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Monday, September 5

My Thoughts on The Death of Examiner

This post is long overdue, but I was so busy traveling to a convention at the time and trying to rescue my six-years-worth of articles that I didn't have time to comment on the death of the Examiner.com platform.

Before I share my perspective on what happened and why I left, let me first state the positive: Examiner was my entry into pro-am journalism. I won't say it was actual journalism by any stretch -- Examiner had no editors to speak of -- but it did give me press credentials and an opportunity to see what life was like as a journalist in the very small tabletop gaming community. I made friends with WOTC's PR team (man, I miss those guys) and had a great relationship with some of the WOTC design leads. There is no way I would have gotten that exposure without Examiner, and for that I'm grateful. I also met some real pros during my time at Gen Con, like the Gamerstable gang who are just plain awesome and always welcomed me to their table at any event.

That said, the press for tabletop gaming has a low barrier to entry. I met a lot of guys who were bloggers or ran their own hobby podcasts and they weren't too interested in reporting things so much as they were having a good time.

I created my own code of conduct for Examiner by publishing an article nearly every day. I was over nearly 2,000 articles at the end of my run, and worked hard to provide timely formats based on what Examiner incentivized me to write. Sometimes this was a review, sometimes it was a list, sometimes it was me writing a review using two fictional characters. I experimented frequently -- and as I look for a new job and interviewers ask if I can actually write, I can speak with confidence that I've been honing my craft in the battlefield of public opinion for over six years.

The cracks started to show early on. Examiner promised financial incentives based on social sharing, then failed to deliver on them (two years later they finally did implement these incentives). I brought a new Examiner over but because he didn't fill out the form early enough in the process, they refused to make an exception and award me the headhunter fee. Mind you, the bounty for bringing on a new Examiner was $50 at the time, which was easily the equivalent of what I made from Examiner in a month. The fact that they weren't willing to cover a simple thing as a fee for bringing a new Examiner in (something that should have been celebrated) left a bad taste in my mouth and was a sign of things to come.

Then the ads started. Oh the ads! First it was an ad along one side, then along the bottom, then it was an ad across the top, and finally it was an ad that took up the entire screen. The ads weren't just aimed at readers -- logging in to use the tool as an Examiner meant wading through ads that frequently crashed my browser. At some point, Examiner decided to make money off of the suckers trying to write for them, which is a bit like a snake eating its own tail. Sure, you might stave off death from starvation for a little longer, but it won't end well.

The real nail in the coffin was the Taboola-style deal-with-the-devil faux ads. Examiner just gave up any editorial pretense completely and let an algorithm shove its own article-style ads on the side and bottom of the page. These so-called articles were gruesome, with such lurid descriptions (with accompanying pictures!) like "Do You Want to See a Dead Body?"

These changes steadily eroded Examiner's reputation, and by proxy damaged my reputation as a "pro-am" journalist. Then Examiner started to get editorial.

I welcomed editorial guidelines. But Examiner tried to implement guidelines without the financial resources to back it up. They were attempting to stem the tide of drek they had reaped for years and were coming after the most visible writers. The problem was that they didn't earn the additional effort they were requiring. In the end, it was enough to make me decide to quit completely.

I walked away from Examiner when it wasn't necessarily financially lucrative to do so. I formally resigned and moved to Patreon, but Examiner kept my articles and kept making money off of them...for a few months anyway. The site closed in much the way it operated, without enough respect to even notify the writers who made it money. It was through one of my patrons that I even found out what was happening, and then set about saving the articles I valued most.

Looking back, I'm glad I left on my own two feet, so to speak. All the signs were there: the lack of respect for the writers who worked so hard, the race to the bottom with ads, the loss of financial incentives, and then the whole thing suddenly collapsing in on itself.

I've since discovered that Examiner's rise and fall is not unique. Many online outlets have made Examiner's mistakes on some level, like engaging in Taboola/Outbrain-style ads, or just not paying their writers anything but "exposure." At least Examiner paid, even if they never let you know exactly how much you were making.

This is why I'm pleased to announce that I'm part of the ENWorld News Network (ENN). My Patreon allows me to write what I want; ENN lets me report on gaming topics that I'm passionate about and ensure the audience sees it (even if they don't agree with me). In leaving of my own accord from Examiner, I found not one but two better opportunities. You have to go through some tough times to reach a better place.

I will keep that in mind as I transition to the next step in my career, whatever that may be.

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posted by Michael Tresca at 10:54 AM | 3 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Monday, February 22

Join Us on Patreon

I write a lot on gaming and geek culture. I research, I interview sources, I try to connect dots in this overstuffed world of regurgitated content. We're in a new world order in which we no longer need distribution channels layering, skimming, siphoning off the top. Sick of ads?  Me too. Help me write what I love without having to wade through two videos and three pop-up banners.  I had 90 subscribers on Examiner. With just $1/month from each of them I could easily keep doing what I love most: writing and sharing with you! 

Join us on Patreon!

No matter how many Patrons I have, I will at least write six articles a month because I really can't help myself. These articles are for free to the public, but for longer investigative or reference pieces I am happy to make the articles Patron only, let me know!

