LOTRO: Bloggers are Press, Streamers Aren’t

Participating in blogs, fansites and podcasts can be a tremendous experience. It can also be a little confusing when trying to determine where you fit in the grand ecosphere of press/new media/indie media. Just when you think you’ve got a good handle on your role, a new wrinkle is thrown into the equation. Video has stormed onto the video gaming/content creation scene thanks to accessible tools like OBS and Twitch. It was on one such stream a few weeks ago that I heard LOTRO community manager Frelorn make a statement that surprised me a little. Frelorn mentioned that the applications for the 2015 LOTRO Players Council would be going out soon. Upon questioning from the chat, he also validated that LOTRO streamers would be eligible to apply for the council. While this may not seem like a big deal to the casual observer, it does seem to draw an interesting line revealing who LOTRO considers “press”. The 2015 Players Council will be the 3rd iteration of player representatives chosen to participate in a private forum and provide feedback to Turbine prior to certain decisions being made. It’s interesting to note that the language surrounding who is excluded from participation in the players council has changed over time. In the original agreement, the following bullet was included regarding the exclusion of press and journalists:

  • Members of the press or those acting in a journalistic/editorial capacity are not eligible to participate on the council.

I was not participating in blogging, podcasting or fansites at the time, but I do remember some small controversy relating to guests who had participated in A Casual Stroll to Mordor podcast roundtables being excluded from participation. At least I think I remember that. The memory can be funny at times, and this was a few years ago. What I’m fairly certain of, however, is that hosts Merric and Goldenstar specifically reached out to then community manager Sapience for clarification on this point, which probably led to alteration of the language in the 2014 agreement:

  • Members of the professional, indie, or fan site press or those acting in a journalistic/editorial/volunteer capacity at recognized news/press/fan site outlets are not eligible to participate on the council.

While this language was no doubt intended to draw a clearer line in the sand as to who was eligible or ineligible, it arguably does the opposite. In the new language, fan sites (such as CSTM and LOTRO Players) are specifically called out, but so are volunteers at “indie press” sites. While I’m not exactly sure what that term means to Turbine, I read it as blogs. Turbine considers bloggers press. What makes this division curious, however, is that Turbine has two distinct paths for dealing with outside entities. They communicate with games press via public relations, while fan sites must interact with the company via the community manager. Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply define ‘press’ as those with whom you interact via PR? The new language probably eliminates about half of your most passionate players, but I guess you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Which brings me back to the specific inclusion of YouTubers and streamers for the 2015 version of the players council. In the most recent version of the application (released today), the language regarding exclusion of indie and fan sites remains the same. When I saw this, I wanted to clarify that their stance on video and streaming had not changed since the Frelorn stream, so I tweeted this question, and received the following response: Streamers are cool, you're not To recap:

Press: Journalists, fan sites, bloggers, podcasters? (I tend to lump podcasters in with fan sites or bloggers, though they were not specifically excluded via the agreement language)

Not press: Streamers, YouTubers, forum posters, tweeters, facebookers, Anookers (providing you don’t have a blog there, I guess) and everybody else who’s played the game within the last 6 months.

Besides the obvious fuzzy line, there are a couple other things that Turbine has done recently that induces some head scratching. The recently formed official LOTRO Stream Team was largely greeted favorably by the community and seen as a pivot-point for the company. They were finally reaching out and supporting the community that had for so long supported them! In fact, I praised the move on an episode of LOTRO Players news. But what happens if one of these streamers is selected for the players council? They’re eligible, but they’ve also obviously benefited by being allowed to stream via LOTRO’s official Twitch channel, and have been given awards (Turbine Points) from the company to use as giveaways to their audience. Can a streamer who’s entered into this type of beneficial relationship with Turbine be expected to give critical reviews of that same company’s decisions without fear of reprisal? If nothing else, this would put the stream team member in a bad position with the rest of the community, as the perception of impartiality would no doubt be compromised. Lastly, and even most strange of all, is that none of this is even an issue for Turbine’s “other” property, Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO), because it’s players council application language has not changed from the original:

  • Members of the press or those acting in a journalistic/editorial capacity are not eligible to participate on the council.

DDO has completely avoided the slippery slope that LOTRO has created for themselves. In fact, the community manager for DDO seems to welcome the inclusion of all content creators, provided they are not paid journalists: DDO Forum Post Kind of makes you wonder why LOTRO went to all the trouble to change the application language in the first place.

Featured image by Jacob Bøtter on Flickr Creative Commons

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5 thoughts on “LOTRO: Bloggers are Press, Streamers Aren’t

  1. Ranni, the Flamingbard March 26, 2015 / 7:35 pm

    Are DDO blogs as negative as LotRO blogs sometimes are? Maybe it’s something along those lines that factored in their decision. Odd to see two different takes from the same company, though.

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  2. Edward March 27, 2015 / 6:09 am

    I own a french LOTRO fansite, and while I don’t consider myself as press, I have by the past received invitation from PR to assist press preview on Twitch along Massively or MMORPG.com.

    This is because WarnerBros outsource PR to a company here in Europe for some of this games, including LOTRO. And this company contacted me and others as we were professional journalists. At that time I was surprised (and pleased) to get such attentions.

    So this does not comes from Turbine, I’m not even sure Turbine knows WB does PR in Europe for frenchs and germans.

    We also have a team of dedicated community managers, for french and german speaking players supporting us for TP giveaways.

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  3. Jaedia March 29, 2015 / 7:00 pm

    I think it depends, a lot. If you’re talking about a product in an informative way and being read/listened to, then I’d say you’re press. If what you do is purely entertainment/opinion, then it leans more towards fan-media. My 2 cents, anyway.

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  4. zyngor April 3, 2015 / 4:08 pm

    Yeh, it can be a bit of a sloppery slip. Fortunately, from what I’ve heard, the players also understand the situation, and I believe several of the official streamers do not plan on signing up for the PC. If they got nominated or invited in some fashion, they might consider, but as it stands, the combination of player interaction for several hours a day & remembering to keep the NDA in mind is not a great formula. Nor would I doubt streamers would want to be pestered on a stream-ly basis for certain information that may not be public knowledge.

    Naturally, anything I said is subject to change, like the aforementioned PC restrictions. 😀

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    • Braxwolf April 3, 2015 / 6:04 pm

      I just think they should remove the language that they added. The selection of the PC is completely at their discretion, anyway, so why discourage somebody from applying up-front? If they apply, and Turbine considers them unfit for representation for *whatever* reason, they have the right to not pick them without further explanation. Simple as that. It’s unnecessary language that adds unnecessary confusion and possibly exclusion.

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