Journalist pwnage

During world war one the allies wanted to know what was happening inside Germany. What people were thinking and doing. The effect of the war on them and the routine of their lives. The allies could have recruited a lot of spies but instead they had a far better and more effective idea. What they did was to obtain every possible local newspaper from across Germany and then analyse their content.

This mechanism used the editors of the newspapers firstly as unsuspecting spies and secondly as low level analysts. It works like this, the editor has only so much space to fill and only so much time to fill it yet he has access to enough potential content to fill it several times over. So he works as a filter deciding what goes into the newspaper and what doesn’t. This filtering process did the allies job for them because the content of the paper told them what was currently of importance to the German population.

You can take advantage of this mechanism when marketing computer games. Just like the world war two newspaper every game periodical has finite space and finite time to fill it yet they have enough potential content to fill it several times over. Each journalist has only so much time to gather material and then so much time to write content. So if you take a journalist’s time it follows that you have the space in his periodical. As simple as that.

You see it very widely in other industries. Car manufacturers launch new models in exotic places and fly the journalists in. They know that with travel time they can take a week out of a journalist’s schedule and they know that this guarantees them a quarter of that journalist’s output for the month.

This was precisely the mechanism I used at Codemasters. Regularly flying in batches of journalists from our European territories to visit sunny Southam. And they always said yes. It was a free overseas trip and the chance to see a games company from the inside and pick up all sorts of knowledge and information. When they got back they wrote up lovely multi page features. But in reality they had no option about this because we had used up their time and so there was nothing else that they could write. It also deprived our competition of those pages.

We were also after the holy grail of selling more of our games in America. This is a rock on which many British game companies have foundered. So I tried to institute a mechanism of flying over an American journalist a month to visit us. With travel this gave us about a week of their valuable time. And there was no shortage of journalists wanting to come. And we tried it and it worked. But the powers that be preferred to spend (waste) their money on TV advertising. And we continued to fail in America.

On a slightly different tack this is an excellent article on marketing computer games from a journalist’s perspective. It should be essential reading for everyone involved in marketing in this industry.

So have I wasted bandwidth stating the obvious? Or are all the world’s game journalists suddenly going to find themselves invited on trips to exotic places (me! me! me!)? Post your comments below.

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