Get Scrappy

12 Aug , 2010 Community,Movies

As a community site competing for attention against major gaming press sites, you’ve got a lot less resources to work with. Instead of lamenting your miserable lot in life, you should be concentrating on being scrappy. What’s that mean? It means worry less about pomp and circumstance, and more about getting the job done effeciently and creatively.

We’re still in the midst of convention season. E3 and Comic-Con are behind us, but we’ve got shows like GamesCom and PAX Prime still ahead of us. It’s during the convention season each year that people start asking me if I know anyone who can get their community site into the big press conferences. Sometimes, community sites make it in, but it’s usually only the biggest or most vocal ones who make it. If a publisher turns you down for their big press conference,  there’s no sense blogging about how much they hate community sites, or have given up on community support. Once again, it’s important to understand the key distinction between a community site and a press site and to get scrappy.

Press Conferences are for press sites. You know full-well that there will be many major outlets covering the event. To be honest, you’re not going to get any “news” out of it that you couldn’t find by saving yourself the trouble of furiously transcribing your notes, all the while wondering why the WiFi in the room is terrible. In fact, you could probably sit in your hotel room and post items on your site as soon as the IGNs of the world put them up. You’d beat most other community sites to posting about it, and you’d do it in your bathrobe (Always make sure you give credit to the site originally posting it, though. It’s just good manners). Being present at the big press conferences is in many ways non-essential for a community site. When it comes to the major press events, your community likely won’t care as much about who originally posted it. They just want the news to be there. What they will care about is your follow-up to the big news.

Focus on Follow-Up

In addition to finding round-about ways to cover events like E3 or Gamescom, you should also focus on what you can do to follow up on them. The nature of a community site is that your focus should be on the community of gamers. If you’ll be at the show, go buy a FLIP camera (Seriously, they’re only 100 dollars, and it’s an amazing investment for a community site) and use it to film fan reactions to big news and games throughout the trade-show event. When a big GOTY contender comes out, make sure that you’re covering it from a community angle – what multiplayer modes people are enjoying and why, discussions about story elements in games with rich universes, scheduled online gaming nights. And if you’re not at the show, find ways of soliciting community feedback. Do community trailer breakdowns where you pick apart every frame in a trailer.

Years ago, I was covering Superman Returns on my site, but couldn’t make it to ShoWest. ShoWest was the big film industry trade show where Warner Brothers was debuting footage from the film for the first time. Most fans couldn’t make it, so I wasn’t alone. So you know what I did? I took transcribed descriptions of the footage from all over the internet, grabbed a couple artists from my community, and we re-created the entire trailer as an animatic. I’ve inserted it below if you want to see it. Later that week, some folks who actually had seen the footage told us we got it almost dead-on. And it was a great community project.

My point is this – get creative with your coverage, and don’t get stuck in thinking that you have to do everything the way the big guys do. Being the little guy makes you a lot more agile. Take advantage of it for all it’s worth.

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  1. davidkenobi says:

    “Being present at the big press conferences is in many ways non-essential for a community site.”


    And I have a good example for that. You see, here in France, our site is growing pretty well with years (and it is not easy in a playstation fan country) but we still can not afford the trip to E3…but, watching careffuly the internet, knowing with the experience good website, we are able to make a really good coverage each year, and barelly double or triple our attendance.

    Once again Justin you just sum up excatly things to do and the text is fun ^^. Thx for your help toward all communities !

  2. KowZ says:

    I fully agree with this. Sometimes the CM’s and PR folks just don’t have the budget to get a big enough venue to hold everyone, and if they did, then you’d get less time per item they were demoing.

    I’m lucky enough that I have contacts for our local PR companies that do big named items that I get invited, and I always offer out to the community sites anything they want me to do while I’m at the local releases.

    If you are a community site, all I can say is partner with other community sites. They might be able to give you details on things without you actually having to make a trip and costing yourself a small fortune for a 1-day event.

    And as SixOkay says, you don’t have to be first, just get content relevant to your community and they will follow.

  3. Mike says:

    Great article and awesome advice for us little guys. Considering we have a few folks making the trek to PAX this week as media for the first time, this was an especially good read for me.

    Some of what you touched on is definitely what we’ve had in mind. Bring cameras, document the experience and let our community and followers who can’t be there live the event vicariously through our posts and articles.

    Getting a scoop on something or scoring a few interviews will just be icing on the cake.

  4. Kaylila says:

    Yepp. Great read again. When I was working with a small fan site we suffered from the same restrictions (no money) if more of us would have thought like this our site would have been a much larger success.