrant gaming community.

To a degree the site was successful in that regard, but we always acknowledged there are other much bigger players in games media that serve this core need very well, which is why we always wanted to approach things a little differently.

As part of this goal, over the last three years we increasingly tried to push more unique, sometimes funny, sometimes weird, personality driven content – this has mainly shone through in our videos and podcasts.

But the other part of this goal has always been to develop a website that pushes this type of content and also fosters a community around it.

Many games media websites are broken

Most games media websites are in a difficult place right now. Traditionally the most lucrative direct to site ad-spend is dramatically down, ad blocker numbers continue to rise, and search, video, and social media platforms are getting increasingly effective at keeping users on their websites and apps, diminishing the need to visit ‘external’ websites at all.

Facebook Instant Articles animated gif
Facebook Instant Articles puts sites you know directly onto their platform

This is not reversing trend, so the survival instinct response to this has partly been to try to be more visible and competitive within these platforms, especially search – transitioning from using them as a marketing tool to bring in new users, to it becoming the primary driver of the business model – often unwittingly.

This has manifested itself at best with overly click-baity titles and a primary goal to appease each platform’s algorithms, and at worst with outlets entirely sacrificing quality content to minimise cost and maximise the ‘hit-and-run’ views and page-impressions.

VideoGamer has not always been an exception to this, doing whatever we could to maintain and grow our users, but it has become clear to us that this is simply a race to zero – an unsustainable short-term approach.

As we have found first-hand with Google algorithm changes unfairly hitting us in the past, and as Zynga and others have demonstrated, relying on other platforms does not end well.

Display Advertising mostly sucks

In order to survive the declining direct to site ad-spend, games media sites also had to start running more and more advertising from networks, which are the often irrelevant square and rectangular banner ads you see around this page and the pages of other sites. They also come in the form of skins and pop-ups, sometimes with video, and are bought through third parties like Google to appear on many websites at once.

Banner Blindness Heatmap

Because they’re not sold direct with the site, they’re not usually targeted to the website’s content or blended with the design. They generally look pretty awful and frequently interfere with your experience. Nobody likes these ads and the proof is in the numbers: as of 2016, the global average click rate is 0.17%.

There are much better advertising options available that not only perform better for advertisers, but can be more relevant and blend far better within a website. Video and ‘native’ advertising, which is built into the site’s page design and widgets, look better and don’t interrupt your browsing experience. The catch is that you need a significantly large and truly engaged audience for it to work.

The VideoGamer Vision

Our answer to these problems is a new approach.

The team’s goal is to make VideoGamer the best resource for games information and entertainment. We’re going to try to achieve this by making our core audience the number one focus, not short-term traffic from other platforms, or maintaining advertising revenue. It’s certainly not a risk-free approach, but we feel that it’s genuinely achievable and sustainable.

The VideoGamer Vision can be expanded into the following key objectives:

  • The majority of traffic driven by our core users
  • Original, personality-driven, community-focused content
  • A website that offers a seamless user experience
  • The website in every major language, with original content, run by localised teams
  • Making VideoGamer a brand gamers consider synonymous with entertaining content, a vibrant community, and a fantastic website
  • A new business model based on ethical, targeted, unobtrusive advertising that never gets in the way of the user experience

Over the last 2 years we have built our own platform, called Creo. It powers this new website and will enable us to start making strides towards this vision, by giving us data on what our core audience enjoys, and allowing us to rapidly make changes and roll out new features. It also empowers our editors with tools to produce and post great content.

We’ve also changed the way we cover games so that we’re able to produce more unique personality-driven content than ever before – for more details on that check out new site welcome post.

Lastly, to make the best gaming site we’ll need the help of our community, initially through simply using the site and giving us feedback, but later on in far more practical ways that we will reveal in due course.

The goal is an ambitious one and it won’t be quick or easy, but we think it can work – I very much hope you’ll be a part of it.

Let us know your thoughts via Twitter or Facebook, or tweet me at @AssembledAdam.

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