It's been over a week since Gamespot fired Jeff Gerstmann and created the biggest controversy of 2007. I didn't think we'd be able to top Manhunt 2 mess but the termination of one of the industry’s leading journalists has created a firestorm of controversy. Who knew that one of the biggest controversies of 2007 would involve an average game like Kane and Lynch and wouldn't involve Rockstar and/or Jack Thompson?
Now that the dust has cleared it does look like Jeff was fired for reasons other than his review. Unfortunately the damage to Gamespot’s reputation have already been done. Ten years of journalism excellence has been flushed down the toilet and and created huge credibility gap with readers and advertisers.
This damage not only hurts the game from a readership and subscription perspective but what company now wants to advertise with such a tainted brand? I’m already hearing rumors that advertisers are starting to spend their money elsewhere because they don’t want to taint their product by advertising on the site. If that's the case then Gamespot is getting it from both sides.
This raises the question of “How does Gamespot” fix this problem. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix that will reset everything back to normal. They can’t just re-hire Jeff Gerstmann and move on like nothing happened. Here are a steps that Gamespot could take to start re-building their brand and their reputation.
From the reports that have surfaced online there is/was some kind of power struggle going on between the advertising and editorial sides of the house. In order to restore credibility that power struggle needs to disappear and the best way to do it is to get rid of the people who created the situation.
The main person behind that seems to be VP of Games Josh Larson who may have been pushing back on the tone of some of the reviews in order to curry favor with advertisers. Again these are based on reports but if there is anything remotely true to the story than Mr. Larson needs to join Mr. Gerstmann in the unemployment line. I'm not sure if this will help much but it's just the start of the pink slips.
The folks at C|Net may also want to conduct a review of their sales people and determine if any of them needs a permanent vacation as well. By firing these people Gamespot can re-create the feeling that any reason for concern is no longer with the organization. I wouldn’t focus completely on the sales staff and you could use this process as an opportunity to weed out weaker writers on the staff.
Bring in a trusted name from outside the organization
Now that you have cleaned house it’s time to bring in some new credible new blood to help re-establish your credibility with advertisers and readers. Promoting someone from inside the organization doesn’t do you any good and an infusion of new blood is usually a good thing. My short list of candidates would include N’Gai Croal, Stephen Totilo, Christopher Grant, Kyle Oreland, and Brian Crecente but that's by no means a complete list.
All of these writers will need serious convincing to put their reputation on the line for Gamespot and you will probably have to back up the money truck to pull one of these writers out of their current positions. The new blood will also help attract some new readers as well and bringing respect and trust the publication and you can't put a price tag on that.
These writers wouldn’t necessarily have to write reviews but could focus on features and serve as a review ombudsman for the site. I know it’s a bit of a cheesy metaphor but they would essentially act as the canary in the mineshaft for the balance between editorial and sales.
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