Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"The point", mirrored post

IK'm mirroring this post from a techPB discussion because I figure it will be deleted once they see I haven't been banned yet.  (on a good note, I'm amazed they haven't banned me)

FreeEnterprise, on 05 Aug 2013 - 3:42 PM, said:
It all comes across as drama to create views with the hope to get more $$$

Money?  You think this is all about money?  Wow, and you guys call ME cynical?

Ok, it's fair.  I've used the line "follow the money" a lot myself so it'd be hypocritical of myself to get angry about it.  So let's roll with that.  For the record, yeah, I'm not wealthy and I've been having issues.  Any paycheck I can get goes into paying off medical debts that, statistically speaking, may never be paid off in my lifetime.  It sucks being uninsured in America.  But blog postings and videos are not going to pay that off unless I get numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

And besides, as far as I know that blog is not monetized (if there's ads on it I didn't put them there) and the video response to Mike was intentionally not monetized specifically becasue that kind of video is not something I want to make money on.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I use ad blockers anyway so if anyone has ads I never see them.  So to me, that's all a wash.

No, posts like the one I made is about more than "making a few pennys".  My interest has been, and remains, the future.

I'll try to keep this short, which is difficult because I tend to look at this holistically.  So, opinions.  Paintball isn't a sport, it's a buisness.  It's in the buisness of selling an image.  That image currently is "you can do anything you want in paintball."  It's how they pick up a lot of their demographic of teenagers who are usually in the "rebellion" stage.  You suck them and their parents dry by telling them "HEY!  Wanna be cool?  Buy this gear, attend this tourney, go to this event, and you'll someday be as awesome as your heroes.  And you want to be cool like them, right?".  Heroes that make self-promoting videos on youtube so they seem accessable 24/7/365.  So the industry supports the e-celeb who sells the image that "I play paintball and I'm cooler than you, and I can do anything I want to do, and you can too if you buy this gear", players support these guys through page hits and by buying the products they endorse.

The problem is that this model is awful for long term growth.  Without maturity and restrictions, you can't have growth as a sport.  Restrictions make it so that you don't burn out all at once.  Maturity gives a sport perspective enough to weather out bad times without worrying about failure.  As paintball players have seen time and time again the 3-5 year rotation is very real.  Fortunately, there's as much an inflow of players as there is outflow, but as we saw with the "PAINTBALL IS DYING!!!!" trend a while back, that's very volatile.  It also creates a toxic environment in which players are all about "themselves", and not a "community".  When everyone is trying to "take", and nobody is "giving", you run out of resources (real or social).

That is what "this" is all about.  Looking at a symptom with the hopes that it will get people to look at an overall problem.  Mainly that every 3-5 years, we get a full rotation of players when it SHOULD be "every 3-5 years, our paritcipation doubles".  Ironically, when I look at individual sports like snowboarding, they manage to keep participants invioved for a lifetime.  Snowbaording is a gear driven activity too, and they have celebrities who make videos that they sell on DVD, but they also manage to do it without burning people out.  I think the key is that snowboarding has an understanding that "money won't buy you skill" and they have celebrities who have a sense of maturity about how they present themselves and their sport.

Ask yourself if the actions you see a lot of these painbtall e-celeb guys do would EVER fly in real professional sports.

(Edit add 8-7-13)

Mike responded in the thread, including this statement. :

"Rob, you can say whatever you would like to say, and I'll close this thread. After that, you're not welcome on this site anymore. This site is full of family and friends of TechPB, not backstabbing fucking cowards who don't have the decency to call or email a friend before blasting them on a blog with no provocation or warning. I don't have time for some guy who thinks the whole paintball world should model videos after his, an oof pacing back in forth in front of a camera with a backwards hat on, gesturing wilding, and bitching about overshooting. "

So my prior comment about not being banned from TechPB is no longer applicable.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The profitability of the "E-Celeb"

The last few days have been.... enlightening. Yes, we'll call it that. But in the end, it's been proving to me what I've known for a while, so allow me to elaborate.

Some of the feedback I've gotten from the last blog post said "It's just paintball, can't you let it ride?" And it's a valid point.  It's "just" a game, right?  Well, that's sort of the problem.  See, when Mike Phillips of TechPB fame absolutely flipped his stuff at me, he inadvertently let me in on the real story.  He's turning a hell of a profit, and his actions are to protect his income.

Let's backtrack.  Mike Phillips runs TechPB, Markerbids.com and his youtube channel "paintballtechpb". When I named him in my last blog piece, he decided to go after me with all the resources he could, first appealing to our "5 year friendship" then attacking me on my failing health and financial issues publicly, rubbing my nose in his success and quoting his numbers at me.  What was really the tell for me was in an e-mail he sent me after I had already told him "goodbye".

