Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gaming The Media

Recently the CSM White Paper was revised and in its new text prohibited people from being on the CSM who were "employees of other gaming companies/games/gaming media" and has led to some confusion as to what compromises "gaming media". You can read some of the details on that here at the CSM Watch blog. Most instructive of the information I've read so far is that blogs and "fansites" like Crossing Zebras and Evenew24 are not considered gaming media while TheMitanni.com is.

I want to delve into the question independent of the CSM White Paper and the drama surrounding Sion Kumitomo, TheMitanni.com, and CCP, and ask and answer the question if blogs like this one should be considered gaming media.

* * * *  *
media - noun
1. a plural of medium.
2. (usually used with a plural verb) the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely

You'll notice in that second definition that there is nothing that says that the means of communication has to be a company or organization of people, or even if it needs to be profitable or not. But rather that it can reach or influence people widely.

In the last month I had 13 thousand page views. Although I'm sure a lot of that was repeat visitors and search engines it does not include any audience I get through RSS feed readers since my feed posts full articles and readers don't need to come to my site for my content. Nor does it include any audience that I reach through my syndication with Evenews24.com when they post one of my articles. Does that audience reach qualify my blog as media?

When Ripard Teg burst on the blogging scene in 2011 with his blog Jester's Trek no one could have imagined that his ~3 year and a bit effort would become a widely read and influential source. To say he was one of the dominate members of the meta not a stretch, and his audience of his humble blogspot blog far exceeded mine at its height.

Noizy Gamer's work on his blog The Nosy Gamer investigating Real Money Trading in general and in EVE in particular, both company endorsed and illicit black markets, has at many times been of journalistic quality and gotten him well-earned recognition from the community and CCP.

In April of 2014 the US Justice system weighed in on the matter:

A recent legal decision that helps support this idea was handed down in a Florida court case involving accusations of defamation. Under state law, anyone who wants to pursue a defamation case has to notify the media outlet in question five days before filing. But Christopher Comins argued he didn’t have to do so in the case of a blog post from university student Matthew VanVoorhis, because blogs aren’t a traditional form of media and therefore aren’t entitled to notice.
As Techdirt notes, Comins’s argument was thrown out by the original court, but he appealed. Now, an appeals court has upheld that decision — and in the course of doing so, the judges in question chose to provide some great commentary on the importance of blogging as a form of media. The decision says:
“The advent of the internet as a medium and the emergence of the blog as a means of free dissemination of news and public comment have been transformative… the impact of blogs has been so great that even terms traditionally well defined and understood in journalism are changing as journalists increasingly employ the tools and techniques of bloggers – and vice versa.”
The court went on to say that the term blog typically refers to a site operated by a single individual or a small group that has primarily an informational purpose, most commonly in an area of special interest, knowledge or expertise — and one which usually provides for public impact or feedback. Based on this, the decision states, “it appears clear that many blogs and bloggers will fall within the broad reach of media, and, if accused of defamatory statements, will qualify as a media defendant.” It continues:
“There are many outstanding blogs on particular topics, managed by persons of exceptional expertise, to whom we look for the most immediate information on recent developments and on whom we rely for informed explanations of the meaning of these developments.”
In other words, a blog can be considered media if it acts like traditional media and has the impact of traditional media. So yeah, I think gaming media can and does include gaming blogs.

The words in the CSM white paper, if interpreted strictly, should exclude anyone with a blog or other similar fansite. I'm not sure what CCP is trying to do with its "gaming media" versus its (unofficial) "fansite" distinction but I think its clear the wording in the CSM white paper is not thought out and should be clarified, or thrown out entirely.

10 comments:

  1. The old "are bloggers press?" question. I've been down this road before and have seen any number of nonsensical responses to the question, including:

    -You get paid to write
    -You work for an organization that is part of "the press"
    -You have a degree in journalism
    -You focus on reporting just news and facts
    -You meet a certain standards of quality
    -People at X event will give you a press pass

    All of that puts the determination in the hands of others and whatever arbitrary threshold suits them. And it can be very arbitrary. Back in the 50s newpaper reporters looked down on television reporters as not really being press, as they had looked down on radio in the 20s. In the late 90s I heard somebody speaking at the National Press Club scorn the idea that anybody working on the web could be considered a member of the press, and especially not Matt Drudge because he broke stories that were considered unseemly... though once they were broke the mainstream press covered them voraciously, most notably the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

    The only logical answer in a free society is that you are a member of the press... the media if you prefer... if you say you are and act as though you are. Anything less ends in the loss of freedom. Having no editor or no payroll or a small audience or a low barrier to entry is completely irrelevant to the question.

