Editorial: In Defense Of Kotaku

Yesterday Stephen Totilo published “A Price of Games Journalism” on Kotaku. The piece details the ongoing problems that the site has had in covering games because their coverage has, in the past, upset publishers like Bethesda and Ubisoft. In both cases, the site has published news that the game developers were not ready to announce. As punishment for these acts of journalism, Kotaku has apparently been “blacklisted.”  This blacklisting has covered a variety of things, from not getting review copies of games to not even getting comments back when Kotaku reaches out.

This news, as could have been expected, has lead to one of two different responses. Some have been supportive of Kotaku. If you’re pissing people off you must be doing something right, tends to be the perspective of this camp. On the other side are the people who have decided they don’t like that particular website. They seem to support the blacklisting, not because they support the concept so much as they support Kotaku getting screwed.

Basically, it seems that the argument is that the news that Kotaku published didn’t “need” to be published, so they should have not done so, and kept the publisher happy and they wouldn’t be in this mess.

I’m fairly new to this whole, “writing on the internet” thing, so I may be naive, but I have learned a few things about how the business works.

The idea that Kotaku did a disservice to the video game industry by publishing information is insane. They had news, they published it. That’s their job. Their job is to write compelling content that people will click on.  Kotaku is a website that makes money primarily through ad revenue. Their ad revenue is dependent on click through, so they attempt to create content that will cause the click through. If you think “running a sustainable business” is not a valid reason to publish a news story then you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the internet works.

Certainly Bethesda and Ubisoft have every right to take their ball and go home if that’s what they want to do. I don’t really know why they’d bother. However Kotaku was able to get their information in the past was likely not through official channels, so closing off official channels to them will likely have little impact on their ability to write those sorts of stories.

Journalism is still a business. People have to eat and clothe and shelter themselves. Kotaku made a decision, several in fact, of the best way to do that. Welcome to how news works.

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