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Gamer News Site Avoids Game-Shilling Advertisers

A video game website purports to change the face of gaming journalism by refusing to display flashy advertisements from game publishers.

Having raised $8.25 million from JP Morgan’s Constellation Ventures, Crispy Gamer formally went live yesterday.

The site — which supports over one million unique visitors per month — enters a crowded arena. Corporate rivals include Fox Interactive’s IGN.com, CBS’s GameSpot, AOL’s Joystiq, Gawker’s Kotaku, and Ziff Davis’ 1UP.com.

But Crispy Gamer has clout behind it, too. Chris Heldman, the former head of media entertainment at Google, recruited John Keefer (ex editorial director at GameSpy), and Chris Hoerenz (former eMusic CMO) to build an independent game news site that readers can trust. Read the complete manifesto.

Among the company's 20 employees are five writers that, along with 20 or so well-known video game freelance journalists, will not be allowed to accept junkets from game companies or work for them on a freelance basis. Writers will also be barred from negotiating exclusives with game companies, as the practice often leads to unsavory business deals. (A recent report found one in five senior marketers have at some point made ad deals, or given editors gifts, in exchange for positive coverage about their product or service.)

Crispy Gamer hopes that by keeping big name gaming advertisers off the site, it will eliminate the pressure writers face to issue unfairly positive reviews of their products — or even review them at all. Alternatively, "there are games [our writers] review on Crispy Gamer that they wouldn't review on other sites," Keefer told ClickZ.

But the noticeable difference is not in the content or quality of the writing. Rather, the most obvious change is the lack of slick ads for games, writes VentureBeat.

Unlike other sites, Crispy Gamer keeps ads-per-page to a minimum. Video game ads may show up on the site, but they are never directly from the publisher: A retailer can purchase an ad for a specific game, or a brand advertiser (e.g., Doritos, Mountain Dew) may promote a game or contain cheat codes for a certain title.

"We're not anti-game publisher, we just don't want their money," Heldman stated. Instead, Crispy Gamer is targeting mass market advertisers outside the gaming industry, such as tech, entertainment, and fast food companies. It helps that the site's predominantly male demographic — ages 18 to 49, with average household incomes of $60,000 and up — is a coveted group, notes GigaOM.

Even so, the ads, fed by a half-dozen ad networks, are not fetching as much as projected a month ago. The company thought they'd generate an $8 CPM (cost per million impressions), but the current rate is about $2 CPM.

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