No One Told Us Not To: Fanbyte One Year Later

Fanbyte.com is one year old today. Its bones, buried deep within the untold stories of corporate bullshit, are much older. The site was born right after our company suffered a deep blow in the form of a mass layoff most of us still talk about, think about, and scream about on a regular basis. A lot of what has worked for Fanbyte.com has a direct link to what we lost that day in September 2018. We lost so much that made this company stronger, stranger, and better, and we’re only here a year later because we wanted to make sure those parts always stayed with us in some way.

Not long after Fanbyte.com was born, we experienced our own quiet editorial crisis. For months, I created a buffer between enormously bad executive decision-making and our website’s sensibilities. My boss thought he could hack our way to success, to growth. My boss wanted us to compete with the Wiki builders of the world. We experienced some truly wild top-down branding decisions we’re still scrubbing from external and internal documents. For the better part of a year, our team here at Fanbyte disagreed with our boss about who and what we were.

A Few of John’s Favorite Pieces

What it came down to was that we fundamentally disagreed with our boss that we were a place where wealthy millennials could find their next “obsession.” We disagreed that every piece needs to do “numbers” or we’d drop the format, subject, writer, etc. We disagreed that we should or somehow possibly could in 2019 be the “Buzzfeed of gaming.”

There’s a chaos to how I’ve chosen to operate Fanbyte, which is something that I wrestle with every time we onboard someone new. It’s clear we don’t do things the way some other folks in the space do. For now, that seems okay. We’ve made it a year, after all, which seems like decades when you look at all the outlets that have fallen over the past few years.

We survived the Facebook video metrics debacle, barely. We survived our former executive leadership’s decision-making. We’ll survive the next wave of horseshit, too. That’s because I’ve been given an opportunity to manage a team that I’m unbelievably proud of. What’s a silly 1st birthday victory lap without a little bit of victory?

Dillon Skiffington has been with the company the longest and has such an amazing knack for finding the right angle when it comes to guide coverage. