Monday, July 18, 2016

BB77: The Network News Effect in Eve

Over at Sand, Cider, and Spaceships, Drackarn asked an interesting question as part of Blog Banter 77:
Is there a malaise affecting Eve currently? Blogs and podcasts are going dark and space just feels that little bit emptier. One suggestion is that there may be a general problem with the vets, especially those pre-Incarna and older, leaving and being replaced by newer players who are not as invested in the game. The colonists versus immigrants? Is this a problem? Are there others? Or is everything just fine and it's just another bout of summer "ZOMG EVE IZ DYING!"
I raised a few points on this topic with Ripard Teg (formerly of Jester Trek) on reddit, and this blog banter gives me an ideal opportunity to expound a little.

Generally speaking, this blog banter includes two sections. The first raises good questions, but the suggested problem in the second half takes us down the wrong path. Generally, I'd say Eve is just fine, and here's why.

Certainly, "blogs and podcasts are going dark", but I'd argue this isn't a result of lack of interest in the game.  Rather, the game has largely moved beyond needing prolific bloggers the way it used to. Previously, to learn about the game, you had to depend on a small number of sites, almost all individually hosted. You had prolific writers posting every day on different topics and enjoying their oligarchy. Conversation happened on their blogs on the Eve-O forums, which drew more and more people to those limited sources (particularly as the Eve-O forums tended to be filled with trolls). There was no Reddit, no Twitter, no Tweetfleet Slack.

Consider that for a moment. How many of you review Reddit to learn about happenings in Eve? I regularly come across players posting Reddit threads rather than even summarizing in-game events, and often, those Reddit threads pop up immediately. Eve News 24 and TMC have editorial standards and are constantly scooped by reddit now. Eveskunk, which used to be the only source for log leaks and alliance meetings, has lost much of its business to Reddit as well. For news, discussion, and personal advice, r/eve is the first stop for many players.

At the same time, Twitter and Tweetfleet slack blew up in popularity, with nearly a hundred different subgroups in the latter to focus on any topic under the sun. They became communities without barriers to entry, offering quick access to CCP devs and in-game personalities that couldn't be matched by blogs or news sites.

When considering how to spend your time, is it any surprise that potential bloggers are choosing not to go down that track, and "replenish the ranks" (if you will) of bloggers who leave? The payoff - satisfaction, fame, prominence, viewership, comments and discussion - aren't going to be as high as they once were as a result of the fundamental shift in the community needs and resources.

Put simply, most readers are looking for breaking news to feel connected to the game, aren't willing to wait for days while someone writes and edits an article, and want the opportunity to share their opinions freely without moderation. Reddit, Twitter, and Tweetfleet all provide that opportunity. The driving motivation that used to push readers to blogs is being done better by other avenues.

We used to have a lot of bloggers posting on those topics. They wanted the views, and they ended up expanding the purpose of the blog to cover everything under the sun. It had a couple different effects. First, of course, was a gradual loss of focus to their blog. They lost sight of the reason they started writing in the first place, and their readers took note. By becoming a generalist site, they lost what made them unique and distinctive. And as the need for generalist sites dried up, it became easy to make the decision to abandon the effort entirely. They forgot why they were blogging, and they found that eventually they couldn't justify the time anymore.

But, additionally, the burden of running a blog with daily posts responding to every event that happens in the game takes its toll on a writer. Part of it is the need to perform constantly. But part of it, particularly for the crop that existed back when they were the primary hubs of game discussion, is in the negative player will they accrued over time. Every post (at least the ones worth posting) is going to frustrate someone, and over time, that frustration builds to outright resentment and hostility. It's inevitable for that hostility to spill out at some point.

Consider the situation of Ripard Teg, who took a very prominent stance in the Bonus Room scandal. Regardless of the result of that situation, Ripard ended up discontinuing his blog soon after, and many attribute it to his experience with the playerbase as a result of his stance and that situation. Whether it was the blow-back from players against him or disillusionment about the playerbase at large, the simple fact is that he stopped blogging as a result of the community response. he still plays, he still posts on Reddit; he just doesn't blog anymore. He moved his engagement elsewhere.

This is not a unique progression - albeit a dramatic one - for generalist bloggers. Sugar Kyle virtually ceased blogging as a result of her engagement with the community through her two CSM terms (as I understand it), as well. In both cases, deeply engaged players burned out from the level of engagement they had and chose to suspend their blogging, while still engaging with the game in other ways. It just stopped being enjoyable.

And, I'd argue that conclusion is inevitable for writers who don't maintain a clear focus or agenda. Consider, on the other hand, players who approach the game from a more narrow perspective. Zosius' Cloaky Bastard blog focuses on his solo, multiboxing PvP exploits and tends to tell stories. Nosy Gamer focuses on market aspects (in addition to writing about other games as well). Rixx takes a more artistic approach to the game and blogs about Stay Frosty. I write from a perspective that prioritizes PvP as the "highest good" on a hierarchy of Eve objectives.

