By now all of you have heard that AOL has shuttered practically every one of their weblogs, save a couple that are their dear babies. That means no more Joystiq, no more WoW Insider, and no more Massively.
We weren’t even going to find out until last Friday, as AOL was simply going to send all of us an email informing us of the fact the day of our termination. Fortunately, some sleuthing by Joystiq’s EIC got an admission that this was coming and that there was nothing to be done about it. It had nothing to do with whether or not we were making money (we were) but that some exec far up the pipe decided that AOL no longer wanted to be in the enthusiast blogging business — and that was that. We have no one to appeal to, and since we’re contractors, AOL doesn’t even give us the time of day. We’re nobodies to them.
So we found out last Monday, which immediately caused our work process to crash to the ground. We were strictly advised to not say a word about this to anyone, because there was our January pay at stake, not to mention the slight possibility of severence. And we were worried that AOL would kill the site before the end of the week if we blabbed, which would end any chance to say goodbye and get out our final columns.
While Massively’s been great to me, we’ve always operated on a shoestring budget and under the uncaring attitude of AOL. I cannot stress enough how little we mattered to that company. It got bad last year when some yahoo exec who never talked to us decided to unilaterally slash half of our meager budget (and Joystiq’s, and WoW Insider’s) for no good reason — heck, we were doing gangbuster numbers and reportedly ad sales were great. So in early 2014, we had to suck it up and move forward, and that meant firing half of the team on the spot — including really, really talented writers — and the rest of us taking huge pay cuts while having to work MORE than before.
And let me tell you, we worked our BUTTS off over this past year to not only keep the site going, but to prove to AOL that we could be just as viable as ever. Even with half of our budget gone, our numbers did not nearly drop as much to reflect that, and that was a victory in and of itself. But then AOL kept being a tool, and it fired the human sales team who was in charge of getting ad revenue (a process that was entirely divorced from the writing/editorial staff so that we were not influenced one way or the other) with an automated system that couldn’t sell half as well.
And finally, we get canned on the last day of the month with no corporate advance notice and no sympathy. To them, Massively was a line item that wasn’t worth their interest. To us, it was a passionate project that we poured our hearts into.
Let me say that it was a truly horrible week, all the more that the rumors leaked out and we couldn’t say word one about it. It was immensely gratifying to see support come in through a variety of statements, however, and we spent the days in our office chat room pasting those statements to each other as we mourned.
When Bree broke the news last Friday (officially), it was like a tidal wave of encouragement hit us in the comments, email, and Twitter. Reading the stories of how the site and the podcast actually helped people in tough times and meant a lot to them was so very touching.
I’ve been going through a whole process this past week. Shock, definitely. Immense sadness. Some anger. And deep love for my family and friends who saw me hurting and picked me up.
I think my first big reaction to the news was: No, I don’t want to stop writing! There’s so much left I want to say and do and see with the Massively team. Getting to cover MMO news and subjects with your friends is an experience I think I’ll never have again. It was a rush being part of the media and getting to interview devs and follow these stories.
I’m really bummed that there won’t be a Massively any more, because (and I am totally biased) there aren’t any other sites out there like this one. We weren’t selling out the way that I’ve seen other news sites do and we gave as much love to smaller and older MMOs as we did the “easy hits” big titles. I don’t know where I’m going to go for my news any more, because like most of our readers, I depended on Massively to keep me informed.
But I’ve had time to digest it, talk it out with the team, and use my wife as a sounding board. I know that in the past I’ve had a lot of problems letting go of things when change was coming, and I didn’t want to do that now. I had a GREAT five years at that site, and both learned so much and enjoyed it thoroughly. What we did for our readers and the MMO industry is something that I can be proud of, and I made a lot of terrific friendships along the way.
And as a Christian, I have to live according to God’s will for my life and not my own. If it’s His will that I move on, then I will be sad, but I’ll be content that it’s what needs to happen for His glory and purpose.
So what’s next? I don’t know, to be honest. My priorities are my family and my job as a youth pastor, as it should be. Past that, I’ll certainly keep blogging here at Bio Break (probably more than before!) and keep doing the Battle Bards podcast. There’s been some talk of the ex-Massively team doing a collaborative blog effort, so if that comes about you’ll see me there as well. Bree and I will also be continuing the Massively Speaking podcast on a (hopefully) weekly basis.
Finally, I want to thank those who have expressed support and love over the past week. I know that not everyone liked Massively and probably disagreed with us from time to time (as is inevitable), but the encouragement that I saw recently was overwhelming. It wasn’t just a job; it was a passion and a love and something we truly did because we love MMOs and wanted to build up the internet community through information and opinion.
Special thanks to Braxwolf, Battle Priestess, Party Business (and another one!), Healing the Masses, Tales of the Aggronaut (and another one!), The Mystical Mesmer, Clean Casuals, Endgame Viable, GamingSF, Leo’s Life, Inventory Full, The Cynic Dialogues, Herding Cats, TAGN, Games and Geekery, MMO Gypsy, Professor Beej, and Alt:Chat for their supportive posts!