Hey, Answerman: Under Pressure

by Zac Bertschy, Oct 19th 2007


Things I am officially sick of talking about right now:

* Fansubs
* The "collapse" of the R1 industry
* Kodomo no goddamn Jikan
* Dubs vs. Subs

I get a lot of questions about my job and the experiences of my colleagues in the industry, so we're doing a catch-all column this week about the "anime press". After all, the only thing more fun than work is talking about work, right?

Let's get started.

Hey Answerman,
Your bio says that you have been writing about anime as a living for 8 years. Is anime journalism a viable line of work? I am a journalism major in college and I am a big anime fan, and I would love to make a career writing about it. But I do not know how reasonable that is!

Actually, provided you can get your foot in the door and score a reasonably high-ranking editorial position at an anime magazine (or any one of the few anime websites with paid full-time staff, like this one or, say, IGN's new site), anime journalism is a perfectly viable career. Not everyone who's in this line of work does it for free; most of my colleagues are paid, full-time professionals. Hell, most of your freelance work will be paid as well. Every piece of editorial content you see on this site - columns, reviews, features - these are all written by people who are paid for their work.

The illusion that the anime press is just a collection of diehard fans doing it all for free on tiny blogs comes from the fact that the majority of websites you see out there related to anime are exactly that. There's some truth to the illusion, but the fact is, there are plenty of legitimate writers and editors who do this for a living.

I mean, you're not going to be rich, but it is possible to live a comfortable existence writing about anime for a living. Then again, anyone going into the anime industry for any job who's doing it for the money is a fool.



Answerman, I have some comments and a question of sorts. It seems to me that the "fan press" meaning blogs and podcasts and journals are more right and more reliable than big sites like anime news network or anime on dvd where there is money involved and the people working there are paid. It seems like real fans are the ones who do it for free and therefore they are more likely to be honest since they are not paid off by big companies and dont rely on ads to support their blogs or news feeds. I could be wrong but it just feels like they are more truthful especially with reviews. I just get the feeling that when you have to get ads then you also have to say nice things about the stuff in the ads. am I wrong about this?
 
I'm not sure what you were expecting me to say, but yes, of course you're wrong.

There's a generic meme that floats around that states that mainstream press is always lying and wrong and that the little guy with the unpopular blog is always noble and right and true. That is not the case.

First, let me dispel the notion that somehow the press is being "paid off" to write positive reviews or spin the news in favor of whatever companies are advertising; that is not the case, as anyone who actually, you know, works in the industry will tell you. There is and always has been a professional level of disconnect between editorial and advertising; neither I nor anyone I know who works in the anime press has ever been paid off to write a positive review or spin the news. In fact, you can't even find any evidence to back that little theory up; outside of the occasional scandal in the videogame press, I don't even understand where people get the idea that if you see an ad for a show on a website or in a magazine and that show also is given a positive review that there's a correlation between the two. Skepticism is healthy but only when it's actually informed by something other than vague cynicism with no proof to back up these claims.

Secondly, those fan blogs you're reading sometimes get things right, but more often than not they're fueled entirely by speculation, and the authors are not held accountable for what they say. If I say something that isn't true and don't correct it, my feet get held to the fire. I use my real name here, and I make myself available for comment and criticism, and I stake my reputation on what I say. People hold me responsible when I screw up, and I have a boss who provides oversight. Here at ANN and at every other big website or magazine, there's a management structure in place to hold employees accountable for what they say and do. Meanwhile, nobody punishes "Goku384" if he spreads false information on his anime blog; he's anonymous, and doesn't even have to respond to any criticism if he doesn't want to. He can say whatever he likes with impunity. That's really what the big difference is; if a professional journalist screws up, there's a price to pay. If a blogger screws up, well, then a whole bunch of people got bad information and there's nothing anyone can do about it, and likely the guy will just keep on publishing.

Do blogs rely on ad support? No, but that doesn't make what they say trustworthy (or untrustworthy). Ad dollars do not translate into positive press, period. That's the long and short of it.
The guy ANN pays to review anime is no more or less swayed by the company that released it than your average blogger.

Dear Answerman, i noticed that at a lot of anime conventions there are people who have online podcasts who get into the convention for free with a press badge. if I start a podcast can I get in to conventions for free?? how easy is it to start a podcast.

