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Advice To New Poker Writers Part 1: The State of the Industry


For maybe the last three years, not a week has gone by without somebody asking me for advice relating to the world of poker media. Often this is from new poker writers wanting to know how to find work in the poker industry or critique their work. A lot of the time poker rooms/events/businesses looking to get more exposure or help with a poker press release. I have helped a few players get sponsorship, been on a few judging panels, and sometimes it is as simple as folks asking me to retweet a tweet of theirs. 

I always try my best to help them, for a number of reasons. Mainly because I like being helpful, and probably, being liked. I also love to network, and figure that some of these guys will be leaders of industry one day when I need work myself. However, I am pretty busy these days, and finding it harder to answer all the emails I get. 

So I am going to start using my blog to document some of the main things I get asked advice on, as well as maybe focusing on the business of poker side journalism a little more. I am going to start with probably the subject I get quizzed on most of all, advice to new poker writers. 

Advice to new poker writers part 1: The state of the industry
I have been doing this for six years, and back when I started, the job of poker journalist did not exist. I got lucky, WPT magazine offered me some money to publish something I wrote on a forum, and I took it from there. I started looking for all the places that might possibly pay me to write about poker and pestered them until they did. 

WPT Magazine, where I started
Back then the industry was vastly different to what it is today. The game was booming, advertisers were paying magazines huge sums, and the competition was incredibly low. Print magazines were where the money was, and they paid very very well. 

Affiliate sites were making plenty of money at the time too, but they were not really hiring or producing content in the same capacity as they are today. I have not been as well paid for any single article I have written (Exception being the book I wrote of course) than I was from the magazines from 2006. 

Fast forward to today and we have been through the UIEGA, a recession, and Black Friday. The poker media industry has changed dramatically.

First of all, I hate to say it, but the magazines are dying. Most of their revenues came from advertising, not subscriptions, and they have possibly been hit harder by Black Friday than the affiliate sites. They do not have the same budgets to pay freelancers they once did, in fact some have no budgets at all, and rely on staff writers and free content from people plugging something (Sponsored pros, poker rooms, poker products etc).

This is not just a poker problem, print media in general is in a massive decline. I expect a few magazines to close their doors in 2012, even if the US market comes back with a vengeance.

To make it as a writer these days, websites are where it is at. They too have been hit hard by Black Friday, but the audience wants their content online these days. People want their news and articles instantly, on the go, on their iphones, and easy to digest. 

Although it is a terrible time for the poker industry in general, it is an amazing time to be a writer. There is so much to write about. I honestly do not know how I managed to churn out so much content in 2006, when things to write about consisted on 'whats the difference between no limit and pot limit' or 'man wins poker tournament'. These days there is so much to write about: scandals, legislation, software, online cash games, live tournaments, strategy, interviews, gossip - the list goes on. 

The pay is less these days, and it is much more competitive, but there are now so many more options available to a poker writer: News sites, affiliate sites, magazines, poker room blogs, personal blogs, training sites, ebooks, live tournament reporting, premium content sites, ghost writing blogs, and much more. 

I am going to go into more detail about places to get started in a future blog, but one last point I would like to make is about live tournament reporting. I think that the guys that report live from tournaments these days put themselves in the best position to get regular work, because the industry is positioned in such a way that they are at the heart of a lot of things. 

Lee Davy hard at work
Doing live reporting first of all means you get to make a ton of great contacts, and that alone is worth the effort. You also get to report instantly on what is happening, which is exactly what the modern audience want. You get to meet all the players, which is great for setting up additional work interviewing them. It is also a great reason for people to follow you on twitter, which could serve you well further down the line if you ever have a product you want to sell, and you have an army of fans ready to buy it. 

If any fledgling writer gets a chance to report live from an event, I advise them to do it as long as they can stomach the long hours and extended periods of boredom. I have two mates, Lee Davy and Matthew Pitt, who I both managed to get some work doing live reporting. This became the catalyst for them both getting a ton of work and now they have too much to handle (They also got the work because they work incredibly hard and are very enthusiastic, more on that in a future blog). Anyone who says there is no work out there need to follow the lead of these guys. 

More to come later on this week....

6 comments:

Kevin Stevens said...

you never got me any work, is it cos I is shit and does bad engleesh and that?

swampsterjy said...

I think i did a count a couple of months ago and totted up 14 print poker or gambling titles in 2004. There are now 3. (UK i'm talking about here).

HArd times indeed...

Chingster23 said...

Thanks for the kind words Barry. You did indeed provide me with my big break and I will always be grateful to you for that.

Chingster23 said...

And thanks for the link because it drew two readers to my site, something that is really important.

Barry Carter said...

@Kev - you are about as good as me, spellcheck has basically saved me from a life on the streets

@Jon - I think that WPT & PokerPlayer are the only mags with a hope of long term sustainability on the UK, just because they strike me as the only ones people would pay for/subscribe to.

@Lee - You gave yourself the big break by being enthusiastic, see my second blog for more on that

swampsterjy said...

i should add, and I know this isn't ideal, but we are offering internships (and pretty involved roles) to WPT Poker magazine. The money may not be there any more, but the practical experience is.

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