Poker Media 2.0

Poker Media 2.0

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-13-52-58There has never been a better time for the poker media, unfortunately for those of us who have worked in the poker media for a long time, we don’t factor in as much as we used to. Poker media is on a high right now because it is the best players in the world producing some of the best content (on exciting new platforms like YouTube, Twitch and PokerGO).

People like Doug Polk, Joe Ingram, Andrew Neeme, Daniel Negreanu, Parker Talbot and Jason Somerville are all putting out podcasts, videos and Twitch streams which regularly attract the biggest audiences in poker. It is true that what separates poker media from other media industries is that we are all players of the game so we understand it better than a sports journalist understands football, but right now many of the absolute top players are actually competing with the traditional poker media.

It stands to reason that somebody like Doug Polk, who has crushed the game for some time, is going to have some great insights when he produces a video. He knows what it’s like to win a seven-figure prize in a tournament, so there will be things had can comment on when he creates content on that subject which somebody like myself can only speculate about when I write about a tournament winner. Even better for poker is the fact that somebody like Doug is not entirely (or at least, immediately) motivated by money because he gets it from elsewhere, so there is no need to appease affiliates or choose to create content purely because it’s proven to convert.

The best minds in the game making the best content

This has been true for poker strategy content for a long time, invariably the players who do the best at the game also self select for being the most likely to sell advice on how to play. Previously the wider poker media provided the platforms for them to do that, but increasingly we are seeing players making their own websites and selling their secrets as a ‘solopreneur’ operation. They may attract smaller audiences but retain all of their profits.

It’s even been built into player sponsorship for a while now. With few exceptions the folks that get sponsored within poker these days at a minimum have a strong social media following, but more likely have a regular, thriving, YouTube or Twitch platform which they have grown organically. Look at the recent PokerStars signings of Jeff Gross and ‘Fintan and Spraggy’, and prior to that Jaime Staples, Jason Somerville and 888poker’s signing of Parker Talbot. All great players, but there is no shortage of great players. They all got their deals because they created great content and are super productive. Even old school sponsored pros like Daniel Negreanu and Lex Veldhuis have reinvented themselves in this way to remain relevant.

The greatest time ever for content

DSC0217This is great for poker, I genuinely believe that along with the quality of the live streams these days (and most recently, PokerGO), there has never been a better time for poker content. It does create challenges for those of us in what I probably should refer to as ‘Old Poker Media’ or ‘Poker Media 1.0’. We are to some extent competing with people who are much better than us at poker, do not need the money, are less beholden to advertisers (except the sponsored players, who are more so) and in some cases (sorry fellow poker media) have higher IQs than us. This shouldn’t be a crisis for Poker Media 1.0, it should be an opportunity, the Doug Polks and the Joe Ingrams are pointing the way for what the audience enjoys.

There is still a market for the stalwart elements of poker media. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised to see how the live stream has not killed the written live tournament updates, for example. People still want to consume written news, in fact video hasn’t killed the written word in poker either (probably as there are more places than ever throughout the day where we can read news, thanks to our smartphones). Having said that, the biggest advice I would give poker content creators (who are not professionals) today is to learn how to create different types of content – videos, podcasts, editing, graphics, streams etc, not just the written word. Especially because while the affiliate sites themselves may not be anywhere near as ubiquitous, poker operators and professional poker players wanting to emulate Doug Polk will be wanting to hire poker media people with a breadth of talents to do the heavy lifting for them.

I myself have been aware of this for a while and in my day-to-day writing I have been concentrating much more on a chronically unserved demographic, the recreational player. We talk about them all the time and the operators are making a shift towards serving them over professionals, but the poker media itself has tended to concentrate on the aspirational pro culture. I suck donkey balls at poker so rather than trying to compete directly with the pros who create content, I’ve been writing a lot more about the preferences and mindset of casual players, like myself. For individual poker media professionals, on top on diversifying your talents, I would advise you cast a wider net and write more about topics where a professional doesn’t have distinct authority over you (Bitcoin, regulation, eSports, sports betting, DFS, and so on).

This is no doomsday prediction, this is not the death of the poker media. I was tremendously down about the prospects for the poker media (and industry in general) for several years after Black Friday, but I have been in awe at the industry in general ever since Twitch became a big thing in poker, now I think it is on a high, even if not as much money is thrown at it. The challenge for the ‘Old Guard’ is not that the poker media is dying, it is how can we add to ‘Poker Media 2.0’ in new and exciting ways.

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