TR Member Perks!

Disclosure: Some of TechRaptor’s articles contain affiliate links.

There has been a long discussion about the ethics in games journalism over the past 3 months, though the questions posed in the debate have been around much longer. When notable journalist, Geoff Keighley, sat discussing Halo surrounded by a pile of Doritos and Mountain Dew, consumers wondered whether the media was ever really focused on them, or was it all about the money?

As part of the gaming media, I have to make a defense. Money is an important part of the process. Even websites with the best intentions for their consumers, much like the one you are reading now, need money to continue. Hosting, writers, technical support; these things all come at a price, and funding is required to keep everything in order to deliver news in the consumers interests. Media is, and always has been a business. This does not necessarily make it corrupt.

The problems occur when you sacrifice consumers, your readership, in order to make money. Gawker has mentioned before that their readers are not their audience, the advertisers are their audience, the readers are merely the product. Again there is nothing inherently wrong with this model, as long as the content is still focused on helping the consumers.

While advertising is a huge part of revenue, most media outlets also make a modest amount of money through affiliate links. Affiliate links are when a website posts a link to a product on an outlet such as Amazon, and in return for the publicity, the outlet will give the site a small portion of the sale, usually between 1-8%. Again there is nothing necessarily corrupt about including affiliate links, and they can really help a site, but only if the author genuinely enjoys and recommends the product.

Gawker has been known to be caught up in a few controversies in its time. Whether it was writer Sam Biddle encouraging bullying, lack of disclosures of relationships between authors and developers,  or incorrectly smearing a man’s name in exchange for clicks, they have now come under scrutiny for not disclosing affiliate links by the FTC, the federal trade commission.

Kotaku has now been forced to go back through articles and disclose sales links such as this one on their list of the best PC games:

“Note: While all of these games are available through some digital service or other, if you buy any of them through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.”

While affiliate links do not always mean that the author has only inserted the link specifically to generate income, TechRaptor is generally pro-disclosures so that readers can be best informed of all possible motives behind articles. While the FTC has made no assumption that Gawker Media was disingenuous in their use of affiliate links, it is a win for consumers, who now have more information in order to make a fully informed decision before buying a product.

Update: I originally believed the disclosures to be Gawker wide, I have since found out it might only refer to Kotaku.


Georgina Young

Contributor

British girl, currently in Japan. Surviving on a diet of retro games. Worshiping the god that is the Sega Megadrive. I like Nintendo.



  • Jake Martinez

    I think this is really for the best. A lot of content on the internet, particularly that produced by Gawker sites, is obvious advertorial content that skips around the rules governing that sort of thing by using affiliate links to generate revenue instead of direct advertising by sponsors.

    without disclosure of these affiliate links, readers who become aware of the business model are left to assume that the purpose of the article isn’t to inform them about good products they might be interested in, but instead to generate revenue through affiliate transactions.

    A good question for people to ask would be, the next time you see a “Best of” or “Top 10” list of commercial products, if that list is really accurate or not because the people putting together the list may have neglected to mention products that cannot be sold through their affiliates…

  • coboney

    It is important to make it known in some way at least that is visible. For TechRaptor, on the bottom of the page under policies, we have a button there that says “monetized by Viglinks” which means that we get referral bonuses from certain sites which are listed there. When we review a product we try to always include links, and we are more likely to include ones on that – though a lot of major sites aren’t and thus we just nod and move on linking to the appropriate places. Even if we think a game is bad, we’re providing information and what you think about a review might say ‘well that actually sounds interesting’ and you can go there.

    My view is more or less as follows:
    1) It should be disclosed to readers in a visible location (which is actually the law which is why the FTC can do this. )
    2) Who you can refer to should in no way influence your reviews, story’s you cover or story’s you write.
    3) Advertising should never effect editorial decisions.

    Once advertising comes to dominate editorial decisions any credibility is gone because the advertising is not serving to get money out of the product (the writing ) and maintain it – but the product is being created to serve the advertising. Once that happens, everything is more or less an advertorial.

  • Reptile

    I think that “top 10”, “best of”, “Goty” etc kind of thing is useless, people’s tastes will be different from one to another and it is really pretentious to assume you “know” what is better than what.
    You sure can say if a game is good or bad, by technical data or personal taste, but you can’t compare two games and say which one is better than the other, that is like comparing an apple to an orange, but then “if it is the same genre/similar games?”, well, there is red apples and green apples, both are apples but they aren’t the same, or pears and apples are alike, still they aren’t the same.

  • Red Lagoon

    Good news displayed in a well written article! Great day for the internet!!!

  • Jesus Christ

    Late disclosures should be punished. I won’t be able to get a refund if I bought a shit game because the article I based my purchase on did not disclose at the time of publication.

  • ZURATAMA1324

    I hear sweet sweet whining from corrupt journalists.
    It is great.

  • Gyr0Man

    Regarding the footnote at the bottom, I would hope that you would make retro-active updates as the situation unfolds.

  • Mark Samenfink

    I’m… almost willing to read Kotaku articles again. I still need more but they are doing better than Polygon, Gamasutra, or Ars Technica.

  • NorBdelta

    And so the bright light of dawn becomes visible on the horizon. May this be the start of a new age.

  • TLDR; we are winning.
    right?

  • flclfanman

    A good step to stop Native Advertisement shenanighans

  • Erodred

    for those of you interested
    there might be more here than just affiliate links
    it seems like they had adds disguised as articles
    I could be wrong

  • Scott Vogler

    What would have been so difficult for Kotaku to simply state, “If you buy through us you will support our website and community and help us continue on with our business. Thank you for your support!”

    Instead, they chose to be extremely shady, talk down to everyone, and pretend they’re all better than the rest of us as if they’re fooling anyone. I am so glad sites like TechRaptor are taking a different and more ethical approach to this.

    I know Tech Raptor is a business and they don’t pretend they’re anything but a business. That’s all I really want from websites I like. Just be up front and honest about your motives.

  • bougabouga