For most of the evening of November 27, I was fuming with anger. It was not that people were negatively commenting on the policies that I have enacted with IGM. Rather, it was that people were angry at me and my company for actually having the audacity to conduct business in a manner of my choosing.
I was originally wanted to backlash and voice my anger and figure out a very polite way to tell people to let me run my business how I wanted to run my business, and to some extent, I did that.
That leads into why I felt that it was important for me to write this article and step into the forefront. The change in course for IGM was 100% my decision. I believe even today that this is the best course for my company even though a few people have been fairly vocal about the displeasure of my decision.
As I made these decisions, there were several factors that I knew going into the purchase of IGM. The biggest understanding was that IGM doesn’t make much money. As I tell everyone, we are an indie company just like those who we support and have done for over five years. So for me to continue demanding the highest quality articles and highest frequency news from my team, I simply had to find a way to retain and reward my staff. IGM had been surviving on volunteer labor for years and over the course of many years, we lost many quality writers to larger fish because we could not generate enough funds monthly via advertisement sales, which of course made our viewership drop and continue the cycle.
Additionally, I wanted to actually offer compensation to the guys on the team who were not writing. We have guys who do marketing, moderate the forums, edit articles, etc. All of them deserve the respect of getting rewarded for their time and loyalty investment to our staff and company.
The reason that I stepped up and purchased the site was because I love this site. I love our community. I love what the indie movement stands for. At any moment, we all pitch together to help another of our breed simply because he is one of us. He has that indie spirit. He doesn’t want someone telling him how to make his game, “Damn it! I know in my heart that this is awesome! I just need a little more time, a little more money, a little more energy.” IGM is no different. More so than my competition, we relate perfectly to the indie developers. They may not be the biggest fish with 500,000 Twitter followers, but they are the underdogs just like us.
I wanted to tell a short story about a guy I worked for a little time ago. He was developing an iOS app and found out that I had contacts with many of the major news sites in the Magic: The Gathering community. He brought me on as a marketer and I worked with him to develop a plan and execution strategy on how to best spread the word about the app. I then busted my hump and found the contact information for over 100 mobile app review sites and the next time we released a new version of the program, I distributed my beautiful press release and my super organized media kit and I sat back just waiting for the returned emails. When they came… I was shocked. Exactly one site reviewed my content and actually posted about it. Not long after that, I began to receive an overwhelming number of auto-replies that outlined how they were super ultra-busy with all of the incoming review requests and how they couldn’t possibly get to everything… but if you pay them a expedition fee of $150.00 – $200.00, they would get to it right away.
Yes, if you have seen my typical introduction email, now you know where I got my model. However, what I have done is fixed the problem. While these sites authentically had traffic, they were not publishing anything if you didn’t pay the fee. Because I didn’t give them money, we never received a review. That is not how IGM works.
What I clearly outlined in my overview is that we require a $50.00 fee to be paid in order to provide compensation to my team. If you don’t have the $50.00, that is totally understandable, and I will have one of my writers provide you with a game preview at no cost. However, I also stated in the email, which was not yet pointed out, that if you want the review and don’t have the money, I accept labor trade instead. I would classify labor as doing a graphic for IGM, write a code or something that the team can easily do that will be equal value trade to both parties.
Seemingly, the indie community is only looking at the $50.00 from the Developer to get a review and the money goes into Chris’ pocket. That is not the case at all. In fact, the other part of my plan was not public information until now: my compensation plan.
In the past, we have attempted to develop compensation plans for our team based on production rather than merit. Meaning, for every news, review, etc. you were paid a set amount of money, regardless of the quality or traffic it generated. That didn’t work out well because of varying factors, but the reality was that the money we set aside to compensate the writers was not being covered by the product which they produced. Therefore, it was a loss of money for us. We then decided to use a core system, which meant the most productive members of the team received a stipend monthly and the rest of the team worked on a volunteer basis. I am sure that you can guess where that led, the unpaid members didn’t produce nearly like previous.
Finally, I came across a policy which many of our developers are familiar with: Profit Sharing. Under a profit sharing agreement, the money left over after expenses is distributed through the staff. The theory here is that the more you do to increase the profitability of the company, the larger your portion of the pie.
Which leads back to the solution to, and the justification, for the review fee policy. The fee being paid does not just end up in the company coffers. As I mentioned earlier, we too are an indie company. Our goal is not the riches of the owner but the compensation of the staff and the ability to retain my team so that we can continue to provide excellent support to our community. As one developer stated during an interview I conducted before I put the policy into place.
“As a developer, there is a lot of information out there cautioning against paying for reviews.
But, at the same time, developers need to get the word out and sometimes paying for a review is a guaranteed way to get feedback. I like the idea that paying for a review is supporting an actual person, rather than a company.”
I purchased this publication out of the love, resolve and aggressive confidence. I know that I can build IGM into a focal point of the industry. I am confident that my decision is right and the the price attached to the fee is low enough to be affordable to most developers and yet enough to add up to a decent part-time wage for my team.
If it offends people that I believe that my writers and editors should be afforded compensation, then I don’t feel like I should apologize for that. I do believe that a man who works should be afforded a wage. Just like I believe that developers should receive a fair price for their games.
In closing, I wanted to address the concern about the ‘unbiased’ nature of a paid review. The policy is that you are paying for a service, not a positive review. I have worked very diligently with both my staff and the developers that I have worked with this month to ensure complete honesty and transparency. Its all about trust in a relationship. That’s how I see it and how I approach it. If you have met me on Twitter, Skype, or anywhere else, then you know that this is how I am. I am about honor and respect.