So what do I write about? Reviews of cartoons and movies I watch, games I play, books I read, and projects I fund. But I also try to connect the dots on overlooked issues in the gaming community, like the coming convention crisis, how 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons derailed, crowdfunding controversies, and defending geeks from jerks everywhere.

posted by Michael Tresca at 10:14 PM | 1 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Wednesday, September 2

Examiner Still Won't Stop Emailing Me

But that's okay, they're very entertaining! The Director of Content had a very important message:
One item of note from the original notification you received: In my haste to get the message out about the whitelist, two versions of the message were sent. While both correctly stated the 10% CPM increase, one message neglected to say that it was being capped at a $400 maximum bonus. I wanted to personally apologize for the oversight. Regardless, I hope that you were still able to take advantage of the incentive and we hope to offer more in the near future.
Oops! Here's my favorite part:
On a more personal note, it is with great anticipation and trepidation I let you know that today will be my last day at Examiner.com.
Got questions? Too bad!
If anything comes up that you need assistance with, you can reach out to your contacts here directly, go through the Support Center or email...
But Examiners have a bright future ahead of them!
As stated in our email to all contributors, you are a member of a select group of Examiners who will continue to reinvent Examiner.com Thanks for your contributions and I look forward to watching the progress of the site.
P.S. You left off a period after Examiner.com in the second to last sentence.  I was going to tell the Director of Content about it but, well...

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:49 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Thursday, August 6

Good News Everyone: Examiner Whitelisted Me!

I have been officially removed as Examiner (yay!) but my articles continue to be there (boo!), so me quitting had the net effect of...me basically just not making any money on their site.  They're still emailing me though, and you'll believed to know that I'm still a highly respected Examiner:
Dear Michael,

Congratulations!

You have been selected as a member of our Whitelist team, effective immediately. You have shown us time and again that writing high-quality content is as important to you as it is to Examiner.com. We thank you for that and wanted to let you know that the publishing process will not change for you.

As stated in our email to all contributors, you are a member of a select group of Examiners who will continue to publish directly to the website without review. That said, we do reserve the right to occasionally check out your writing and offer feedback along the way.

Thank you for being a star contributor! As an added bonus and to show our gratitude for your quality contributions, we are offering you a 10% increase in your CPMs for the remainder of the month, and hope to continue this in future months. This will not be reflected on your dashboard but will be added to your earnings paid out on or around the 20th of September.

Thanks again!

Examiner.com
Gee Examiner, thanks for giving me a 10% increase after ruining my CPMs with your mass changes and are no longer paying me for.

I'm so grateful for my Patreon patrons!

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posted by Michael Tresca at 8:27 PM | 0 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Saturday, August 1

Examiner won't let me quit

There's a process for decommissioning your column from Examiner.  I filled out the form for my two topics as per their instructions:

How do I quit writing for Examiner.com?

If you need to your account with Examiner.com or just need to stop writing on an individual title, please submit a ticket. 
So that's what I did, and I copy/pasted my entire "I quit" letter you saw in the previous post. Here's the response I got from the editor:

Dear Michael Tresca,
Here is some information regarding your recent support request.
Hi Michael,
Thanks for your feedback; we appreciate your efforts. Please feel free to directly report any article that contains objectionable content or incorrect information. To do so, please click on the 'report' button below the article in question.
The best part is that in the editor's response it turns out there is a Facebook page and a Twitter feed dedicated to Examiners who are gamers that I was never made aware of.  

Examiner's so bad you can't even quit.

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 8:41 AM | 2 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Thursday, July 30

I quit Examiner today


I quit Examiner today.  Below is my resignation letter for those who are interested as to why. If you're interested in contacting me for a writing gig please feel free to contact me on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  
I believe all these email exchanges are cataloged, so I'm hopeful that as a six-year veteran writer of Examiner that this message makes its way to your leadership.  I'll try to be succinct in my objections to Examiner's platform: 
  • The concept of gaming as a hobby is not valued at Examiner.  This issue is clear if you look at the top five examiners in Other Games and Top Games: the Warren Gambling Examiner and the International Lottery Examiner.  Gambling, video games, and tabletop games are not the same, and it reflects poorly on my readership that the topic is grouped there. This harms my brand.
  • You advertise egregiously, including to your own Examiners. It's bad enough that my readers experience a visual assault of ads when they come to Examiner; you also advertise on the login for Examiners who work for you.  Or to put it another way, I'm actually paying YOU by simply showing up to write something.  This harms my brand.
  • You unpublished hundreds of articles without discussion or recourse.  Examiner unlisted 330 of my articles.  I have no means of fixing them without a manual process; I can't republish them or even format the articles to fix them.  I would have been happy to fix them, but I wasn't even given that courtesy.  This harms my income as an Examiner.
  • Social sharing is broken.  Google+ only picks up the appropriate picture from the article once out of every five articles.  This harms my income as an Examiner.
  • News postings are broken. A search of RPG Examiner in the news section brings up an article submitted for news with the title "Use Your Key for the Next Article."  That text wasn't in anything I wrote on the article, so it was an error in how it was submitted to Google's news. This harms my brand and my income as an Examiner.
  • You removed the $1 incentive for lists. Examiner's removal of the incentive has not gone unnoticed. Without that incentive, the more substantial writing you require is no longer worth the effort for the amount Examiner pays.
In short, Examiner is now harming my brand and what little income I made through the platform. This leaves me with no other choice: I quit.

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:46 PM | 1 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.

Monday, June 9

I am a guest at PortConMaine 2014!



PortConMaine is Maine's first, longest running, and largest convention celebrating the hobbies that enrich our lives. Join us for a celebration of geek culture interests including anime, gaming, science fiction, costuming, fantasy, video gaming, boffer combat, comics, pop culture, steampunk, and more! You can catch me at the following events:
Click here to register. Hope to see you there!

Labels:

posted by Michael Tresca at 9:27 PM | 1 comments links to this post


Want more? Please consider contributing to my Patreon; Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar.