Friday, November 1, 2013

Ruminations on Paintball & Media

Fragments of thoughts on this subject were brought to mind again recently from a number of sources and so I'm inclined to comment on them. (Wouldn't be much of a blog if I didn't. Yeah, yeah, I know and I don't want to hear it.) In order of least important to most there's the tiny tempest in the comments section of the recent post on the new masthead photo. It's inconsequential if mildly amusing but it does remind that photos of paintball at best serve as a record of the past but since most of them are simply pictures of anonymous players shooting guns they are literally a dime a dozen--if I'm being generous--and may please a few players but don't do much if anything for paintball. By the way, that's the criteria for these ruminations; what sorts of media may actually function as outreach for paintball? Since everything nowadays is about growing the game.
Well, there's a couple of magazines still around. Kinda. (Maybe?) (Is some version of APG still out there somewhere?) I like the one from Portugal 'cus it's plainly a labor of love. I liked Grind. There was a Russian one too but I haven't seen it around lately. Word is Paintball News has reappeared but rumor has it Valken is using it mostly for corporate promotion. (Anyone seen it yet?) There is of course the latest iteration of the now online only magazine that is working hard to produce volumes for everyone but could one possibly do a more perfunctory job? Hard to imagine. It's about as generic as generic gets with an emphasis on photos over written content and the written content is about as dull and unexciting as a day spent at the DMV. And have you ever noticed the photos tend to feature the advertisers--or maybe it's just me. It's almost as if the magazine really exists purely as a vehicle for advertisements.
Ironically, crass commercial advertising almost certainly reaches more non-paintballers than vanity photography and webzines aimed at existing players and if you broaden the definition of advertising a wee bit and include product packaging it's not even debatable. So there you have it. It's on all you advertisers to make sure your ads--if not your products--are suitably enticing that they draw in new players.

In this transitional era is media simply an echo chamber for those already actively involved in paintball or does it--can it--have a real role in promoting the game? More ruminations coming in part 2.

21 comments: said...

Would love to hear your thoughts on the increase of product placement media in relation to vanity photography related to female paintballers.The increase of gear given out because they have a few hundred males who hit "like" and your thoughts of what sort of outreach you consider it as.

Baca Loco said...

I hadn't even considered that so good catch. First I'm not a fan of "girl" teams if the girls are serious about their paintball but I realize it's the easy route to stuff and attention.
As to the specific question I think it's fringe at best. If it brings in anyone new the numbers are inconsequential nor do the numbers ad up in terms of market share. It happens because it's conventional wisdom and the guys in charge like girls too. End of the day it's pretty harmless--and pointless. said...

Thanks for your input. Would you maybe consider the loss of product/support from companies ad budgets tighten for sponsored teams who have ran the flag and supported brands for multiple years as harmful if there were more and more of these photo booth types of "models" taking resources out of budget lines for a quick exposure of products over the longer stronger marketing strategy that a team offers? Also thoughts on how the typical marketing with the focus only on the second head ("guys in charge like girls too" marketing) impacts lower divisional teams or teams trying to start a business relationship with a company as a potential sponsor?

Baca Loco said...

Okay, first I'm not sure it's an either or scenario--and second, it's tough to quantify the "real" value of sponsoring a team. A substantive PB company should have a marketing budget with either a separate or subordinate sponsorship budget and in either case the one cost shouldn't affect the other. Moving down the food chain of PB companies often times the issue can be are we making enough money today to keep the bear away. If the bottom line is immediate results ...
Regarding virtually any divisional team in the present environment most if not all can get "sponsored" if what we really mean is discounts on gear packages. To do better than that the team has to offer some additional value and once again we're at the place where we (or potential sponsors) have to decide what the nebulous value is in real dollars.

Lawrence A said...

Back on topic to the are some thoughts that I was planning on putting into a post this week for our site; this will be a good launching point.

I started writing for the paintball media a mere 2 years ago, so I dont have a ton of experience and knowledge of the ins and outs of the old magazines, but I do know that what I've encountered is not sustainable. Nobody is supporting the "media" as they should, or realize the importance of it in the overall narrative in paintball. The question is class: If a tree falls in the woods but nobody is around to hear, does it make a sound? - If a tournament happens in Florida and nobody is there to document it, does it really matter?

Social decided to tackle this problem by going to an online publication that is updated as often as any main-stream website is. No monthly updates; daily at best, weekly at worst, of covering the game as fully as we could. We wanted to, and still wish to, change the way the game is covered and written about. I got sick of reading "and a good time was had by all" because it's not true. A few of us got sick of the vanilla reporting and complete lack of analysis of how the game was played. So we've done what we can to change that. To date, I still havnt found a paintball website that has done all the types of articles and coverage we have done. PaintballAccess is catching up, but there is still so much more that can be done - by all parties involved.

Have we done a great job? I think we've done as good as we can with the resources provided. But do you know what kills me? It's not that there has been any pushback from any one institution, it's the apparent apathy by the entire sport.

Teams/players/the industry do not realize what a valuable resource it could be to have a somewhat legitimate - relevant - news source for the game.

Right now the only real player in the game, website, wise is PBNation. I'm not going into the pros and cons of PBNation; it's a fantastic operation that has done a good job at creating a monopoly of text based media (in my opinion); which has hurt the "little" guy in terms of monies. Also, in our quest to make a better product for the game we ran into some animosity because we were not willing to be the talking head of one single company.

But over all those things, the people I'm most disappointed with is the players and teams. The teams dont seem legitimately interested in building a fan base, could care less about sustainability and are only trying to get their glory shots for cheap. They believe that they can operate independent of the paintball media - which they can, but if the sport is ever going to grow there has to be some cooperation. Not only that, but the lack of readership by the rest of the community is simply horrid. Heck, it's not even readership it's viewership too. We have the numbers:

Right now the PBA breakdowns on our YouTube channel carry around 4.5k views per video. That's a 45 min. segment of nothing but paintball news and talk! Unheard of until now and in the same arena as any other sport in the land! On the flip side, we have a 3 min video with over 100k views. It is obvious to me that the player base and those interested in the sport really arent that interested in what's happening outside of their local area - which isnt sustainable. But why? Because the industry and teams havent made it "fun" to follow paintball and until recently it's been too hard. Not because people werent trying but because they were not willing to help the "media". In our opinion, if paintball is not fun to follow as an "insider", it'll be dang near impossible to do it as an "outsider."

As for the outreach...there are avenues the sport has not yet explored, but is beginning to venture into that gives me hope.

Baca Loco said...

Some quality ruminating there, Larry.
One of the things the magazine- centric media did was celebrate the pro game almost to exclusion--as did many of the advertisers in the ways they promoted their products and unintentionally the way a magazine connected to the public was vastly different than the kind of immediacy we have today in videos and even the webcast.
Part of the problem today is that unlike in years past the gulf that seemed to exist between the pros and the rest doesn't "feel" the same anymore. Players still aspire to play pro but there isn't much mystery left and with younger players imagining that playing D1 puts them on a near footing to the level of pro play it makes it a tougher sell, if you will.
Add to that the fact even the pro teams struggle with season to season survival the sport is simply at an immature stage in its development. Something that probably and unfortunately can't be hurried along. In the meantime it's clear that outlets like PBA and Social are working hard to push the old boundaries and find new avenues of outreach. Even forward thinking elements of industry are doing so as well. One can only hope that the majority will see the value in working toward and valuing a sustainable paintball-centric media in the (near) future.

Anonymous said...

Here is your problem with media in the new world.

We read about a scoop on social and talk about it on pbn or Facebook. We see an awesome game on PBA and talk about it on pbn or Facebook.

And Facebook is increasingly much much bigger but more fragmented (obviously).

So the new things the content makers can do is get more scoops or make more great footage, but even then recognize few will stay on your site. Most will see and talk about it elsewhere.

Content creation is expensive. Users are fickle and spend their time elsewhere.

These are the reasons why new traditional content delivery is doomed - and by that I mean even a website you expect people to go to and stay on.

Certainly you can build a niche, but there isn't much hope of mass adoption.

Israel said...

And that's why the "media" should work together, but many refuse too. Many, which you can't even categorize as "legit" media, would prefer to go down in flames than work together with others. When a simple source link is flat out refused to be credited by some sites, something that is such common courtesy that even Coach does it on this blog.

A majority of teams/players simply DGAF enough to do anything to build their brands through working with the media.

Many paintball photographers and videographers have no self-worth.

There's so much more that could be said, but I'll leave that to the intellectuals.

The word that comes to mind is apathy. It's a fundamental problem in paintball.

Baca Loco said...

Even Coach? Even Coach? Geez, Israel, the very definition of damned with faint praise. :)

NewPro said...

since cynical/pessimistic is your middle name and you're obv not cheering on rather disappointing numbers for PBA's product, will you call a spade a hoe and inform everyone that no one outside of PB cares about pb, wants to watch pb nor will they throw money at pb.

Part deux, in your opinion, what is the angle, if not the above, of the companies financially supporting this entity?

Baca Loco said...

Actually it's Danger but that's a whole different story, NewPro.
I won't say that but what I will say is that Paintball will certainly remain a niche sport for the foreseeable future, but--
niche marketing will be a significant factor in the future of advertising and PBA is trying to catch (grow, build) that wave in early days and potentially develop the kind of expertise that may allow them, in one corporate guise or another, to branch out in the future.
PBA is serious about building a viable means of delivering tournament paintball to an international audience and at some point that effort has got to make money or at least break even.

NewPro said...

no coach, that's a politicians answer to # 2, i read and respect your column for the non "brainwashed" answer

Anonymous said...

Baca your missing the important fact that content creation is expensive.

Cats on YouTube costs nothing. More people watch cats on YouTube than PBA.

And that doesn't even factor in the quality content people watch on youtube (music videos, original content etc). Then you have various Roku channels, social media advertising. Etc.

All of this is either low cost content or syndicated content.

And the advertising is far less than pba costs.

So why would Pepsi want to reach X people on lbs when they can reach Xx3 people on various syndicated content sites for less.

The old model was to create content and sell ads. PBA just moved the old model online and locked down distribution.

The new models involve hundreds of content producers and open distribution.

PBA will not be an advertising success unless they get lucky with a company who has money to burn and doesn't mind making mistakes.

Look at it this way. Everyone wait pba also watches other video that is cheaper to advertise on and frequents other sites that are cheaper to advertise on. What does pba offer one advertisers?

Don't get me wrong, as a consumer I like it. But what are they giving advertisers?

Anonymous said...

lbs = PBA

Baca Loco said...

No, NewPro, it's not. A serious chunk of change has been and continues to be expended to keep PBA operating. Is it a fool's errand? I hope not nor do I think it's an impossible task. Doesn't mean this effort will succeed but if the peeps with the resources to try ever stop then paintball's chances will be greatly diminished.

Baca Loco said...

1057 Anon
I'm not convinced it's an either or proposition. The whole point of adopting a broad spectrum marketing campaign is because today's market place is so fragmented. Most of what you mention is valid but not exclusionary. That still leaves open the question of whether or not there is a viable model that makes the PBA profitable or at least self-supporting. On that score I'm agnostic.

PBGirl69 said...

Please excuse any grammatical or spelling errors, as 16 hours working on photos today tend to kill the mind. I do hope that this isn’t over-written and as exciting as a day at the DMV. (Sorry Baca had to take that jab at you). For me it’s very hard to write a “short” comment. Here is my two cents worth (may derail a bit as well)

When I started playing and in paintball media, soon to be 15yrs ago, PBNation was THE ONLY place to go for paintball players to hang out online. There weren’t many kick ass "vanity" (if any at all) photos and no video material at all for all to view there. It was and still is today, the place to go to for REAL news –(no made up stories or gossip, or we’ve have a close to the source informant)- the place for scoops, interaction with pro players and pro teams, vids and of course BST and the occasional trash talk each other.

I’ve written for nearly all of the paintball magazines before either in print or recently in digital format. They will come and go, will continue to do so. The only print magazine I know that is still in production is the French only XPaint magazine, but is limited to the French speaking paintball community. As things have changed, PBNation is still there while others have come and gone; just as the "legit" media sources will come and go.