In it, his points of contention is that I put his name in a "google searchable" blog and said bad things about him.  He also bragged about clearing "6 figures" through Markerbids, TechPB and his youtube channel "paintballtechpb".  His thrust has been, and remains, that popularity is more important and justifies what he does.   And that's when it clicked.  This has nothing to do with paintball, it's all about profits.

So I did some looking about.   According to socialblade.com, Phillips could be clearing as much as $137 a day, or about $50K a year, in monetization of his youtube videos.  Granted, this goes by raw view count and does not account for non-monetized videos and CPM fluxuations.  By comparison, Wolf's estimated income is $8K a year from paintball videos, A-Train is about $521 a year, Midnight Angel is around $474 a year, and PBFashion (HK Army) is about $146K a year on videos alone.

Keeping in mind that these are estimations, but if they're close then yeah there's a lot of money involved in paintball popularity just on youtube.  Combine that with marketing yourself in a paintball website that can sell branded items like t-shirts, headbands, guns and accessories to paintball players, and now you're starting to see it clearer.   Mike Phillips also runs a penny-auction website (markerbids.com) and I'd love to go into that, but there's a puppet who does it much better than I.

What I'm getting at is that this isn't "just a game", it's a business. It always has been.  The business of paintball is, and always has been, selling an image and not a sport.  The modern money maker is to get popular by selling the image that paintball is a game where you can do anything you want and demonstrating that you can in videos.  The main commodity is popularity, the numbers are everything.  And allegedly it is "6 figure" profitable for people who are willing to do it.

Profitable, but not progressive.

See, in all the numbers that are being slammed in my face what's being ignored is that paintball has yet to progress past "hobbist" stage.  Paintball is over 30 years old now, and we still play a game that isn't even a blip on the radar.   Compared to snowboarding, skateboarding, bass fishing, poker, League of Legends... paintball has yet to evolve past "OMG WE GOT MENTIONED ON A TV SIT COM!!!!!"  But who cares, as long as the individual has popularity on their side that makes it good.

People keep calling me a throwback or a dinosaur, and in a way I am.  I would like to see paintball legitimized into the realm of true sport.  I'd like to see our players be considered athletes, and see them get paid millions to play the game.  I'd like to be able to find team uniforms and logo shirts on the racks of the local "S-Mart".  But instead, what we have is what we have.  An industry selling an image of permanent vacation and our "heroes of the game" acting like children.  It's no wonder why sponsors run away screaming when paintball looks for outside money.

In my opinion, this is one of the big dangers of the e-celeb culture.  It stifles growth. But then again, if nothing else the last few days have shown me that paintball doesn't want to grow.  It's happy where it's at.  A small niche activity that the outside world doesn't seem to notice.  It's safe, in that when the world isn't watching you can do anything you want.  The moment other people look in and critique everything you do, then you have to actually act responsibly.  And paintball doesn't want to do that.   It would cut into individual profits.  It would make the individual e-celeb less popular when they actually have to be accountable for what they say and do.

Let Rome burn.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Never heard of it before" a self-serving blog post about Web Dog Radio and paintball.

Just want to relate a story from last week. In my town, a new lazer tag place opened up. It's becoming something of a phenomenon here. I'm not exaggerating when I say there are three "tactical lazer tag" facilities in 30 minutes drive of where I'm sitting to write this. To get into the rocking chair a little, I remember playing "Lazer Zone" in the Chicago suburbs with car headlights and photo-sensitive sensors glued onto headsets, so it's always interesting to see the progression of it.

The whole reason I knew about this place was that one of the viewers of my show told to me that they were opening and recommended I check it out. So I went the other day. The guy behind the counter was friendly, happy to talk about the place. I mentioned that a viewer of my paintball show told me about the place, and he asked what the show was. I told him "Web Dog Radio".

Instantly, he told me "Never heard of it, and I'm a hardcore paintball guy."

I told him I wasn't surprised. And in all honesty, I'm not. Web Dog has always been the "best kept open secret" of the paintball internet community. Everyone knows about it, nobody talks about it. And I kind of understand why. So forgive this being self serving, but I want to explain this.

A few months ago the phrase "internet paintball celebrity" was thrown around as an insult. It described people like A-Train, Mike Phillips, Wolf, "Mr. H", "Necro", "Midnight Angel" and in fact most of the self-proclaimed self-important people who manufacture shows and useless videos about paintball without actually saying anything of importance. Here's a clue in order to figure out who I'm talking about. In a video interview with someone else, is the "celebrity" also on camera and/or talking 40-60% of the video about themselves? If so, they're an e-celeb.

