Letters: long news articles, spoiler-free reviews, mobile

After a short break, the letters page is back! And, er, you've been asking us difficult questions...

Gah. Best laid plans, right? Last month, time beat us, and our letters page had to take a break while we attempted to frantically steer the tolerable ship Den Of Geek towards its daily DoGMRoD (see last letters page). But we’re back! And you’ve ben asking us more tricky questions. That we have tried to answer.

Right here, in fact.

Really Long News Articles

I [nice things redacted] Den Of Geek, and have done for a long time. It’s [nice things redacted] site out there and I [nice things redacted] every day.

I do have a question though. What’s with these long news articles with lots of updates on them? Can’t we just have one individual news article for each story? It was much easier to comment on.

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Carry on being [nice things redacted]. You’re far better than [best redact this bit too].

Peter

Simon replies: Thanks Peter. We think you’re [nice things redacted].

We’ve been experimenting with how to present news over the past year or so, and are trying to find the best balance. I’m going to give you all the facts, and then talk through why we do what we do.

1. Firstly, we worked out that if it’s just another piece of casting news, and that’s the entirety of the story, it’s generally best all round to append it to an earlier story.

2. We moved to the longer news aggregation format for two reasons.

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Firstly, it tends to be more actively looked for by people coming into the site. Secondly, in truth, it brings more readers in for exactly the same piece of material. We don’t – and I think we’ve got a track record that backs this up – go for clickbait or cheap clicks tactics, rather that this approach allowed us to write what we want to cover, and bring in more traffic without cheating. The bare statistics are that more people have been reading round-ups than individual articles. It makes sense to follow what the audience of Den Of Geek wants in that regard, again, as long as we’re not cheating you all.

3. The problem, of course, is where that leaves comments. The Den Of Geek community really does mean the world to us, and so we accept it’s frustrating to not be able to comment so easily on one individual story, as it’s mashed up in the midst of many others.

What we’re trying now, and we’ve been experimenting on this with Doctor Who content, is thus running an individual story, and also adding it to the larger, aggregated piece. That way, there’s still scope for individual comments on an individual story. If that works, we’ll expand on that.

I’m wary that it looks as if we have the same article twice on the site, but bear with us while we work that out.

As always, if you have questions about what we’re up to with the site, I’ll always answer them honestly. Hopefully that explains what we’ve been up to.

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Spoiler-Free Reviews
Heroes

Hello Den of Geek!

I’m not going to waste [redacted] because you’d redact it and anyway, I’d prefer to leave an air of mystery. Do I think your site’s any good?! You’ll never know.

Anyway, diving right in.

I know it’s been touched on before but I wanted to brooch the subject of TV reviews. I completely understand that there’s only so many of you, and only so much time so the reviews are generally about shows you like. Good news, we have similar tastes it would seem (this is a comment on your tastes, not on your site or its content ;p)!

However I don’t always get to read these bwcause often you’ll only put out a spoiler-y review rather than the spoiler free ones. Case in point being the latest incarnation of Heroes. It’s a show I think I want to watch. Season one of Heroes has to be one of the most outstanding TV shows in the last 20 years. Seasons two to four however make me cry and long for the days of only four channels so tat like that is filtered out of UK TV!

So, now I’m in the predicament of do I watch it or not?

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If I start and it’s rubbish I’ll still watch it all because I’m slightly OCD like that when it comes to TV shows but I’ll dread each weeks installment and probably cry myself to sleep for its run (seasons 2-4 being the evidence that this is what I’ll do!!).

So when I seen you did a review I was like “Yes! They tend to have similar opinions on TV and film to me (again commenting on taste not the site!) so they’ll be able to prevent me going headlong into a nightmare”…should that be where the show plans to lead me.

However, your review contains spoilers so I can’t read it yet. If when I watch it, I remember to come back and see if you’d warned/reassured me about its quality it’ll already be too late.

Could I ask you in future, when writing about those shows you like and feel passionate enough to review (whether that be to talk about how amazing it is, or how they took a once promising concept and continued to show how poorly it could be done) to perhaps err on the side of a spoiler free review?

Most people look to reviews for ‘advice’ on whether or not something is worth watching which I would suggest makes a spoiler-y review redundant. They already know if they like it – do most people care if you do? The only show where I actually do this is Walking Dead – I’ll always click on your spoiler-y reviews once I’m caught up if there isn’t a spoiler-free one. However I’d trade those [redacted] articles (sorry writer!!) for a spoiler-free Walking Dead review as I could then use it at work to build on my anticipation/excitement.