There are some *legit” media sources who have just entered the media market, some maybe less than 5yrs in existence, who strive to be the biggest, baddest and the best. But if you look at it this way, it’s survival of the fittest. In the wild there are some animals that puff up to make themselves bigger than they really are. In today's digital world there is really no way possible to see who is puffing up and who isn't. So in regards to comment about the videos that get 100,000 views while those on others, lets say PBNation, don't have near the same amount of views makes it very hard to tell what’s right, unless these media outlets want to publish their real time web stats (that’s never going to happen)…and well there is Photoshop fix for that too. Google the net anyone and everyone can pay for the acquisition of fans, readers, subscribers and followers on various social media platforms, i.e. YouTube.

(sorry too long of a diatribe - had to make two posts)

PBGirl69 said...

Companies such as PBA and magazines XPaint and G5 are bringing something new and fresh to the playground. And no matter how you look at it paintball needs media, media needs companies ad money to make it worth their time and effort, and players need the media in order to get those sponsorship brownie points. It’s the circle of life in paintball. Web and social media is where it’s at and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to get their piece of the action.

As for the self worth comment…well that another day at the DMV subject.

Upfront and honest - I'm not the biggest, the baddest or the best...never have claimed that and never will. I do what I do because I love the game. I have my morals and I do what I think is right for me. The best part - I travel around the world 9-10 months out of the year doing what I love. I don't have a normal job. I’m not a weekend jockey. This is what I do 24/7. You either like me or don’t, its not something I’m going to fret over.

I am proud of what I do and can say I’ve worked with, still working with today, and hope to work with in the future some of the biggest names in the industry. Together with four other independent media companies from around the world we have a tight knit “team”. We all have the same common goal and work well together to achieve that goal.

And as for the comment (sorry have to copy and paste so that no one gets upset about my spelling errors) “that's why the "media" should work together, but many refuse too. Many, which you can't even categorize as "legit" media, would prefer to go down in flames than work together with others” (sorry don’t have link to credit back to the source). Won’t lie there are some on my list. With that being said, Baca would you do me the honors of handing me the lighter fluid and matches?

Baca Loco said...

First I should have been a bit more precise in my comments. I was referring exclusively to the North American version and content is ultimately the responsibility of editorial. If I carelessly offended I apologise. :) As to vanity photography the description isn't about those taking photos but rather the market they are trying to sell to.
Thanks for the comments--you and they are always welcome.

PBGirl69 said...

nope not intended :) and yup I knew and yup on the vanity part :) I normally just skulk in the shadows reading but some points here that I just could not pass up without adding my 2 cents worth :)

Israel said...

Hi PBGirl69,
I agree that paintball needs the media and the whole circle of life idea.

I honestly do not think that the digi mags are doing anything ground breaking, if anything, they are stagnant.

Regarding the newer media sites comment you made: "There are some *legit” media sources who have just entered the media market, some maybe less than 5yrs in existence, who strive to be the biggest, baddest and the best."

I can't speak for others, but SocialPb started in 2009. While we aren't the oldest on the block, I am proud to say that we have tried our best to do what we can to promote and legitimize the sport within the limited resources we have. And I think it's safe to say that we've done a decent job of producing written and video content that has helped inform others.

While I do agree that some companies are lying about their numbers and that it is possible to purchase likes, subs, followers, etc, I think that's an overall stupid idea to even consider doing so. At the end of the day, it's a waste of money and Social has never had to, thank goodness, purchase any fake views or Likes to inflate our numbers. It's actually never even crossed my mind. The more I think about it, the more I think it's just dumb. Doing so would jeopardize the reputation we've built within the community. No one is going to freely divulge their site traffic, but you can take an educated guess by looking at profiles on FB, Twitter, Youtube, etc. You can also gauge ones reach by simply asking paintballers if they've heard of said company. 20+ million views kind of speaks for itself.

Also, without some of these newcomer "legit" media sites, sites like PBN would not even be trying to be getting into video. They would just be content being the big boy and not trying to improve and add value to their site.

And no need for a link back in the comment, that was a poor attempt of a joke. I know you can do better than that Ami. ;)