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The Douchey DM » RPG Industry BS » PSA for Publishers Part 1: New media and you.

PSA for Publishers Part 1: New media and you.

Note: This post (and the follow-up post) contain no content about table-top RPGs. While this is the usual subject matter of this blog, I’m writing these two articles as a service to RPG publishers seeking publicity, reviews and interviews. I can’t say all of this information is applicable to all new media, but it does set a good foundation for best practices. 

Being the producer of a RPG podcast with a lot of listeners (comparably), I get a lot of requests for reviews and interviews from small game publishers, and I would like to take a moment to both illustrate what it’s like on the other side of your publicity efforts and offer some suggestions on how to do it better and maybe meet with more success. I actually hold a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Public Relations, and though I haven’t worked field field for years, my advice comes from someone who’s been on both sides of the publicity battle.

I’m going to start with what might appear to some to be a sea-change in the relationship between new media and the small publisher. It isn’t, but it’s clear that not everyone — including some new media producers — understands this. Some of this may seem harsh, and maybe it needs to be, becuase to move forward, we really need to understand the relationship between the new media outlet and the publicist. 

Our audiences have value.

We work very hard for our audience. We produce shows, take feedback, improve our shows, etc., all in an effort to grow our audiences, to keep them happy and to make sure they keep coming back every week. Furthermore, we’ve built a relationship with our audience over time.

I literally think of our listeners (most of them) as friends I’ve yet to meet. Occasionally, these people will fly thousands of miles to join us at our local game conventions. We do not take that kind of devotion lightly. We’ve worked to provide them with a show they enjoy, and they reward us with their time and their loyalty.

So when you ask for access to our audience, you’re asking for a lot.

When you ask me to publicize your product or Kickstarter to my audience, you’re asking me for a big favor. You’re asking me to repackage your advertisement into content our listeners are going to like and consider entertainment. It is, to state it more harshly, a request to intrude on the relationship between the show hosts and the audience.

Nothing gets my eyes rolling more than someone telling me that they’re doing me a favor by “providing content.” Unless you are one of about three dozen RPG industry people, this is insulting. We’re the one doing the favor. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind doing favors, and sometimes I enjoy it, especially for a worthy project/product.

This goes doubly for Kickstarters. Not only are you asking me to do you a favor, but you’re asking me to ask my listeners to trust you with their money. I don’t take this lightly. Especially now that I’ve been stung by a flaky Kickstarter organizer.

You’re not doing me a favor by sending me a pdf — I’m doing you a favor by reading it.

When I first started the show, I signed up for the reviewer program. They would send me promo codes to download pdf products for review. I would download things that looked interesting, if I thought they were good and that the listeners would want to hear about them, I would mention them on the show. No problem, right? Wrong.

After about a year, DrivethruRPG told us that if we downloaded a product, we HAD to review it, either on their site (preferably) or on our blogs (they hadn’t heard of podcasts, I guess) and provide a link. Soon after this, they said that reviews on their site had to be 4 or 5 stars. After all, we’re getting free product, right? We were also encouraged at one point to not mention that we received the product for free.

You know who was responsible for such a dumb policy? Vocal game publishers who complained to DrivethruRPG. These were publishers — stupid ones — who were tired of not getting the glowing reviews they felt they’d bought and paid for with a free pdf.

This is so ass-backwards, I don’t know where to start. Here we are, writing blogs, producing shows, generating content to build and audience, and here comes some entitled douche bag who thinks we’ll LIE to our audience for the price of a PDF of his shitty Pathfinder module.

Obviously, I refused to do this, and eventually, I “culled” from the program. This is the “we’re doing you a favor” thing gone wild, and I wasn’t going to buy in to such silliness..

I’m am not beholden to every publisher who sends me a free pdf. If anything, I’m doing them a favor taking time to read it to see if it’s review-able, and furthermore, I’m doing them a REAL favor by not mentioning it if I think it’s crap.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but there are a lot of publishers who think new media is their bitch that they can buy with a couple of free downloads. This is an amateur’s mistake. 

Spam gets treated like spam.

I can usually tell a mass email apart from a personally written email by the first or second line. Sometimes, I know it by the salutation. Don’t mistake a press release for a personal message. It’s certainly okay to send both. If you’re sending out a press release, attach it to the email and write a note of introduction.

