Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

July 16, 2009

Sponsorship and Social Media in Gaming

Posted by Hunter

My good friend Chuck @ published a new piece, talking about how social media and 'sponsored' conversations are impacting the way the casinos get their message out.

I encouraged him to publish this because I think discussing people's expectations is important as all of us publishers set our own standards.

I believe that in these sorts of things, transparency is a good policy.

Oh, and if you want to follow us on Twitter:

@hunter (not all Las Vegas stuff)

Also, our previous list of people tweeting about Las Vegas, which is only partially up to date at this point:


Read archived comments (4 so far)
July 16, 2009 9:35 PM Posted by mike_ch

I don't have much time to type having just come back home for a weekend of decompressing and getting ready for Something Very Important, so I'll try to keep this brief:

I posted on Chuck's board, and Hunter responded to me, so...

People who review things have their own built-in biases that I feel outweigh whether something was free or not. Things like food, theatre, film, dance, and other cultural pursuits are subjective to taste, and while some reviewers may try to compensate for their interest or disinterest in a subject, others don't.

Film reviewers are screened movies, and most reviewers try to make it to as many screenings as possible. Critics aren't necessarily considered indebted to give glowing praise to every movie screened for them, though some will not see movies that aren't screened (and a few will go so far as to openly suggest that movies that aren't screened for reviewers must not be very good.)

The tweets Chuck quotes involves Vegas twitterati telling the casino tweeps they'd like to try one thing or another, and the casino getting back to them and attempting to set something up. Are they gonna like it? Possibly, they did choose that joint after all. If they were comped a place of the casino's choosing with no input from their part, would it affect their impression of the place? Maybe, but probably not as much as whether they like the cuisine in the first place. I mean, I don't care if I'm comped, I'm not going to have a great deal to say about a sushi bar as I don't like sushi.

It's really up to the reader to decide how much influence pulls a particular reviewer. When I saw Lion King for this blog a few months ago, I went in expecting to love it because I'm a Disney fanatic (which I've made no secret about) and wondered if I was going to have to nit pick flaws to keep balance, but later when writing about the length of the show I wondered if I was overstating it's running time as a more serious drawback than it is. In the end I decided to smooth it out by considering the target reader and suggesting that tourists be made aware it's length might mess up their dinner reservations.

In the end, I feel I was fair though I did not represent any kind of value for money judgement, because that would be very difficult and subjective. I mean, most of the shows in this town were asking $150 at the dawn of 2008 which is too much for almost any of them in my perspective. Someone with a different budget or a greater love for the shows might disagree.

All you can really do at the end of the day is follow people you think can call things for what they really are.

July 16, 2009 9:53 PM Posted by Hunter

Your last sentence says it all - but disclosing freebies goes a long way to helping readers discern biases

And as I said on VT, there are some people that will shill for anything if they are given free stuff... but casual relationships on places like Twitter can make it difficult to determine who is who and let's be honest - many people don't do the research. Let's be honest - many many 'reviewers' would have taken the LK tickets and written a good review even the curtain barely opened, just to get tickets to the next MGM gig... These aren't 'critics' in the traditional sense, merely people with a large audience. I don't think I'd be that interested in a movie review from Paris Hilton but I'm sure a lot of people would read it.

My bottom line - disclose and let readers/followers make up their own mind about you. Maybe this is an exercise in futility but that sounds like the right thing to me.

Personally, I don't apologize for taking free stuff the very few times they are offered to me. I tell readers what the deal is and hope they'll judge me on my track record - inherent biases and all (yes, I love Wynn stuff ; yes, I dig some MGM stuff, etc...)

My goal in posting this was to spur a dialog - what do people expect? What is fair? What do the readers want?

July 17, 2009 10:09 AM Posted by Dave

I'm going to comment over at VT as well, but I'm out of the office and can't remember my password. But here's my two cents for now about being on the reviewing end of things.

I occasionally get invited to see shows or have meals on the house. My general policy is that if I like something, I review it, and if I don't, I keep my mouth shut.

Case in point: maybe two years ago, I was invited to see Barry Manilow at the Hilton. I found the show surprisingly good, and I reviewed it as such. Around the same time, I was invited to see Jackie Mason at the Stardust. I found most of the show to be brutally unfunny, so I didn't say anything.

I like the way Amazon handles this. They have a program (Amazon Vine) that sends free copies of stuff to selected reviewers. Their reviews are tagged with a "Vine Voice" badge. That way, readers know that the reviewer didn't pay for the product with their own money..

July 17, 2009 8:41 PM Posted by Ted Newkirk

Very interesting conversation. First of all, having 10k people following your twitter can be very deceiving. I know... because right now we (at are trying to decide whether to continue to build our followers organically or to use all the shortcuts available. To wit...

Many may not realize this, but there is plenty of software that will scan for twitter keywords, automatically add people, automatically send a welcome message when they follow in return. When you see people with 25k followers and they are following 15k people in return, that is usually how it happened.

AND... when you have 10k followers... very few of them are actually following the tweeter's every post (unless it is a celeb).

For example, the Las Vegas Sun and Fox 5 Vegas each have only about 1100 followers. I guarentee you that 85% of their followers are actually reading the tweets. It is info they want. We're approaching the 1000 mark and we see evidence that the majority of our followers are reading the stuff. We've actually had various local media and news personalities actually respond @accessvegas to some of the stuff we run.

I don't know the two guys in question referenced in the VT article. Are the known guys that have longstanding blogs, sites, or otherwise work in the tourism industry? It seems they are among the rash of entreprenuers who have read and bought all the "get more followers on twitter" stuff and are going nuts with it. (I know... I've bought it all also for research purposes).

In the end, I think that companies (gaming or otherwise) are going to realize that this is a house of cards and people like this have very, very few actual readers.

Back to the original conversation:

I'm with Dr. Dave: If we get an invite and it just isn't that good, we pretty much bury the story. I do give our review writers a directive to write about a show based on who would most like to see it. Let's face it... most Las Vegas shows don't suck. Most Las Vegas restaurants don't suck. Our goal is to make sure the person who would most enjoy something hears about it and that we don't send someone to something that isn't for them.

Also... I turn down advertisers on stuff that I don't feel we can confidently promote. For example, I turned down a lot of cash a few years ago to turn into a timeshare whore. I'm not saying we won't ever run timeshare ads. But I personally am not going to make continued endorsements.

I've also turned down decent cash to pimp things in my Newkirk's Notes section. My commentary isn't for sale.

And we actually probably only make it to 20% of the stuff we are invited to. At this stage, we aren't playing a "give a good review so they will have us back" game.

On the flip side, we must all be very, very careful about the slipperly slope here. If the government gets involved with making sure that bloggers and tweeters note what is a paid mention, this can create legislation that affects us all and may go much farther than anticipated. IE How many people who voted for Obama are against the GM takeover? Quite a few. Once the ball is rolling, it may roll too far and start to roll over US. And we (I mean me, Hunter, Dave, Chuck and plenty of others) have all worked too hard and too long at putting out a great project to have regulation aimed at tweeters come and bite us in the ass.

Bottom Line: Leave these guys like 24k and VegasBill alone. Once they realize they can't really make a buck off of it, they will be on to something else. Unlike the rest of us who got into doing this because of a love for Las Vegas first and foremost regardless of how much or little we make, these guys are stricly in this stuff for cash. The VIP invites get old to these guys pretty quickly when they realize they can't make a buck off of it. They'll be on to the next social networking scam.