Actually, unless you're talking about smaller conventions (the press rules of which I am not familiar with), most of the major cons have been clamping down on the number of podcasters they let in with press badges precisely because literally any moron with a microphone and free audio recording software can release a podcast. The conventions I attend have required listener numbers, so if you slap together "Billy Joe's Anime Opinions" every week and 3 people listen, no, you can't get in for free.

There are a few that do manage to wrangle press badges and generally they work the convention by podcasting live from the show, holding panels and reporting on major events. You sound like you just want to get in for free, though, and let me tell you, that motivation alone won't be enough to get you to actually put the work in to have a successful enough podcast to where you actually could get in for free.

As for how easy it is to start a podcast, most people go about it this way:

Step 1: Buy cheap microphone
Step 2: Download freeware audio program
Step 3: Get some friends on Skype and bitch about anime for an hour or so
Step 4: Put the MP3 up on a free blog server

That's pretty much it, and even that makes it sound like it's more complex than it is. Thing is, there are so many anime podcasts out there right now that even if you started your own, unless you have some totally amazing take on the subject that will blow people's minds, you're just adding to the ocean of white noise.

That's not to say there aren't any good podcasts - I've mentioned some of the ones I personally enjoy in this column before - but so many of them fall into the same obnoxious bad habits that make their shows unlistenable. Having spent an unfortunate amount of time checking out the various and sundry podcasts out there, I've come up with a list of some deadly sins many podcasts fall prey to, ensuring that I will shut off their show no more than 10 minutes in:

1. Hosts talking or yelling over eachother. What's less interesting than hearing someone's pat opinion of Voltron recorded on a bad-quality microphone? Hearing someone else's pat opinion of Voltron being shouted over it!

2. Endless circular in-jokes and namechecks that mean nothing to anyone listening except the host's friends. Here's a tip: if I turn your show on and I can't understand a damn thing you're saying because it's all annoying sniggering in-jokes that you're sharing with the other hosts or your friends who might be listening, you have failed to make an entertaining show.
Believe it or not, the insular conversations you have with your friends are not amusing or interesting to outsiders no matter how clever you fancy yourself. Talk to your audience, not your buddies.

3. Off-topic uninteresting tangents that go nowhere or rambling personal stories nobody cares about. I turned your show on to hear what you have to say about Evangelion, not hear you wax rhapsodical for 20 minutes about the Baconator you ate for lunch or how your car broke down on the interstate last week. If what you're saying has no point, move on to something someone might be interested in listening to.

4. Extremely infrequent or erratic updates, followed by "apologies" that there's no new show this week. If you're not updating once a week or more - no less than once every two weeks - then your show isn't frequent enough to encourage repeat listening and frankly if you're updating once every 90 days or whatever and you miss one, guess what, your show is dead and nobody cares. This same affliction plagues webcomics.

So if you're planning on starting up a podcast, please avoid doing any of these things. I guarantee you your show will be better than 95 percent of the other shows out there.

Speaking of podcasts - and to go on an uninteresting personal tangent of my own - at Otakon this year, I was invited to a party being thrown by the fine folks over at the Fast Karate for the Gentlemen podcast (which, along with Anime World Order, is probably the most listenable show out there right now). The party was attended largely by other podcasters, and the company was very pleasant and gracious (as was the half-bottle of Jim Beam I consumed while there). During this party I found myself in a friendly debate with a couple of folks who ran their own podcast and were familiar with my column. I always enjoy a debate - even when a little sloshed, after a full day of work - so we had a spirited conversation. I thought they were both charming and intelligent individuals, even though one of them seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

Turns out they waited like 2 months and decided to dedicate an episode of their podcast to that argument, making a bunch of (mostly fair, aside from casting untrue aspersions on my salary) personal comments about me, reframing and often misquoting my argument and then continuing the conversation without me there.

Here's my thing: I'm generally a pretty friendly guy and I'm always happy to talk to people who read the column at conventions, but if it's 11 at night after a long day of work, I'm obviously trying to relax and I have a drink in my hand, at least have the courtesy to tell me I'm apparently being interviewed for your show and that anything I say to you will later be used on your podcast. Kind of a punk move to do otherwise, right?

Last week we had a column about dubs, and I quoted some figures about the general cost of making a dub. Turns out my numbers were a little out-of-date; a voice actor who asked to remain anonymous sent in a correction:

Non union roles pay from about 50 per hour to 130 per hour, with  250-300 an hour for video games. Union work for dubs is about 64.50 per hour with a two hour minimum. 

Thanks for the info, anonymous contributor.





And now, a scathing critique.

your pretty much wrong about everything just sayin

You wound me, sir.





This is king bunny.






Our question last week was "What's the best - and worst - thing about being an anime fan?"

From reader "Shinoga".:

What's the best and worst thing about being an anime fan?  I'm gonna have to go with the community, for both. 

I've met some of the most awesome people through cosplay, cons, and even just in the anime aisle of my local video store.  Anime reaches a fairly diverse group of people, from rich to poor, young and old, classy and trashy.  People tend to be more verbose and energetic than normal when in an anime induced setting: i.e. a convention, anime club meeting.  It is amazing how one piece of shared knowledge/experience can create a connection between people that under other circumstances may never have existed.  True it doesn't always last but for that period of time it's great. 

Now I've met some less than awesome people in the same manner.  Standing in line in front of a 16 year old girl who feels the need to say “I'm pretty” at least once every 5 minutes is just one great example.  As I said anime reaches a fairly diverse group of people.  One must take the good with the bad.  And just because it needs to be said, the fact that I am female and an anime fan does not equate that I will go out with some one just because they are an anime fan and …..breathing. 

In short making an anime community connection is a terrific experience but if the person with whom you are attempting to connect with is trying to pull a ninja move to get away just let him/her go, restraining orders are a bad thing.

Another, from Matt Travers:

I'll start with the worst thing about being an anime fan. The biggest problem I've noticed is simply the fact that we as anime fans are a minority in this country. I'm in college right now and I live in a dorm with plenty of other people, and I'm almost sure that none of them like anime. While other people are watching Monday-night football (my roommate included), I'm trying to catch Noein on Sci-Fi.  While other people talk about "Heroes" or baseball or the like, I really don't know much about what they're talking about because I have no interest in it. But, the same goes for them and anime. A lot of people who don't watch it think it's just plain weird or stupid and they make jokes about it. When I watch anime with other people around I don't want to weird them out or have them think any less of me. I just want to relax and enjoy my favorite television without any awkwardness. Thankfully in college people tend to be open to new things so it usually isn't too much of a problem. Still, given anime's limited popularity, sometimes it's just plain hard to be a hardcore fan while maintaining a proper social life.

The best thing about being an anime fan, I believe, can only be understood by the fans themselves. While reading through the answers to last week's question, I realized that sure, not all anime is better than American television. However, I think most anime is of a far finer quality than a lot of the crap they play on MTV and other shows made for the American masses. Anime provides some good quality entertainment with a lot of variety so it's always possible to find something new AND entertaining. Finally, when you do finally find people who enjoy anime as much as you I think it makes for some good friends. I have a friend who I actually knew before I was into anime but we got into it together and now it's all we talk about most of the time.  Anyway I guess being an anime fan is just like being part of any relatively small group of like-minded people. Even though there may be some adversity or some misunderstanding by outsiders, within the group there's a sense of pride and the satisfaction of having a passion for something great.

From Joanna Slawik:
  

The best thing about anime is bringing in another anime fan into the fold. It just feels good to expose an open-minded person to a few choice anime shows and getting that person interested, even, *excited* about anime. My boyfriend was one of those people, he was big into sci-fi shows and yet had seen very little sci-fi anime. It's so neat for me to hear him ask me when the next Netflix is coming in because he's so excited to see the next episodes of Full Metal Panic! or groan in exasperation when the DVD runs to the end and he has to wait a whole three days (gasp!) to see the next disk. I think, in essence, seeing someone have fresh excitement for anime is very uplifting.  
 
The worst thing is definitely people who have already made up their minds about anime and want to make you feel the same way. I'm sure some fans know the type. Those people who can not and will not give anime a chance. The kind of person who has never watched an episode of a good anime series or movie but has equated anime as mindless fluff (Read: "Cartoons") that could never be as engaging as a hollywood movie. It's as if the person has a personal vendetta against all anime. For that person, it isn't just that they're not interested, it is that they need you, the anime fan, to see the error of your ways. I'm talking about those passive-agressive people who just can't leave a fan alone. If they don't like it, fine, but I don't want to be preached to about how big of an idiot I am for watching it. Especially when the same kind of person will not watch a quality anime film and decide for themselves.


Finally, from Stephen Bell:


The best thing: Other anime fans.
 
The worst thing: Other anime fans.
 
'nuff said.


Here's our topic for this week:





Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.


Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I hve so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

So check this space next week for your answers to my questions!

See you all next week!


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