Android gaming website Droid Gamers may be in a spot of trouble as a diligent Reddit user spotted some worrying changes under their new ownership. The user u/Stowaway---Throwaway first became concerned when they noticed that the site's domain had recently been re-registered under the name "Push Your App," a company name belonging to an app marketing firm. Push Your App advertises its own services thus: "If you're looking to advertise, get editorial content on leading sites or have experts look over and provide detailed reports and analysis of your app, then we're the company to help. We also promise to beat any other price for the same service!" It's easy to understand why this would raise concerns, as at this point it appeared the site was under the control of a company who's sole aim is placing paid "editorial" content for apps.
This original thread attracted a quick response from an account attributed to the site's original owner, Andrew Huff, claiming that the owners of Push Your App were "personal friends" who had agreed to "temp hold" the domain because "I needed to move our domains hosted on GoDaddy from my personal account there to a different one while I make some changes." In a subsequent thread, this explanation was later shown to be false. This second thread from the same OP a few days later revealed even more shocking details about the site's association with Push Your App. After sending an email to the site's advertising department ([email protected]) masquerading as a developer with an app to promote, he received this response from Push Your App,
As you can see, the response clearly offers paid advertising content including paid reviews, placed articles, full site takeover (referring to when a game is featured on banner adds, in articles etc. forming the majority of visible content on the website) and is directly referring to Droid Gamers as the outlet for the content. The thread generated a response from an account attributed to the site's new owner u/droidgamersadmin. This response suggested that the site had been sold by the previous owner, that the previous owner had failed to pay staff for over a year, and that the OP was a former writer for the site. The response did confirm that Push Your App were now handling marketing content on the site:
It's at this point that the argument becomes unclear, so we reached out to the parties involved to see if we could shed some light on the situation. Firstly, we were able to confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that the OP is not former writer Ryan Ballard as suggested by the site's new owner. We contacted the OP directly and, while he wishes to remain anonymous, he was able to confirm his identity as someone unrelated to the site either now or in the past. This calls into question the new owner's comments, making the initial assertion seem like nothing more than an attempt to discredit the poster and deflect from the issue.
Secondly, sources close to the site confirmed that the ongoing pay dispute with the previous owner was correct and that the site had indeed changed ownership. Reports from the time that current writers had been locked out of the site were correct but this appears to have been due to a migration to new servers under the new ownership. The same source confirmed to us that, to the best of their knowledge, paid reviews and editorial content had not appeared on the site prior to the new ownership taking over.
We also reached out to the site's new owners but they have so far declined to make any official comment on the matter. They did, however, post some succinct responses on the Reddit thread referenced above, outlining their position, which we'll cover here. We must note at this point that the site's ownership have not confirmed that Reddit user u/droidgamersadmin is an official account for the site but our source close to the site believes this to be the case and the posts certainly contain information that only someone with internal knowledge of the site could possess. Users immediately questioned the paid reviews and whether examples had appeared on the site which met with this response:
When the veracity of the claim that they would reject paid review requests for low quality games was challenged and the ethics of selling reviews and paid articles was called into question, the new owners justified it like this:
So by the site's own assertion, they don't sell advertising, Push Your App does, and any paid content would be labeled. In the subsequent response, the site is reliant on this revenue to keep the lights on. This doesn't seem to add up. Looking at the home page of Droid Gamers right now, there is no content that is labeled as paid advertising. This seriously calls into question the site's response. The suggestion that hidden paid content appeared on the site under the old ownership directly contradicts the information from our source. The fact that they were not open about the paid content until this email was exposed shows even the first line of their comment to be untrue. Droid Gamers is adamant throughout its responses that they are not selling positive content, just content. As they state in the post above, they would look at 'alternative promotion' if they don't think a game would review well.
We reached out to Droid Gamers under the pseudonym of a developer to see what the response is when they are contacted with a potential game for advertising. Below is the full response we received with some details omitted for privacy reasons:
While we weren't offered paid for reviews in this initial response, the email does suggest placed news articles and features. In the links provided for Droid Gamers, AppAdvice, and TouchTapPlay, none of the linked articles are identified as sponsored or paid for content. The only site showing the article presented in the link as sponsored content was Gamezebo. We were unable to get a clear response when we questioned if the specific links provided were all examples of paid for content or to the question of whether the articles offered to us would be identified as paid for content. We've reproduced the links as they appeared in the email below:
- News Article on Droid Gamers (like this) (Archived link)
- Feature on Droid Gamers (like this) (Archived link)
- News Article on Gamezebo (like this) (Archived link)
- News Article on AppAdvice (like this) (Archived link)
- News Article on TouchTapPlay (like this) (Archived link)
Founder's Note: TechRaptor is a site that deeply cares about Ethics, quality, and unbiased content. At the core of our being, we feel that paid reviews are a detriment to the industry and undermine the unpaid and very real reviews that authors across many publications work hard on. By publishing this, we hope to shed more light on one of the more shady practices that plagues our industry in hopes that it won't continue over time. There's only a small subset of outlets that participate in these practices, and when they do, it doesn't just reflect poorly on them, it reflects poorly on the industry as a whole.