If you can’t take the time to write me personally, I’m going to assume that I’m part of your personal media blitz, and you know what? Some of us don’t want to be part of a media blitz. Every podcaster is trying to produce a unique show. We all want our shows to stand out from the rest. One great way to NOT do this is to cover the same topics at the same time as every other show. When I get an email that’s obviously part of the publisher’s “media blitz,” I will more often than not pass. My assumption is that another show will probably cover it, and I’m almost always right.

Whether we cover/review you might have nothing to do with your pitch.

Doing a weekly show requires some long-term planning. If you contact me about your 30-day Kickstarter, and my show’s booked for the next two months, you’re probably not getting on.  Some shows leave spots open for such content, some don’t. Our shows tend to run 90 – 120 minutes, so we’re not looking to fill time usually. That said, if something comes around that I think is awesome (and I think my audience wants to hear about it), I’ll make room.

I’ve recently discovered that one of the Kickstarters I backed was organized by a flake who might be a crook. It’s looking like he spent the money and we’re screwed. As a result, I’m a little down on Kickstarters right now, and I’m reluctant to publicize them on the show. This has nothing to do with you, your Kickstarter, or you pitch.

Next Time

In Part Two, which will appear in a few days, I’m going to talk about some tactics that have worked to get me on board with promoting products and projects.

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

Filed under: RPG Industry BS · Tags: , , , , ,

10 Responses to "PSA for Publishers Part 1: New media and you."

  1. Andreas DavourNo Gravatar says:

    Drivethru did what? Those fuckers! Many thanks for posting this, Stu. Now I know how much those reviews are worth. Some people have integrity, some post reviews on DrivethruRPG. What the fuck!? Now I’m angry.

  2. Jimbo HawkinsNo Gravatar says:

    I like your style, Stu! I know you’ve mentioned this subject before on the podcast, but clearly there has more, shall we say ‘unsolicited’, emails.

  3. StuNo Gravatar says:

    From my understanding, anyone can review a product on DTRPG, and leave whatever sort of review they like. If you were part of the “featured reviewer” program, yes, you were encouraged to write at least a 4-star review.

    Was this enforced? Could you get removed for posting 3-star reviews? I don’t know.

    This is a couple years ago now, and I don’t know if this policy is still in effect, though I suspect it is. I was culled from the list several months after this whole thing started, I think. Maybe a year later? I’m not positive.

    I think the guys at DTRPG are smart enough to know that this sort of policy would undermine their product reviews, but from the way their emails read back then, it sounded to me like they were being pressured by some of publishers into doing it anyway.

  4. Andreas DavourNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for setting the record straight Stu. I think whomever were pressuring them, that behaviour has to have repercussions. That is corruption, plain and simple. Corruption combined with blackmail. It doesn’t matter if someone set you up to it. Implying that giving stuff means you scratch their back is corruption.

    1. Seth DrebitkoNo Gravatar says:

      I usually ignore any featured reviews that are at the 3 star level. If something is 4-5 stars the person probably genuinely liked the product or else they would have given it at least the lowest possible stars they could.

  5. Philo PharynxNo Gravatar says:

    Dishonest reviews poison the well. A well-written review gives you insight into the product. I’ve bought items specifically because of low reviews. The reviews gave me insight that the product didn’t meet the reviewer’s need, but it told me that this product what what I was looking for.

    A well-written review takes time and effort. You need to delve into the product and figure out how to communicate your thoughts and feelings about it. Doing it right takes work. You are absolutely right in saying that you are doing them a favor for reviewing it.

  6. Timothy BrannanNo Gravatar says:

    I have been a featured reviewer for years. I have never felt pressured to write a 4 or 5 star review. I have never had a 1, 2 or 3 star review removed.

  7. PCSlayerNo Gravatar says:

    Stu, one of the things I have loved most about the ‘cast has been that every product you have suggested has been fantastic. One of the many reasons I am slogging through the backlog is that I want to hear the great reasons to try new products. I am glad that you vet these promos so well before sharing. Thank you!

  8. Josh MaxwellNo Gravatar says:

    That’s a very interesting read for a guy just starting a blog and thinking about approaching the RPG podcast community to help generate traffic. Food for thought.

  9. R. L. KarnesNo Gravatar says:

    You’re about to catch a storm; You are quoted on the front page of EN World.

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