    *stands resolutely while patriotic music plays and an eagle soars overhead*

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  2. Are bloggers media? Yes. Are bloggers journalists? Almost always a resounding no.

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    1. Noizy is probably the closest to deserving the name in our community. It's about doing research and verifying sources.

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  3. The difficulty is that language is imprecise: any attempt by CCP to clarify by 'gaming media' would be full of so many holes that it could be easily rules-lawyered, or so abstruse that nobody but a lawyer can understand it. The "I know it when I see it" approach may be overused, but has a lot of truth to it.

    You can see a hint of that in the judge's comment as well, where (in your paraphrase) it is said that the blogs fall "within the broad reach of media" - which raises the question: what distinguishes the 'broad' reach from the 'narrow' reach.

    My suspicion is that CCP's interpretations of 'gaming media' is one of writers for organizations who could (and sometimes do) dictate what and how it's writers approach a topic - and I bet that this image is one which many people would have if they were asked to define "/the/ gaming media". Using this interpretation, a Sion writing for TMC is different from a Kirith writing for Kirith: both are broadly speaking 'media', but one of the two might (might!) be coerced into writing something he may not really stand for (or simply not get published at all).

    That is not to say that the phrasing in CSM document couldn't use improvement; but at the same time, I would not be surprised if such an improvement would take the form of "including, but not limited to, ..."

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  4. The second definition is entirely irrelevant. But to the broader question, CCP has basically defined what it considers to be the subset of "media" it is targeting. Which basically boils down to any site organized as a legal, revenue-generating business that also covers other games. I'm paraphrasing and can't seem to find Leeloo's comment, but it seems pretty clear they don't just mean all media or whether blogs or podcasts or any other form of medium falls within "media". But rather how official it is at being something more than a hobby AND whether it has business-related contacts with other game makers and the like. Hell, based on the comments I've seen, even if you're a legit employee of a real business, but only covering EVE, you wouldn't be excluded.

    Now honestly, I'm just not sure how any of that really matters with regard to the NDA. You tell me, what is a bigger risk: A glorified fansite is trying to be something more than a fansite or hobby and has an actual employee (not a space pixel employee) on the CSM and privy to NDA material? Or some dude's roommate, relative or bed buddy works for a competitor?

    I'm not saying this is targeting Sion or other actual employees of TMC specifically, but it sure as heck isn't removing much more of the real risk associated with an NDA breach.

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  5. Looking at the CCP's rules, I can honestly say I get contacted once or twice a month about reviewing games, so that puts me in touch with the marketing departments of game companies. Also, my blog is not an official fansite. So if I put ads on my blog (I currently have the Disqus ads turned off), does that make my blog a gaming media site? If so, where's my press pass for Fanfest?!

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  6. Seems like this new rule is essentially a No Sions rule that they've attempted to dress up in different language.

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  7. I may be a bit simplistic in my thinking, but I keep thinking of rules on conflicts of interest and confidential information that I run across on a daily basis in my own Real Life profession.

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    1. I have to totally agree here. The nature of NDA and CSM being priviy to future developments with-in CCP's product, give CCP every right to reserve access to this sensitive information.

      A conflict of interests is almost always the case when you are known to "sell out" to other developers or publishers.

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  8. I think the key term here isn't "media" (which bloggers are) or "journalist" (which some bloggers - e.g. Noizy - are IMO), but "employee".

    If you are part of a business that makes a profit from newsworthy stuff happening in video games, and you are in a position to influence newsworthy stuff happening in video games, then that's a conflict of interest; and one CCP has decided it'd rather not deal with. Employment comes with it's own set of contractual obligations that bloggers and blogger-journalists don't have, and which may supersede those that a potential CSM member has with CCP.

    For example, I'm sure back in the day Jester had many articles ready to publish when certain news was announced by CCP. Doing that in a professional context would require sharing that NDA'd info with your editors, or at least advising them that something newsworthy is about to drop, which would in itself be a potential NDA violation. Not doing your job, or disclosing some things to the CSM/CCP that your employer is planning may run you afoul of your employment contract. It's simply an untenable position.

    So the key thing isn't where you write - or even who for - it's who you are legally obligated to.

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