Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the take?

There are a couple of different starting points for this one. The first starting point is an email I received on the jason at gamenikki dot com email address. A reader wanted to know what my experience with the new RadeonHD 3870 X2 was. Well, fact is, I'm not on the pre-release list for advanced hardware from ATi/AMD... so I haven't had any experience with the new graphics card.

The second starting point comes from somebody who rubbished my claims that MaximumPC had a history of listening to whoever had the biggest checkbook in their reviews and articles.

It's not exactly a secret that I hold the opinion that Anandtech / Dailytech is financed by Intel Corporation. I've documented several items where AT / DT either outright lied, forget to tell the whole story, tried to re-write history, or simply left out data that didn't support their position. I've also commented in the past that I don't really hold any respect for Ziff Davis / Cnet sites because they have a reputation for accepting the bigger check.

The starting point for the comments about MaximumPC and Ziff Davis / Cnet is fairly simple. MaximumPC is owned / hosted by Future Publishing, who also works other magazines like Nintendo Power and the Official Playstation Magazine. Ziff Davis is a similar large publisher with a history of magazine publishing, exampling that is used to publish the Official Playstation Magazine. Advertising rates were a big issue with popular magazines. A double page spread could easily be worth a several thousand dollars, and even getting a quarter of a page could be several hundred.

One of the things that was noticed in the print magazines is that often times the products with the massive double page spread add... were getting the highest review scores. A couple years back a Ziff Davis employee asked about the shift from print magazine to online publishing commented that part of the loss of print subscription was due to what was perceived as a selling out on the part of the print publishers to whoever was buying the most ad-space. The perception was echoed by numerous people around the industry, with other magazine editors admitting that they had played to whoever was buying the most ad-space, magazines including the Official Playstation Magazine and the Xbox magazine... both which are published by Future.

The industry behavior hasn't gone away either, exampling the recent controversy surrounding the Kane and Lynch video game and Jeff Gerstmann's review. Eidos, the game's publisher, had heavily invested in advertising space on the site Mr. Gerstmann wrote for. When the game was handed a low score and was ripped to shreds, Mr. Gerstmann was almost immediately fired.

Regardless of the explanations and reasons issued afterwards, most of my friends in the industry believe that Mr. Gerstmann was fired because he went against the wishes of EIDOS, and that Cnet caved in.

The problem is, such behavior is typically common among the magazine publishers with online publishing fronts. Sure, PC Magazine, MaximumPC, and other magazines with online publications aren't that bad. In some cases... they are fairly accurate. In other cases... there's always the feeling that their publishers have admitted to writing for the buyer of the most ad space... so there's a shadow cast over many of the reports.

MaximumPC is sort of a sore spot because they had a reputation for sponsoring "upgrade tests." To pick on AMD for a minute, when Vista launched AMD ran an upgrade test that the The Inquirer snapped a picture of. AMD's upgrade test did little more than scan the list of hardware already in the machine, and then compare it to a list of parts there were known to work. A few months later AMD ran another test for Vista Gaming that the only way to pass it... was to have their brand new processor and their brand new graphics card.

Now, in my view, it was one thing for AMD to do that as a vendor. The upgrade tool was obviously a promotional tool for AMD. I think it's another thing when something that purports to be neutral runs a similar test... and you get results that tell you that on the newest product from a particular vendor will work... and that's the reputation that MaximumPC has...

Now, I'm not saying that magazine sites with online publishing arms cannot generate good material. I'm not saying that everything they do has to be taken with a barrel of salt. In reference to an article about Solid-State support and an Mtron SSD drive. MaximumPC might be accurate about the performance of each drive in that review... but it wasn't really comparing apples to apples. They compared a 16gig SSD drive which had fantastic performance... but with a price tag of $1000... against much cheaper magnetic drives.

Okay... so what's this got to do the with the Radeon card I was asked about before?

Well... where do I stand on the subject of ads and accepting cash or products?

I've stated before that I don't like ads. I don't like ads because I've seen too many sites, too many magazines, too many publishers, and too many editors cater to whoever buys ad-space. I don't like ads because of all of the ad-agencies that come up with pop-ups, pop-unders, redirects, and so many other tricks out there.

Yet, at the same time, I'm running ads on this blog... and I've said the following in a follow-up comment:
The concept for myself is that I want to build a business that is capable of... supporting Mepis. Say Yamal who has compiled the last couple of ATi drivers. I would like to be in position that I could ship Yamal a Radeon 9600, a Radeon x1800, a RadeonHD 2x00, and a RadeonHD 3x00 so that he can test out the drivers on each type of card.

If someone did the same with Nvidia, I'd like to be in a position to simple ship the volunteer the needed hardware to work with.

As I've pointed out in the past, money that has gone into custom systems so far has seen shipment of items like a Rage128 AIW, a Plextor ConvertX, and a Chaintech AV-710 to Warren so that he has hardware examples.

However, that sort of hardware support and financing is going to take a long time to setup. It would be nice if I had a computer shop or a vendor such as Asus say something like this: "Saist, we'll support you and Mepis. If you need a particular piece of hardware, give us a call." For something like that from a 3rd party vendor who is interested in supporting Open Licensed software I wouldn't have any problems doing a deal where I run specific ads, or specifically single out that vendor for a recommendation.

So... I've opened myself up to the possibility of offering ad space to particular vendors. However, I don't want to be captive to the vendor. If it's a bad product, I'm going to say it's a bad product. If it's something I don't agree with, I'm not going to agree with it. Probably why I don't have a working relationship with Eidos.
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