Esports journalism is a growing business, but it has a serious talent retention problem. Though endemic voices such as Dexerto have seen increased readership while mainstream publications like The Washington Post invest in their own gaming and esports verticals, countless other esports publications have shuttered over the years, forcing their editorial staff to pivot to other beats or exit the industry entirely.
The esports journalism industry’s growing pains have led even successful reporters to hang up the pen in favor of other lines of work. Even those who have held onto their jobs regularly contend with burnout, relatively low pay and an audience that often lacks respect or understanding for the craft of journalism. For the latest edition of the Confessions series, where we exchange anonymity for candor, Digiday reached out to a veteran endemic esports journalist who switched to a marketing role to learn why he made the pivot.
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This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Why did you decide to leave esports journalism?
It’s hard to explain all the context behind it. Back in the day, when you were reporting something about a team or a player and they didn’t want you to put it out there, you pretty much got threatened by that team in various ways. Like, the team itself would put out a statement or something and say, “This is false.” And then all of the fans of that team or player would come and attack you on your social media or a Reddit thread or whatever. It was super weird because you’ve never seen that in traditional sports, right? When journalists in traditional sports post a story, the football team it’s about isn’t going to release a statement on social media saying, “This journalist is wrong.”
Did that affect how you felt about your work?
Nobody appreciates this; it’s not exactly life-changing work. It’s just not worth the stress, it’s not worth dealing with all of this shit — I had a team threaten to sue me once because I said a player was going to join them. These days, the public-facing aspect has probably changed a little bit, but I’m sure, behind the scenes, you probably still get that kind of shit. Another thing I’ll throw out there is that it can be really difficult to maintain friendships in the scene, because you’re using them as sources of information as well, right? But it’s a personal relationship — you’re friends with these people — which can be really grating.
How has your experience in esports journalism influenced your work in the marketing sector?
It’s helped and hindered. Frustratingly, there are a lot of people who hold grudges. At times, as a journalist — and this might just be because I was a bit of an asshole — if you go back and talk to a team or influencer, and they remember you as the guy who used to have inside information on them and be publishing news about them and investigating them, that’s not very helpful. It’s certainly been helpful in having a bunch of connections, and just understanding the context behind all of the things that are going on in esports.
What’s your take on the endemic publication landscape now?
There’s not very many endemic options that seem to be built for long-term success. In the real world, more people read the Daily Mail than read the Guardian. Generally, people don’t want to sit down and read a big long story about esports, they just kind of want to read the CliffsNotes and find something to be upset or angry about.
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