Daily Reaction: Aggregated Aggravation – What N4G and Reddit Mean for Games Journalism

Community driven aggregate sites are increasingly becoming a central hub for various publications from different industries, perhaps most so with gaming, causing more and more outlets to rely on them for traffic. The Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan discuss the benefits and pitfalls of aggregates, and what they mean for the industry as a whole.

What is a community driven aggregate site?

A site that has a community consolidating news from various publications, often curating and voting on the content, such as games site N4G and social news site Reddit.

What are the benefits of aggregate sites?

Dan: With the amount of content that is continuously growing on the internet, the ability for people to be able to find ways to filter through the endless amount of trash is becoming more and more important. This has been where community driven aggregate sites like N4G and Reddit come in, as they find ways to use a community regulated process to allow the more intriguing topics to float to the top, from a variety of websites.

On top of being a great resource for consumers to catch up on the latest news from the industry, it is also a great resource for sites to use as a free way to promote content and grow a fanbase that they normally would not have been able to have without it.

Seb: Yeah, aggregates are incredibly important to games websites, especially smaller ones. PSLS now has a healthy community and a strong Twitter, Facebook, G+ etc presence, but for completely new sites it can be impossible to have your content noticed without there being somewhere to show it. Like any other industry, games journalism needs a steady flow of new blood and new ideas that try to take down established sites by offering something better.

Outside of aggregate sites, Google is generally the biggest source of traffic for websites (it’s our biggest), but it’s still dominated by old sites with tons of backlinks, or unscrupulous outlets that swap links. Google isn’t set up to allow new media sites to flourish and, rather, promotes stasis within the industry.

What are the pitfalls of aggregate sites?

Seb: Oh god, where to begin? Let’s start with N4G, the largest community driven aggregate site purely dedicated to the games industry. A quick perusal of what’s ‘hot’ shows that quality, accuracy or even rationality is not important. It’s the heart of flamebait, it’s where good games journalism goes to die, it’s where an article about the 8 best boob screenshots on 360 that are better than the 6 best boob screenshots on PS3 can bring in tens of thousands of views.

Then there’s the fact that there are websites purely tailored to living off of N4G traffic, like a remora desperately clinging to a shark. As N4G works on a first-submitted-first-approved basis, speed is of the essence. But being fast doesn’t bode well for quality, and leads to a swathe of press release spewers that do little in the way of actual quality journalism.

Reddit is a lot more diverse, there’s a lot of small communities within it that enjoy different kinds of journalism (and a lot of important focus on indies), but it’s still a problematic traffic source for any website. Despite admittedly trying to not do that, Reddit is filled with incorrectly sourced content, and you still have to rely on another community to promote your content, which will often never be submitted. I enjoy Reddit, and, as someone who runs a site, they can be a great way to bring in new visitors, but it’s random and unpredictable.

For us, the worst site is probably NeoGAF, who has a community that copies entire articles in full without credit and have mods that don’t respond when we ask why. Then, as everyone seems to use NeoGAF, the rest of the internet ends up crediting them for the scoop.

When I took over as Editor-in-Chief, all I ever wanted to do was write, or have others write, quality content for this site. I hoped that this quality content would bring in visitors that would therefore allow me to fund more quality content.

The problem is that Google doesn’t promote quality content, aggregate sites don’t promote quality content and a lot of sites love to pass your quality content off as their own. It’s not impossible to create a quality website, and many exist out there, but aggregate sites are not doing their bit to make it easier. Quality should always be the most important factor.

Dan: If you are reading this off of N4G, then ask yourself why you clicked on this article and not another? Was it the title that made you think this would be of interest? Or was it simply the temperature? Looking at the features that are currently topping the site it should be safe to say that they are falling under flamebait or defense force.

That is the issue that destroys any form of real potential aggregate sites like N4G have. Without any oversight or push for quality control only sites that aim to piss you off will be noticed.

While it is partly the fault of sites like N4G, as they need to offer the tools for the audience to correctly police itself, but, ultimately the responsibility falls down on the fans to drive the industry to a higher level that will not stand for pointless drivel or slander.

Hype can be a huge driving force for fans who want to consume as much information as possible on certain topics, but the quality of the content they are receiving is rarely worth the time they are investing. Readers need to use aggregate sites to not only find articles that give them the information they need, but to also find the publications that will continuously offer a reasoned voice, and go to them directly (even if it isn’t PSLS).

Sadly, whether it is Reddit or N4G, the community on those sites is also a force that drives traffic based on the heated debates on which game was not in this particular top 10 instead of a qualitative debate on the issues that really matter to the industry. This senseless banter can throw off the scales of +1s or temperature simply by having people blow up an article’s stature based off of the communication within.

The gaming community is divided up between a number of different demographics: some who just want to learn more about the products they love; others who want to find every bit of information out there and others that simply want to push their own agenda. These fanboys are the center of the problem for any website, as they are by far the most vocal segment of the community and are the ones most likely to be responded to. This, sadly, drives most of the time and attention of other demographics to them, causing quality articles to be pushed down until they are buried and forgotten forever.

So what can we do?

Dan: Oddly enough, as I am pretty set in my belief that most people are pretty stupid and dense, I think the majority of people who do not comment are smarter than the average fanboy. Not to say that those that do comment are all retarded (only most), but simply, by having a greater number of people who are able to have an intellectual conversation commenting or starting a dialog can drown out the fanboys – who really are only a very small demographic, even though they seem to get the most attention.

Seb: Agreed, it’s hard to imagine that all of the world is really that stupid, otherwise society would collapse completely. As individual readers, we need to share content we think is quality even if it goes against our particular console bias. And, as for publications, they need to try to improve games journalism, even if it means that the outcome is less traffic. Perhaps, if readers do begin to push for quality more than ever, it will become something that profit-driven sites also embrace. It’s an unlikely outcome, but something we should all strive for.

Do you use aggregate sites like N4G or Reddit? If so, which articles usually stand out to you? Did you find PSLS through an aggregate? Let us know in the comments below, email us at [email protected] or tweet us your fanboy comments at Seb and Dan.