The thing is that all of these guys have a following that dwarfs what I do. I would kill for their numbers if I thought it would help. They have these followers because they present an image that is bigger than life. They act like jerks, they're loud, obnoxious, permanently immature, and basically all the things people want to be. Permanent vacation, chasing the next paintball match with no tomorrow, bragging about getting the latest and greatest in gear, only to trash it for the next thing to come along.

But let's go back a little ways, to about 2003 when I started making paintball how-to vids in the backyard. At the time it was unheard of. The videos before then was PigTV's event coverage (which was more like a news broadcast) and Serenity Dragon (which was an interview show). I hosted the videos out of pocket, and paid for the bandwidth more than I care to admit. Did pretty solid shows about tactics and techniques without trying to come off as a tactical genius. Wasn't loud, wasn't obnoxious, wasn't full of self importance. Just stuff that worked for me, and stuff that I could pass along. It was my way to give back to a community.

When the costs of bandwidth and production started to get a little out of hand, I reached out to the industry to support the show. I was laughed at. National Paintball Supply told me outright "There's no future in paintball videos on the internet." I was told "Nobody wants tactics videos, there's already the Ironmen tape". It didn't gel with the message the industry wanted to sell, mainly "buy our gear, get better." I quietly did three seasons or so of videos before hanging that up.

That isn't to say that nobody got the point. Tom at Airgun Designs got it. Collin at LAPCO got it. Chris at Flurry got it. The guys at Nexed got it (and were amazed that, unlike their tournament teams, I actually did what I promised I'd do.) But for the most part, the industry didn't support it. Therefore, I had no real grand exposure or presence. Yet, I kept plugging along until it became too much of a cost for me.

Fast forward to now. Changed gears in the last few years to make a more "culture" show because it's cheaper. I've turned my focus to trying to put a harsh spotlight on the ugly sides of the game.  People don't want to see that, they just want to be happy in ignorance. The message of my early videos was "Learn the theories, learn the game, play longer." This wasn't profitable, apparently. I switched gears to an angrier mode to slap people awake, and that wasn't popular either. No support, no exposure, no help. Just like always.

I get told a lot "Shut up and play", usually from people about to be gone on the 3-5 year plan and pass the problems on.  Funny thing is that when I offered to change gears again, to be more like the "popular paintball people", the outcry was equally loud of "NUUUUU!!!!  DON'T SELL OUT!!!!!"  Thing is, the "PB-e-celeb" formula works.

 I look at the modern "e-celeb" videos and I see basically self-serving fluff, and people eat that up. These aren't people, they're characters. Or more properly caricatures.  Everything that the demographic wants to be told, the e-celeb reinforce. Act like you want, shoot lots of paint, buy these new guns, light people up, you'll be a bad-ass and be happy. That's the way the industry has been all along, why change now?

A few months ago, I simply stopped filming paintball videos. I have yet to see anyone ask me "what's going on?" that told me something more than any direct feedback could.  Meanwhile, someone spouts profanity or screams "hoo-ya" at a camera or makes themselves a laughable parody of a paintball player or releases video of guys getting the snot shot out of them in slow motion, and that's what gets supported.


I told a friend that there's a lot of money to be made telling people a message they already want to hear. The harder route is selling them the message they don't want to hear because it's uncomfortable. It's not popular. It's not going to be supported by an industry built on selling players a message that they want to hear. Its the demographic, its what they want, its what the industry will support, its what the players want to see and be told is "acceptable". That's what gets passed along. Not things that think long term, not things that are helpful like tips and techniques, just things that make players feel good now.

So all that in mind, I'm not surprised that a hardcore "modern" paintball player has never heard of Web Dog Radio. They know brash personalities, they know the caricatures, they know the brand names like HK... Not a show that doesn't make them feel good by condescending to them and offering them milk and cookies.

I'll be shocked if people know about Web Dog in 2 years. Paintball is a sport of "What have you done for me lately" not "What have you done to build this foundation I play on?" And in the end, I'm getting to be "ok" with that. So I'm just that obscure paintball guy who made some videos "back in the day" using "dated equipment". The tactics are still sound, people can watch the videos now and get something out of it, but they won't. It’s easier to be told "buy this new gun, go out and kill! OOOORAAAA!!!!!" For that matter it's easier to buy a new gun than to improve your skills with your current one, but that takes time and on the 3-5 year train who has time for that?

It's not as easy to be asked to think about what you're doing, but in the long run it makes for a stronger sport. The modern "hardcore" crowd doesn't want to think. They want to shoot ropes of paint, light people up, yell at people who light them up and have fun without responsibility. Ya know, someone left feedback on one of my more modern videos saying "you're thinking way too much." I'd like to give my response now.

"Since most of you aren't thinking at all, someone has to pick up the slack."