The result of the last decade on journalistic websites is both severe and in many ways, unimportant. Where once we had Electronic Games Magazine and Computer Gaming World we now have Joystiq and Kotaku. The professionalism may have changed but the fact remains: There are a couple sources that still serve the majority of gamers.
So when a client recently asked "Is it really worth our time to reach out to anywhere other than large size publications?" I had to pause, because frankly, I was not entirely certain.
Most of my clients don't give me analytics access, so I can't really pull the exact numbers. This is all anecdotal, so I would appreciate some comments to see if the numbers match up.
The answer on the whole is, as always, it depends.
1) It basically takes zero effort to simply send a review copy or press release their way and not to bother with following up or worrying about if it is posted.
2) It is certainly NOT worth taking a bunch of effort to do time intensive things like interviews, phone calls, ect.
Now, that said, there are a number of reasons it still makes sense to reach out to these small outlets.
1) I work with indies. It would be a bit hypocritical to deny 'indie' websites materials simply because they're small.
2) The game industry is really a small place. You never know which site may grow or which writer will go on to write somewhere larger. Most won't, but a couple will, and there's nothing more valuable than having a good relationship with a writer or editor at a major outlet.
3) A small site may be super targeted. I remember an old client who had over 20% of his sales coming from a single site (www.subsim.com). It's a decent size site, but not large by any means.
4) Small places are open to active PR events!
It is #4 that is the whole point of this article (Sorry you had to read all that back-story above).
When I go through the experiences I have with clients, when you are utilizing passive PR techniques (article postings, news, screenshots, ect) then the larger the outlet the bigger the impact.
This is not true for an active event, such as a raffle/giveaway ect. In a recent campaign we had indie game bundles raffle off 100 closed beta copies of Guns of Icarus Online via www.rafflecopter.com. They enter by liking our facebook and twitter feeds. The client needed the testers, the site could use it as a major promo event on social networks, and it was done at zero cost. The result was about 200-300 new likes on facebook from a website that only had 2,000 facebook fans to begin with. So we literally actively engaged over 10% of their facebook audience with a single swoop.
The key here is larger sites won't do stuff like this, certainly not for free anyway. So we took a fairly small site and, in less than 30 minutes of work on our end, managed to build a substantial amount of awareness and give ourselves direct access to 200+ new faces.
So the takeaway and the real answer here is: Don't waste a ton of time on passive PR methods for small sites. Get them press materials, review copies, ect. Then focus on small/mid sites for creative events that will really engage their users and deliver you direct access to their fans. For me, where the traffic really seems to be is in the mid range sites. Larger sites tend to be hyper focused on AAA titles, so even a review article may be quickly buried and ignored. A mid range site can do a large feature, interview, and contest and leave your product featured for an extended time, delivering a lot of interest. Super small sites, not so much. Just get them the passive materials and be done with it.