Anyway keep up the….hmmm…work. Just work – I won’t say whether or not I think it’s any good.

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Much love!StJohn82

Louisa writes: Thanks for getting in touch. This is a tricky one. We’ll definitely have a think about how we can provide what you’re after because you’re absolutely right; nobody should have to watch season three of Heroes.

Writing more spoiler-free reviews isn’t easy for a few reasons, one being the boring time/workforce limitations you mention, another being that truly spoiler-free reviews are, for want of a better phrase, a total bugger to write.

Keeping a review clean of plot, setting, character and dialogue detail while managing to say anything meaningful is hard. (If I recall, one of our writers evocatively likened writing them to “being on stage, farting into a safe and then trying to describe what it smells like to the audience”. A universal experience we can all relate to, there.) We only tend to publish spoiler-free reviews pre-broadcast, too, for which we need preview access, which isn’t always available.

It’s sort of down to what you see as the purpose of a TV episode review. Are they just there to give a show either a big tick or a big cross, or to try to provide analysis and stimulate discussion? I can’t speak for other writers but personally, the fun of writing and reading reviews is in the dissection.

It’d be more clear-cut if we reviewed vacuum cleaners on the site. Our role then would be to steer consumers towards buying the best-functioning machine and avoiding a dud. Because it’s TV and not appliances, though, it’s obviously a more subjective, complicated game.

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That said, we’ll put our heads together and see what we can come up with!

Mobile Den Of Geek
Den of Geek slide

Firstly, and I know you hate this, but [redacted]. The articles are [redacted], the writers [redacted] and the community, for the most part, treats one another with respect – a rare thing on the internet, as you know. [Redacted].

However, I do have one gripe – that being how difficult the site is to use on mobile devices due to not being responsive.

It’s not so bad on my iPad but on my smart phone it is pretty much unusable due to having to pinch and zoom, which is a pain for a user nowadays. I would imagine a high percentage of your users do a great deal of their internet browsing on mobile devices so you could be losing a serious amount of readers here.

Also, you may be interested to know that Google now takes responsiveness into account when ranking a website, so this could start to hit you in the search results, which is obviously the last thing you want.

Are there any plans to make your site responsive in the near future?

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Thanks, and again, [redacted].

John Barker

Simon writes: A quick answer to your question: yes.

We’ve done a behind the scenes upgrade over the past few weeks, which should have made things like galleries far easy to navigate. But also, there are more developments coming next year, that should make Den Of Geek more responsive, without making it not Den Of Geek anymore. If that makes sense.

Pitching Articles

As you are probably painfully aware, I’ve been lurking in the comments sections for quite sometime now. However, I have a great idea for an article and wondered if you accepted submissions?

Please let me know.

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Yours willingly

Rich Millyard

Simon writes: I hope you don’t mind, Rich, but I took your article pitch out of your letter. We tend to deal with article pitches behind the scenes, more out of fairness to the people pitching them.

We’re always on the lookout for new writers, new ideas, and things we haven’t thought of. We do insist that we pay everyone for their work on Den Of Geek, but this has a couple of consequences. Firstly, we’re not paying much, in truth. Secondly, it means that when the budget is stretched because we try to do too many things (as is the norm), it’s tough for us to take more people on. But we do our best.

We do appreciate, incidentally, the number of people who offer us work for free. I fully get the vicious cycle you’re in there, but I also think you deserve to put a value on your writing. That you should get something for it if it’s benefitting someone else. 

This, and sheer inefficiency, also accounts for why it takes so long to get back to people who have pitched stuff to us. Genuine apologies.

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If none of that has put you off, we don’t need a CV: it bothers us not whether you’re 18 or 80, male or female, Earthling or Martian, Statham fan or non-Sta… actually, that last one bothers us a bit. But that notwithstanding, send a sample of two of your work, and your pitches. We promise, genuinely, not to rip your pitches off.

Lordy, we’re knackered after all the grown-up responses we’ve had to do there. We’ll be back for our CHRISTMAS LETTERS PAGE in December. 

Send your letters to denofgeek@yahoo.com. Or write to Den Of Geek, Dennis Publishing, 30 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JD. Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope if you want us to send you your letter back once we’ve read it.

Previous letters pages can be found here.