These perspectives aren't necessarily covered by the generalist media out there. If you want to talk about PvP, where are you going to go? Reddit posts will get buried, and they won't provide in-depth descriptions about decision-making, experience, and perceptions. You can't change your attitude about how you PvP through Reddit, but my blog has done that for people.

This focused perspective can tip the balance in cost/value for start-up bloggers. Not only does a focus serve as armor against burnout, but it also provides a reason for new bloggers to start. But, as a result of their narrower focus, that payoff isn't going to be as large. That, in itself, can discourage some writers.

So, on the one hand, the community is covering a lot of the needs that "paid the bills" for bloggers in the past (preventing new blogs from starting), while existing active bloggers are suffering regular attrition. Is it any wonder that the Eve blogosphere is smaller than it once was?

But, when you consider all the reddit posts, Twitter discussions, and engagement on Tweetfleet slack, could anyone seriously argue that overall discussion and information-sharing about Eve has diminished? If anything, it's expanded exponentially, both in timeliness and number of voices contributing.

In many ways, Eve news and opinion has gone the way of the network news. Once upon a time, all breaking news reports came from either the three TV stations (ABC, NBC, CBS), their radio affiliates, or the newspapers. They enjoyed a period of oligarchic control of information and they used that power regularly. In the most benign cases, they commanded the attention of viewership, who devotedly watched every night to learn what happened that day around the world.

Then, CNN and Headline News came in the 80's (I believe), which provided 24/7 news reporting. While this reduced network viewership somewhat, ultimately the network news still provided the bulk of the condensed, abridged, "here's the important stuff" reporting. After all, few were able to watch CNN constantly to stay updated on events. It was a ding, but not a critical one. And, generally speaking, CNN and Headline News were more of the same in terms of spin, angle, and agenda.

Then came Fox News, a host of radio news sites, and the Internet. At first, the effect was minimal, but over time, it grew and grew. Fox News took a wildly different approach (the rest of the stations skewed liberal, and Fox News definitely skewed conservative). As Internet sites and services grew, they became almost instantaneous sources of information.

Consider today: more often than not, news breaks on reddit or Internet news sites long before it shows up on network sites. The level of journalism isn't the point here... it's the fact that people are now able to get breaking news faster online than on any TV station, particularly the network news.

As a result, the network news is rarely watched anymore. Fox News' ratings were, at one time, better than the three network stations' ratings combined. And even Fox News' numbers were nothing compared to how many people gather breaking news reports from other Internet sites. We've seen a clear democratization and distribution of information sources as a result of the Internet and expanding TV licenses that rendered the old method obsolete.

But if you consider all of those sources of information, can anyone deny that we learn and learn more about breaking events from a variety of angles and biases than any time in the past?

That's exactly what we're witnessing in Eve, and it's a very good thing. Yes, it means generalist bloggers without a real focus will most likely fade, but the niches are still going strong, and players are more informed than ever. It means bloggers post less often, but when they do, there's more meaning behind them. it means those bloggers who remain must work to contribute something insightful to their readers in ways they didn't need to do in the past. It means the prima donnas and glory seekers are leaving.

The drop in the number of bloggers and the frequency of their posts isn't a measure of player investment in the game, only a consequence of a changing reality within the Eve community. On the contrary, it's a sign of deeper investment by more people than ever.


  1. The ISD's can never win. In the forums is post and post about heavy handness. Reddit complains about censorship in the forums. Then bloggers complain about there being too many trolls in the forum. Anyone have a reasonable solution?

    1. Sure... interact with a variety of sources. As with everything, relying on one site never cuts it.

  2. I read through this and the reddit thread. No. Just because something isn't being produced any more doesn't mean there isn't a need for it.

    Since you brought up the real life news as an example, would you actually like to see real news with journalistic integrity and standards on the TV again? I would. It's a needed thing, it just isn't produced any more. The idiots took over.

    Sure, breaking news, maybe... MAYBE reddit has a case to make for it's place. Mostly I disagree with that because the entire idea of upvote/downvote having any sort of editorial control is an abomination of an idea. I cannot over state how much evil that does while looking completely harmless.

    Blogger and news sites though, they have editorial control over what they wrote. They also took it more seriously. Read any blog long enough and sooner or later we learn their writing is a multi day process. There's a germination of an idea, gets tossed in a folder and thought about, a rough draft, and editing passes for clarification. The good bloggers care about being well thought out and well understood.

    The of the moment eve reporting doesn't do that. There's no detailed thought or process to create good content, it's just whatever content gets there first. There's more written about Eve now total, but the amount of quality writing has gone down.

    And it's the quality writing that matters.

  3. Short and sweet. ....I enjoy reading your stuff! Please keep it up!