Slingshot Media Column: Mark Register of Blitz Esports

(Editor’s note: This is a recurring column that will cover the ins and outs of esports media and journalism. With more interest than ever in esports, there has likewise been more interest in the reporting to this industry and what goes into it. I hope to shed a light on the industry through interviews with media professionals and news analysis from the perspective of someone with six years of professional journalism experience. Anything you’d like to see? Send me an email at Vince@slingshotesports.com. Enjoy!)

Blitz Esports has made its presence known in the League of Legends coverage scene in the last month.

It launched in February, premiering League of Legends interviews on its YouTube channel. Blitz used to be Instant Esports, an app with scores and team news that also compiled news from various outlets.

Blitz has been focused to this point on League of Legends, producing mostly interviews from the North American League Championship Series along with informative videos and a weekly roundup of League Champions Korea.

I talked to Mark Register, Blitz Esports’ Editor-In-Chief, about how he ended up with Blitz and the site’s goals going forward.

Vince Nairn: So first of all, how did you even get here? I remember first interacting with you when you were doing the ‘Esports in a Nutshell” Videos. I know you also hosted IEM Oakland for League of Legends. How did you end up at this position?

Mark Register: I got into esports about two years ago, and it was a friend of mine, Patrick Ryan, who I photographed his wedding…and we wanted an excuse to work together. He built a distribution platform for the Young Turks when I was still with them. And he said “Have you heard of esports? Go google esports and come back to me.” And I was hooked. Started reading everything I could. Watching every video. League of Legends. Rainbow 6. Hearthstone. Anything I could get my hands on. Basically for 2-3 months, I read and consumed everything I could, then decided I wanted to start making content about the scene. I didn’t know about what, though. There wasn’t a lot of content at the time, and I didn’t think it was as good as I thought it could be. So in that process, I started making Esports in a Nutshell. The purpose of that was to take all the things I was learning about esports, and if it takes me all this time to process this info, why not make something fun to showcase all that’s going on in a nugget. And then ESPN came in, Yahoo came in, Slingshot came in. All these other publications came in, which was great. I didn’t really care because if anything, I’m not insane (for thinking this was a big deal). There are more people in this, and there’s more people to talk to and learn about this thing I’m learning about. And that’s been a big part of this thing. Asking questions and learning.

And the day (Slingshot) started coming up with your newsletter, I thought it was great. I didn’t’ have to do this anymore. And then I kind of started figuring out what else I wanted to do and what needed to be done. I started to get into interviews and a bunch of things. One of the people I interviewed was James Lampkin (from ESL). He and I wax philosophical and talk politics and he goes inside my mind with crazy stuff. Anyways, he ended up introducing me to Chobra (William Cho), who was taking over for IEM Oakland and was running the League of Legends part. He basically said let’s give this guy a shot. And Chobra called me up and he said, “Hey how much do you know about League of Legends?” I said I watched hundreds of VODs, know everything I can about it. But I don’t actually play the game. A lot of people don’t like the fact that I’m not a hardcore League of Legends player. But I consume more League of Legends content that most people who actually play the game. And the more I talk to coaches and analysts in the space, the more I realize the more entrenched you are in the esports world, the less they get to play the game they love.

So I get IEM, and the first day was atrocious. The fear of god was struck inside of me. I was lucky enough or fortunate enough that sjokz, Zirene, papasmithy, everyone came in and helped me prep to do my job well. Everyone kind of took turns pretending to be different players, so I would do mock interviews with all the different casters. It was so inclusive and so wonderful to have people who didn’t need to extend and help out, but they did because they saw someone trying to figure it out. That’s also one of the reasons I love esports in general. I keep running into people who want to help people and see the scene grow as a whole instead of at the detriment of others.

After IEM I got a call from Instant Esports, which is now Blitz Esports. Did some interviews. Talked to them back and forth. Flew out for a 10-hour interview. Talked a couple times…Basically the whole team of Instant Esports was pivoting and trying to figure out what they wanted to do. They really wanted to go all in on content. We came up with a plan and went back and forth, came up with a budget and got going.

VN: How did you go about crafting an editorial philosophy?

MR: The beauty about working with this team is I came in with my initial idea. It’s that back and forth, iron sharpens iron that after a while it became something that wasn’t just me, wasn’t just them. We complemented each other in creating what this thing was. That’s why I joined the team. I love being the dumbest person in the room with this team. I learned from them and I learned to create a product better than I would have ever been able to do on my own.

VN: You mentioned being with the Young Turks. How did that come about? What did you take away from that experience?

MR: I went out to LA to be an actor because LA needs more actors. They are on short supply (laughs). I got introduced to a 21-year-old who had just gotten off a film set with Quentin Tarantino. We made six films together. Andrew Napier is his name. So he recommended me for the Young Turks. There were seven people when I was hired. Seven or eight. It was a mess. It was definitely a startup situation. I slept on his couch for month and made next to nothing and went into debt, but it was worth it. I got to create something I loved with people I enjoyed working with. I saw it go from seven to 75 people. Building studios, inviting new staff. It was awesome.

VN: What are your goals with Blitz? What do you want to accomplish?

MR: I think the No. 1 thing is, what I live my life by, which is try to make life better for other people. I don’t always. In fact sometimes I do the opposite, but that’s the general goal. When I’m looking at the opportunity to make something that’s gonna do really well and gets lot of views, I care less about that. It’s a great byproduct, but the primary goal is to — first off, it’s circles. The immediate circle is doing something that the people we interact with enjoy. That’s the players, coaches, whoever we interact with. The circle after that is the fans, the people who want this content. A lot of content has been produced that is not exactly the best or well executed, but because so many people want to feel closer to their favorite player or this world, they’ll take whatever you can give them. So we’ve just tried to figure out ways to make content that people want, honestly, that makes people look good, sound good, feel good. We’re not out to get the hard-hitting (stuff). We don’t wanna drag people through the mud. We want to make people look good, sound good, feel good. That means more sponsorships (in general), more viewers, more people coming to this space.

VN: Right now you guys seem kind of hyper focused with your content. League of Legends. NA LCS. Mostly interviews, though you also do the kind of explainer videos and the LCK nutshell videos. Do you see yourself expanding to other games or adding written content? Is it a matter of trying to master one thing before branching out?

MR: Originally when I wanted to come in, I wanted to do everything all at once. And Rick, my boss, was saying – and he was absolutely right. He said let’s do one thing right first before we do 100 things kind of average. We’re trying to get one thing right and from there, we’ll see how it goes.

VN: There seems to be this constant talk about the differences between journalism and content. Where do you think Blitz falls on that line?

MR: I don’t know. I leave that to the rest of the team of Blitz Esports. I’m a worker bee; I keep my head down. I’m lucky enough I work with smart people and good enough people that I don’t worry about that.

VN: Anything else you want people to know about Blitz?

MR: I think the team of Blitz Esports, they’re fans. First and foremost, fans of esports. Everyone, except for me, in the company has been playing League of Legends pretty much since beta, and they created this app, this company, in order to make the scene a little bit better. And yeah, I think I’m very lucky to be a part of a group of people that just genuinely want to create good content.

On The Radar

(A rundown of important stories in the esports media realm and analyzing what they all mean.)

Almost a month has passed since the introduction of Compete, a joint venture into covering esports from Deadspin and Kotaku. Returns have been mixed to this point. The venture got off to an inauspicious start, as a Feb. 17 article (which was released under the Compete banner but before the announcement of Compete’s forming) served as a takedown to Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo’s video that girlfriends were ruining the LCS. Rengifo’s video was quite clearly a satire, but the Compete article acted as if the video was serious. It wasn’t until hours later — and a heavy dose of confusion from the League of Legends community — that a note was added to the bottom of the story stating the article was changed to reflect Rengifo’s satire. The irony in that example is the headline “Media outlet takes down satirical video pretending it’s serious” would be the type of story you’d expect to see.

Compete has rebounded, though, and has become a functional site worth reading with the rest of your esports news.

Slingshot published Friday an article about the ECS signing a multiyear deal with YouTube for the exclusive streaming of its online league. The news was initially embargoed until 12 p.m. ET, but we published the story at 10:40 a.m. after finding out Yahoo published its story at 10 a.m.

The embargo was moved Thursday and shifted back two hours, an email Yahoo likely didn’t see, which led to the premature publishing of the story. Moving an embargo within 24 hours of the initial time is dangerous for the very reason of what happened, though that still doesn’t exonerate Yahoo.

We published the story when we did because once an embargo is broken, the information is out in the public. Any outlet not privy to the embargo could have aggregated Yahoo’s report and spread the news even further. Once something is out in public, it can’t all of the sudden go back into private.

But what transpired Friday illustrates a larger question about embargoes. They are PR tactics to coordinate coverage with many media outlets, but they don’t really serve any purpose beyond allowing those outlets to prepare a story in advance — that everyone is going to have anyway. It’s a courtesy to media outlets (which is appreciated), and it helps ensure a story gets covered, but if the news is important enough, it will likely still be covered even if outlets don’t receive advance warning.

Emily Rand joined Yahoo Esports last week. She’ll be writing alongside her former TheScore colleague, Kelsey Moser, and will add another boost to Yahoo’s written content. Yahoo’s interviews are still almost exclusively video, but its content has been fleshed out with more written news and analysis in recent months.

Make sure to check out previous editions of the Slingshot Media Column with guests Duncan “Thorin” Shields (Parts 1 and 2), Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen, Ferguson Mitchell, Travis Gafford, Kevin Knocke and Kevin Morris

Slingshot Editor-In-Chief. Former newspaper reporter from Cleveland, Ohio, who appreciates clean copy and good Counter-Strike. You can reach him at Vince@slingshotesports.com

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