Friday, September 2, 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole - ENWorld's Sean Fannon Thinks "it's a fine, fuzzy line between news, promotion, and outright advertising" (Rant)

Digger deeper into Sean Fannon's recent postings on ENWorld we get the above lapse in ethical judgement. Apparently Sean hasn't bothered to read the FTC's guidelines on online advertising, but the line isn't fuzzy - it's downright distinct. If you are getting paid by another company to say nice things about their products, you must disclose it. Not doing so puts not only ENWorld in violation but also the company who paid for the nice words.

But the legal stuff isn't even what pisses me off, it's the idea that, as a consumer and reader of ENWorld, you apparently don't care about the difference between news and "outright advertising." Just so long as you are shown all of the new releases and dutifully spend your money on them, everything is awesome.

What a dismissive attitude to have towards your own community.

So, what about the linked article for the Hunters Mark KS for 5E?
Shadows of the Colossus. Dark Souls. Monster Hunter. These games - and the desire to create a specific kind of customized campaign experience for D&D 5E players - lie at the heart of Hunters Mark: Long Live the Hunt. It's a pretty spiffy merger of full roleplay tabletop gaming with the more compelling elements of action computer games. This is a magical, monster-hunting thing that Game Natural has wrought.

HUNTERS MARK is an adventure/sourcebook for D&D 5E. It contains new monsters, crafting, gear, and rules for running a party of hunters! 
The Hunter’s Mark story is an adventure for level one through ten plus characters, serving as a guidebook for players and their characters while also a powerful resource for game masters to develop their craft. In addition to thirty bounties with full-color artwork, the book includes three main features: rules for bounties, crafting, and guild pets. The Hunter’s Mark provides gaming groups with an immersive, customizable experience where gamers can turn any bestiary into a monster hunting campaign.

There are any number of ways to approach a fantasy RPG, but let's face it - there's just something really cool about gathering a bunch of hardcore specialists together, each customized to their own specialties (and, hey, maybe their own special pet!), and going out into the big, dangerous world to hunt down the monsters that threaten the decent, peaceful folk.  
Thrilling heroics! Fun and profit! Who's in!?!

I see this one being a serious stand-out in the crowd of 5E-oriented products, folks, and I look forward to hearing how your campaigns with this go.  
Now where's my repeating crossbow?
I removed some of product description from the quote above. Interesting sounding release. Sean sure sounds psyched!  Does he mention anywhere in the piece that he's a paid shill for this "high level sponsor"? Of course not. Why would he? It would ruin the illusion.

There you have it folks. ENWorld, the RPG "News and Reviews" site. Where paid advertising masks as news and promotion. Sadly, there is no viable alternative for those that are looking one stop shopping for 5e and Pathfinder "news".

As I said before, there are reasons I don't accept paid sponsorships or direct advertising at The Tavern. I avoid becoming the ethical swampland that others have slipped into.


  1. Is this what I look like when I rant about PC gaming journos, paid reviews, free copies and the like? Man... :D

    I mean, you have dozens of sources of information, if anyone is using just ENWorld (or any single source for that matter) to make all his purchasing decisions, instead of digging for info and p/reviews, they either have too much money, or are gullible beyond salvation.

    I mean, it's a nasty thing to take money and keep quiet about it while pushing product, but a "rant" might be a little too much! :D

    1. Worse is the idea that ENWorld's readers dont deserve to be told the difference between a news article and a paid for ad masquerading as news.

  2. Enworld at its best does nothing more than simply regurgitate press releases sent out by publishers. At its worst it's simply shilling.

    That Patreon to fund more "RPG news" has, near as I can tell, just resulted in more press releases being posted on the site. Good job guys.

  3. I don't disagree with the opinions here, but I don't think the FTC has authority since ENWorld is run out of the U.K.

    1. From the FAQ

      EN World's advertising is handled directly by the Gamerati network run by Ed Healy. We can currently accommodate a range of ad types, including banners, skyscrapers, and rectangles.

      EN World reaches over a quarter of a million unique gamers each month, and serves millions of targeted ad impressions.

      For more information, please contact Ed Healy at ephealy@gamerati.com or phone (xxx) xxx-0296.

      I believe that would put them under FTC rules. If not ENWorld then Gamerati would be liable.

