On this week’s episode, Dexerto CEO Josh Nino tells us about how the esports-focused publication went about carving a foothold in a competitive market that is often unfriendly to newcomers. He also talks about where a publication like Dexerto looks to grow revenue and audience – and whether those opportunities are universal for all digital publications – and what he thinks is the future of sports and esports-related communities online.

In the news roundup, human journalists are relegated to apologising for AI journalists’ mistakes; Musk’s Twitter bounces along the bottom; Future goes US-first; and Axios Pro reports a 100% retention rate.

Head over to grubstreetjournal.com for updates on Peter’s new magazine!

Here are some highlights:

How Dexerto came about

We founded Dexerto to bring sports-style coverage to esports. That quickly evolved into an understanding that actually, people follow sport – we all follow sport – because of the people, the sports stars, the stories behind the sports stars. Because that’s what enriches the rivalries, it enriches the wins, the losses and whatnot. It’s an eternal story that applies to anything which requires competition – you want to learn more about the winners and the losers.

So we discovered our own tone and established a tone that certainly wasn’t adopted anywhere else in gaming. Esports is ultimately a section of video gaming. And as important as esports is and as cool as it is with respect to this emerging world of digital sports, where we actually saw real inroads that allowed us to truly catapult and take meaningful marking share in the publishing world and gaming from a new standpoint was influencers.

We totally trailblazed influencers. We call it evolutionary because people have gone on to cover influencers at some point in time, of course, because they are figures with large amounts of followings. But we took a bold leap, there was a natural overlap between personalities and players competing in esports. So we made trailblazing influencers our next step – that’s where we put our flag on the map and gave us credibility when going in to cover gaming as a whole.

Finding a place around platforms like Discord and Reddit

[We started out] as a forum, we were a place where Call of Duty players could go and chat with like-minded people, go and find games and teams together and whatnot. Then social media happened, and that’s where the community drifted to… because you can be part of a bigger conversation, your voice can be amplified much further, and you can interact with these heroes and icons as well. So there was a massive shift, a disruption in the space, and user acquisition changed not just for us, it was changing for everyone.

User acquisition is now coming through social, and it’s coming from Google – people are typing specifically what they’re looking for. And they’re going through side doors – be it from search, be it from social, be it from Reddit – and checking out what they want. Then they go back to those social media platforms or Reddits and have the conversation there.

So in essence, what we’re talking about [at Dexerto] will find its way, assuming that it’s good content that people want to read. And the technical side, making sure we are ranking highly across search, have good [presence on] social platforms, have good overall quantitative and qualitative authority. Our content – news, entertainment, videos – will find its way onto the social platforms and will be discussed on those platforms, but you cannot go in and try and take the audience permanently away from there.

How gamers discover analysis and content

Definitely driving the conversation – our tone of voice has a lot more flexibility to be able to do that right. We have to go in as appearing as a fan [ourselves]. There’s not much benefit to Dexerto appearing the absolute authority in a way that a legacy publisher might treat a review.

We’re much more coming from the position of being a fan. We’re on the floor at the YouTube boxing matches, we’re at gaming events, at esports events and whatnot. And having that tone of voice that really is side-by-side with the fan, brushes shoulders with the fan, keeps it a lot more conversational and encourages the fans to lead a conversation past a certain point versus relying on us to be constantly driving it from the top.

Top story: CNET’s article-writing AI is already publishing very dumb errors

Last week, reports emerged that tech news site CNET had been quietly publishing articles generated by an AI engine. However, according to Futurism, those articles are riddled with errors that any subject matter expert should have picked up. “The problem? It’s kind of a moron,” the article subhead read.

  • This isn’t unexpected. Analysts were full of examples over Christmas of how AI content generators like ChatGPT were churning out content that sounded reasonable, but was in fact false or inaccurate. What is surprising is that it got past the editors.
  • CNET EiC Connie Cuglielmo said that every story under the programme had been “reviewed, fact-checked and edited by an editor with topical expertise before we hit publish.”
  • But the Futurism article by Jon Christian points out some basic errors on financial advice pieces being published, including “dumb errors” on explainers about compound interest and how loans work. It’s not just that the AI is wrong, “it’s feeding terrible financial advice directly to people trying to improve their grasp of it,” he said.
  • “It’s not just AI that’s the issue here. It’s that AI is maturing at a moment when the journalism industry has already been hollowed out by a decades-long race to the bottom — a perfect storm for media bosses eager to cut funding for human writers.”
  • For NiemanLab’s predictions, Janet Haven, executive director of Data & Society did point out that it probably won’t be legitimate publishers that use it nefariously: “We will see ChatGPT and tools like it used in adversarial ways that are intended to undermine trust in information environments, pushing people away from public discourse to increasingly homogenous communities.”
  • The key point here is that in the early days of AI experiments, editorial vigilance should be at an all-time high so the fact errors like this can creep in is really concerning.

News in brief:

  • There’s a big update on Musk’s Twitter this week, from an in-depth pre-post-mortem in The Verge about the realities of the takeover, to this Guardian article demonstrating the financial straits which new Twitter has found itself in. A 40% YOY revenue drop, most major advertisers still pulling spend for brand safety reasons… The rollout of the new ‘For You’ algorithmic feed has also pissed some users off for the simple reasons that a) it’s crap, and b) almost every other social platform has tried this and then had to walk it back. Chris misses Old Twitter, but Musk’s changes are making it far easier to decouple from the platform in the meantime.
  • “We’re U.S. first” said Richard Campbell, MD of News at Future (The Week and The Week Junior). ‘Oooooooft,’ said everyone that has any memory of Future’s recent past. The quote made Peter queasy and he was sent a DM saying – “I do worry that your last line might be a little prophetic” and threatening to write a history of UK publishers’ misadventures in the US. They said: “In the USA it’s all about confidence, swagger, and a very obvious belief in your own products. “Go big or go home” is the US mantra. That’s utterly foreign to UK publications, so they end up going home.”
  • Axios Pro generated $2 million in 2022 with more than 3K paid subscribers. Axios launched its subscription business just twelve months ago, charging $599 for an annual subscription to one Pro newsletter or $2,499 for all of them. At the 1 year mark, they say their retention rate is 100%, but as Digiday’s Kayleigh Barber notes, they only offer annual subscriptions so it’ll be the next few months which prove a real test of that. Axios Pro is expected to generate at least 20% more this year based on the renewals it’s sold and increases to subscription packages.

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