Have poker news outlets letdown the community

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Nov 06, 2012 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

Poker news is really no different from mainstream news; each website has their own biases, gets their advertising money from specific sources, and is predicated on access –access to players, to press releases and information, and most importantly access to affiliate partnerships with online poker rooms. Recently we saw this made about as plain as plain can be when PokerStrategy.com released an announcement explaining how the site slants their news, and why they have had little compunction when it comes to slamming Full Tilt Poker in recent articles. The statement can be found on the PokerStrategy.com forums and was penned by CEO Dominik Kofert, who explicitly stated that “PokerStrategy.com’s business model is based on receiving advertisement commissions from poker rooms.” Here are the pertinent parts to this column:

“The reason for PokerStrategy.com’s existence is also its weakness: in order to receive commissions from a poker room, we must enter into an advertisement agreement. Those agreements generally require that we promote the poker room and place restrictions on negative coverage… Full Tilt Poker chose not to be bound by the previous contract with PokerStrategy.com… Without such a contract in place we can voice our opinion about Full Tilt’s move and transparently inform all affected users about the consequences which this has for them.”

This statement pretty much begs the question: Whose interests are the poker news sites representing? The industry they cover or the players who rely on these sites for their information?

Over the years there have been countless instances of criticism heaped on online poker news outlets, especially during the Super-User scandals when many critics felt news outlets were complicit or at the least negligent in their refusal to cover the scandals. Even now, as online poker rooms catch plenty of heat on poker forums, there are few outlets that bring these stories to light as affiliate deals (the source of a poker news site’s revenue) would hang in the balance.

Before you say I’m throwing my brethren, and by extension myself, under the bus, let me be clear that I don’t feel it is the poker media’s job to police the poker world, and there simply isn’t the resources for any of us to do real investigative journalism, it’s simply not going to happen. That said, there are plenty of outlets that seem to hype up the poker sites listed in the sidebar, and go after the ones not listed. And what is a little disconcerting is that they do it under the guise of simply offering up the “news”.

Even sites with no clear affiliations have their favorite whipping boys, and they cheerlead for other sites based on their own experiences and biases. It’s not surprising that an article about Howard Lederer’s interview with PokerNews could look like two different events based on who is writing it, but when it comes down to actual poker site news these biases can have a far more serious impact.

What I would like to see is a bit more transparency from poker news sites; clearly showing which sites they are affiliated with (maybe with a brief preface at the beginning of an article stating: GenericPokerMedia.com is an affiliate partner of RealGamblingOnline.org) so the general public and poker players can understand which way some of these sites are slanted and where there biases are.

It’s unlikely this would hurt a site in any way, just like Fox News makes no bones about the fact they are a Republican-leaning outlet and MSNBC leans towards the Democrats. People will still watch these channels, some as believers and some as skeptics. Poker news sites could do the same, people who read a negative thread about XYZ Poker could go to one of their affiliate sites to see their version of the story, and people looking for dirt can find it at a news outlet that doesn’t have an affiliate deal with them. What we simply need is transparency, and I feel the poker news outlets (especially the ones that have raked in millions through affiliate deals) owe this to poker players.

Basically, I don’t think the poker community has any right to expect exposes and undercover investigations from the poker media, but they should be able to easily recognize where a site’s biases are, and whether news about a particular poker room is being seen through rose colored glasses or narrated in that creepy, doomsday, voice we hear in negative political ads.


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