Gamers Nexus released their video regarding issues with content, ethics, and operational accuracy at Linus Media Group (LMG). Before expounding upon the state of affairs and trends that we’ve noticed with the downward progression of content across the applicable properties, we’d recommend watching the video.
There’s nothing inherently incorrect with the salient points that Steve Burke has noted. The initial clip cited, which came from MurfsGaming’s tour of the labs, highlights the Mechanical Engineering Designer effectively disparaging the competition without considering the ‘people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ conundrum. With the statement of “The difference between us and somebody like Gamers Nexus or Hardware Unboxed is we test new components… new tests… every time.”, said Mechanical Engineering Designer effectively created a veritable shit storm which has already incurred some degree of reputational and brand damage to a business which is attempting to pivot from tech entertainment to alternative and more scientific value streams for revenue generation and improved content accuracy.
If we take the statement of “new components… new tests… every time” at face value, LMG would literally be hemorrhaging money. Sponsors and vendors would not send pallets of components to be used each time a new benchmark cycle or test is initiated. If new tests are used every time, the absence of documentation or process to translate prior results into a new approximate value which accurately represents the applicable characteristics of a given product when compared against newly tested and competing offerings would be an exercise in futility. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reassessing and altering testing methodologies at scheduled intervals. Updated tooling, environmental conditions, or better controls to reduce variables are required for reliable and repeatable results. However, these changes need to be appropriately planned and timed. The absence of such processes has (and will continue) to result in inconsistent data between videos in a very short period of time.
Further references to inaccuracies in measurements, metrics, and ethics are highlighted. With the revenue streams offered to LMG via advertising from sponsor segues and pimping screwdrivers, backpacks, pillows, and other merchandise sold directly through their web store, the unwillingness of the Chief Vision Officer to allocate a few hundred dollars extra toward properly polishing the content prior to publication is inexcusable. Some of the less tenured staff, which have appeared more frequently across the multiple channels, appear to be uncomfortable with Linus’ lack of awareness while filming. Subsequent clips of Linus opening his mouth and inserting his foot on the WAN Show, his website, and in published content which requires pinned comments to correct misconceptions and deficiencies merely pour more gas on what was a small bonfire.
Gamers Nexus and Hardware Unboxed have both addressed the attack on their credibility, methodology, and data with professionalism. No shots fired. No need to disparage the competition. Linus (or perhaps Terren Tong) would benefit from issuing a non-gaslighting or blame-deflecting apology. Many mistakes have been made, and we’re not talking about a simple ‘Whoops! I transposed the digits when entering it into the infographic’ types of mistakes. Identifying the gaps and repeated failures to produce reliable results would drive applicable exercises which ultimately strengthen internal policies and procedures for LMG. Formal communication training would also be beneficial to avoid outcomes such as the one that’s still unfolding. Reading the room has absolutely nothing to do with making factually inaccurate statement that can potentially damage LMG from a reputation, brand, or trade secret perspective. Reading the room does factor into stopping the excessive influx of cringeworthy, humble brag content which is better suited for an episode of MTV Cribs.
Beyond the ethical items that Steve covered in his video, nobody’s addressed the Intel and AMD Makeover videos where employees of LMG are basically given $5,000 to do whatever they want as long as it involves a system with the applicable vendor’s CPU. Accepting gifts from a vendor, supplier, or advertising partner may bring into question the objectivity of one’s ability to review and assess competing offerings. Prior content around the ASUS ROG Rig Reboot series enabled viewers (who are mandatorily subjected to sponsor pitches and requests to purchase merchandise directly from the web store) to claim real upgrades, learn more about building computers, and to provide quality entertainment. The Makeover series not only failed to measure up, but highlighted loss prevention issues as well as an absence of company policies around ethics.
Ultimately, it’s our opinion that the following initiatives and actions would be beneficial to restoring trust, repairing brand damage, and setting a more consistent and sustainable path forward for LMG:
- Linus takes a small break or vacation to reflect upon himself and his actions – He doesn’t see that he’s quickly becoming his own worst enemy. The Gamers Nexus video contains additional clips where the LMG personalities share their concerns with the release schedule and quality of content. The defined cadence for pushing a new video for clicks and revenue is untenable. There was another, more famous Linus who took time off to enhance his capability to be empathetic. A period of downtime and stepping away would be good for resetting and truly understanding how out of touch Mr. Sebastian has become with respect to his employees and viewer base.
- Development of new or enhanced employee policies and applicable training – This type of ‘hot mic’ scenario should not have existed. There’s a not-so-fine line between being proud of the work one is doing versus actively disparaging peers or competitors in a given space. The demonstration of insecurity, when mated with proven lies, would result in disciplinary and education activities for the errant employee in question within a larger enterprise. Policies and training related to communication and ethics would have proactively worked toward preventing the easily disproven statements caught on tape. While the initial declarations of superiority by LMG employees was overzealous and fraught with a lack of facts, the subsequent doubling down and gaslighting by the CVO amplified the harm against their brand. There’s almost universal consensus on Reddit related to this series of events. Policies, training, and disciplinary action require better definition and enforcement to protect what’s been built.
- Focus on quality over quantity – The Internet does not need multiple videos per LMG channel on a daily basis. Understand the broad swath of the audience that subscribes the channel and takes the presented data at face value. Content along the lines of the post-mortem on the LMG YouTube Hack, software tools for PCs to simplify software installation and maintenance activities, custom fabrication efforts, and similar content with an educational or informative slant demonstrate the capability to produce videos which provide benefit. These offerings are outnumbered by the functional equivalent of an infomercial across the balance of the channels, complete with more advertisements at the beginning and end of each clip.