Video game enthusiasts are some of the most outspoken folks on the internet — divisive opinions on storytelling, graphics, platforms and everything in between. Whether you are a die-hard World of Warcraft player or you’re still frustrated about the quality of No Man’s Sky, GameSkinny is the platform where you can say it all. Currently part of the Launch Media Network, GameSkinny has millions of monthly users discussing the current game market and what’s to come.
Different from a regular internet forum, it helps fans become authoritative figures in their favorite interests and produce quality content with the help of their “Journalist Training Program” and a team of editors. The program helps interested writers learn skills in marketing, social media and SEO through an optional 9-week intensive program and empowers them to take engage in those topics they are passionate about. The result? A collaborative online publishing platform that provides a positive gaming experience.
Behind the controller is founder and CTO Stephen F. Johnston Jr., who founded Guild Launch (now Launch Media Network) in 2006. Johnston, now with 13 employees, has raised $4.5 million and continues to expand rapidly, including recently relocating to Sandy Springs from the Atlanta Tech Village.
Learn about Johnson’s plans to add more publishing platforms beyond gaming and why he brought his startup to Atlanta from Richmond, Va.
Funding or bootstrapped:
To date, we have raised approximately $4.5 million and with our rapid growth, we anticipate an additional round of funding in the next 3 months.
Launch Media Network (LMN) is a global fan focused media and entertainment network that empowers millions of millennial generation enthusiasts to elevate their original content, cultivate their communities and connect via innovative platforms.
LMN’s GameSkinny platform enables video game enthusiasts, working with our editorial team, to share their expertise and passions with millions of others creating a community of influencers and thought leaders in diverse areas of interest. LMN also operates Gamer Launch, which provides social networking and instant website creation for gamers. Launch Media Network is leveraging more than 10 years of experience in video games and working with dedicated, passionate fans to build the most comprehensive media company related to the interests, and expertise of the millennial generation across multiple verticals.
What inspired you to launch this company?
We created our Guild Launch product in 2006 to meet the needs of video game communities that were underserved by the tools provided by game companies inside and outside their games. Our initial focus was on guilds and clans in MMOs such as World of Warcraft. Over time we’ve added on eSports tools such as team management and tournament management functionality.
While building Gamer Launch we noticed that our highly engaged community was often distinctly knowledgeable about a game. At times, more so than the game companies themselves. Our players would notice things like subtle differences in the stated and marketed behavior of a game mechanic versus that which was implemented by the development team. These gamers were sharing this info in private forums such as ours or in other places where they got nothing more than fake internet points for their effort.
At this point we had built Gamer Launch to more than 4 million registered users with millions of monthly visitors. We began discussions with these users about other places where they were creating online content. We also discussed their dissatisfaction with these other platforms. What we heard was that the current platforms, for the enthusiast content creator, required too much technical understanding, a too diverse set of SEO and marketing skills and that they did not provide industry credibility and monetization was complicated and ineffective.
How did you solve this problem?
The solution we’ve come up with is our GameSkinny product which provides a complete solution for an enthusiast to participate in a community of writers with marketing, SEO and monetization handled by us centrally. We provide a training program called The Journalist Training Program (JTP) that trains participants in all of the aspects of online content creation including SEO and social media, but also on traditional journalism techniques. We teach them to apply objectivity and research to their passions and to produce high quality content that serves their audience. Our JTP program includes on-site material, a 30-day self-paced email program, is being rolled out, and we run a 9-week intensive program, which qualifies for internship credit at colleges and universities.
We rebranded as Launch Media Network when we launched our GameSkinny.com site and we’ve now grown Launch Media Network to more than 3 million monthly unique visitors and we will be expanding. We will use the platform underlying GameSkinny to create additional sites that address distinct verticals centered on the interests of millennials.
Please describe the market/industry impact:
One, we’re training a new generation of content creators who are comfortable with creating online content, but have had very little guidance as to what constitutes quality content. Second is authenticity. Pop culture coverage including gaming, tech, music and sports has vast amounts of content related to a what, at times, feels like a sociological observation of these communities. Our approach is embedded and truer to the experiential nature of these topics. Third, our platforms provide unique industry and market insight to our industry partners since our visitors and content creators engage in behaviors unique to Launch Media Network.
Across Launch Media Network we provide marketing solutions which include social promotions, display advertising, sponsored and native content. In addition, our commerce team provides product curation monetized via affiliate relationships and our Gamer Launch product has a B2C SaaS subscription model.
Who are your competitors and how do you stand out?
Our primary competitors include IGN, Curse.com and companies like Vox Media. We stand out through our robust training program for content creators that leads to a uniquely authentic voice. Our content is straight from the most passionate participants in our content areas. Critically, we are not an open publishing platform. 100% of our content is edited by our team, and no content is published without editorial approval.
How does ATL weave into your story?
I am an Atlanta native, but I was living in Richmond, Virginia when we founded Launch Media Network. The tech, startup and hiring environment can be challenging in the conservative business environment of Richmond. I looked at Atlanta and saw a booming tech and startup community, more than 80 video game development companies, an established music scene, a growing movie industry, an approachable cost of living, and a strong university cluster. As we evolve LMN and add tech, movies, music and other millennial interests to our video game foundation, Atlanta is uniquely positioned in the country for our needs. When we moved down, we moved into the Atlanta Tech Village, which was a great place to network and meet others in the startup and tech community in Atlanta. We’ve since moved to offices in Sandy Springs due to our space needs.
Are you hiring at the moment?
We are currently hiring an Editor-in-Chief to guide our vertical growth and content team, a Head of Business Development and a Digital Ad Operations Specialist to grow and optimize revenue. In addition, we are always looking for high quality freelance writers and aspiring writers to join our next JTP session.