    2. additionally, if the high level sponsor is US based, they are also responsible for ensuring such a disclosure in made

    3. And if they are counted as being in the UK, then the ASA has something to say about paid content - https://www.asa.org.uk/News-resources/Media-Centre/2014/Making-ads-Clear-The-challenge-for-advertisers-and-vloggers.aspx#.V8v0vCgrKUk

  4. This is why I don't post reviews for items unless I make it clear it's going to be a puff piece, or I'm incredibly impressed by the material....running a con you get all sorts of freebies and access to lots of new gaming releases, it would be an ethical nightmare to have to glad handle all of that even if I thought otherwise. Working for a large commercial site reliant on advertising dollars, Fannon is just basically doing his job.

  5. Kind of weakens the appeal of the ENnies

    1. As an old hand in the marketing and sales world I have to say the following...

      Those paying ENWorld or it's writers to do these advertisements as "puff pieces" are trying to saturate the market by paying spokes people to say this is great, just like any other company would do for their product.

      The problem with that is when other companies pay folks to say their product is great; it is done in an ad. That is what an ad is. If you pay money to anyone to entice the public to buy a product that by legal definition is an advertisement.

      If it were what is called an "Under-writing Advertisement" it would not be enticing & would only give facts. This type of advertisement is free or is based on a "donation" and is used ONLY by non-profit organizations.

      With all that said, I agree this is wrong what they are doing. This should be reported to the proper authorities. In the meantime we as a community should boycott ALL ENWorld publications. To stop this type of business we the consumer must hit em where it hurts. The pocket book. So instead of ranting about it, which I don't blame you for one bit. I say let's DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!! ALL OF US TOGHETER!!
      WHO IS WITH ME!! I don't know how but we can start a petition or something to get folks to sign up on facebook saying they will boycott ENWorld. That alone will get their attention, and will maybe get them to change their ways.
      If not then we have the freedom to not purchase that publication.

      OK my rant about this is over now. Thank you Eric for giving me a forum to vent my frustrations about this topic on. I am with you on this brother. Sorry for the long post.

    2. I'm writing an article on this story Monday. Contact me if you want to get involved.

  6. I was one of the original members of Eric Noah's 3rd Edition News way back in the day. That place is not even a shadow of its former self. I might visit once every couple of months just to see what's on the front page.

    Here's hoping someone creates an alternative eventually.

  7. There is a viable alternative, theRPGsite! We will never take Payola like these assholes, and our reviews section is much better than theirs.

  8. You get a shoutout, Tenkar!


  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I worked in newsmedia and wrote hundreds of reviews. In cases of a cd or dvd or film you get a comp pass or copy to see the thing. If it good film like starwars they wouldst give comps (less than 10% didnt give comps and they were expected to do well). The shittier the film the more we got generally. Meals, packs of merch, hundreds of comps, electronic devices, shirts, jackets, sportbags and more. I made press kits and would include candy. Some press kits might have booze.

    Saharah and The Interpreter gave out most stuff in my time with the latter giving away interpreter electronic pocket devices.

    These did not influence us except without comps we would never review them or see them. We were aware if we shitbagged them lots the comps would vanish. Sometimes our quote would be printed in other sources without crediting our paper or writer.

    A bad review can still be a good product and is still good advertising. Any superhero type film dubbed "worst ever" usually motivates me to see it more. Thats why i saw FF and BMvsSM.

    Ong Bak gave us hats we wore for three years. At times whole staff dressed in comp merch. Now Im in government If I even say no to a gift I have to spend 15 minutes filling out a form. If a client offers everyone a bar of soap we have to all do this even if we dont want it. 6 staff doing this waste 1.5 hours of office man power for day.

    Advertorial would be doing a article that promoted the product. perhaps got a interview and possibly a competition. It was obvious and stated that it was done with company.

    We also got paid advertisements in the sections for the products. Most papers depend on this for income so pissing off a client dangerous.

    If my politicians wearing gifts and making policy based on it i would worry. Reviews in most media is obviously advertising and some degree was supported by manufacturers. Otherwise we would be reviewing indy stuff and local talent and 10min youtube films.

    I guess it is nice to know to what extent the media is being bribed but i don't assume it isnt happening. I trust my blogger peers to be earnest and don't mind if they have a comp copy and possibly helped on it or have friends on it.

    What Im describing here is still typical of review press. I care more about news being influenced by bad religion or companies or foreign government than i do about a game review fan site.

    1. In the case of reviewers, it is not about receiving a free copy...it's about disclosing that you received a free copy. Hell, I have posted disclaimers when I was reviewing something for someone I considered to be a friend and not just a publisher or an acquaintance.

      I've even posted disclaimers when I finished a review and realized I went all fanboy on it.

  11. Welcome to Gamergate everyone :P


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