This year's edition of the Essen gaming fair is an event of superlatives: the largest SPIEL in its history to date is also the trade fair at which the organizers are experiencing a real media boom. Around 900 individual media representatives from all over the world will parade through the halls, according to Friedhelm Merz Verlag.
In view of the diverse preliminary reporting on SPIEL '23 in Essen and against the background of countless previews of new products, it would be clear early on that there will be massive reporting on the trade fair this year. Then a rumble: Does SPIEL screen out media professionals? Has anything changed in procurement practice?
Twice a no, as PR boss Robin de Cleur said when asked. Even the opposite is the case, as figures show: Friedhelm Merz Verlag has actually met a significantly increased demand from press people and influencers.
350 international media
The Essen gaming fair is a world-class event, internationally respected and accordingly covered in multilingual reporting. Suddenly, after publishing a web article, doubts about media pluralism arose. A central accusation: The trade fair would screen out outlets and might be stricter when it comes to issuing press tickets. One would turn away from the awarding practice in recent years. Numbers now show: This cannot be confirmed.
Only the technology is obviously different, as media professionals were able to notice when registering: "We haven't changed anything in the way press tickets are allocated - except that we switched to an online tool," explains Robin de Cleur, head of communications from Friedhelm Merz Verlag. The former one Asmodee-PR man fills the new role for the first time at SPIEL '23 in Essen. All media representatives could have registered in the tool and requested a press season ticket that was valid for all four days, said de Cleur. You had to provide evidence - however, due to the colorful media world, especially at trade fairs or conventions, the guidelines here are traditionally less strict than press people are used to: you could refer to journalistic work or an imprint, insert links to various channels or attach written orders from editorial teams . The press card as a working tool was just one of the possibilities. “The whole thing could be fleshed out with comments in a separate field,” says de Cleur.
Ultimately, he was faced with a mountain of work and had to check the entrances. There were certainly criteria, but there were also many opportunities. “I checked all requests and had to reject a number of requests,” explains Robin de Cleur. He “of course also had to take reach as a key figure”. Well over 1.200 inquiries were received. “I evaluated each channel individually and did not add up the reach, because from experience many followers follow one medium on all channels.” Instead, the channel with the greatest reach or the only one specified was used.
Nevertheless, there was no specific number as to when a medium was approved. “In fact, I also rejected channels that had high five-digit follower numbers because they didn’t report on the gaming world and the trade fair,” said de Cleur. The SPIEL is obviously concerned with quality and not quantity. In the end, some numerical work was still involved in order to be able to process the amount of requests: “In general, I can say that I took a closer look at a channel from a low to medium four-digit follower number,” explains SPIEL’s head of PR. However, this range is “always only a first criterion”.
Reports on games and the industry
In a second step, it was specifically checked how games are reported or whether the SPIEL is a covered topic in the reporting and also how often events and trade fairs were reported on in the past. “It is important to us that the media widely reports on the innovations, the trade fair itself and the world of games,” says Robin de Cleur.
Ultimately there was rejection. But even in these cases, Friedhelm Merz Verlag relies on communication: “I then sent a short message to all the media that I rejected, which of course I couldn’t always completely rewrite due to the volume,” says de Cleur. Some then came forward and submitted more concrete examples. Positive decisions were made in some of the submissions. “Unfortunately it is true that individual emails went through me and I didn’t respond,” said de Cleur. “This is annoying, for those affected and also for me, but hopefully also understandable given the many topics and emails before a trade fair.”
There are figures behind the process: According to the organizer, around 900 individual media representatives were accredited this year - from small specialist sites to large television stations. Around 350 media come not from Germany, but from all over the world - including Europe, but also Japan, Brazil, Australia and the USA.
And last year? SPIEL gave out “just over 2022 press tickets” in 500, says Robin de Cleur. “So we had to cope with a significantly increased demand.”
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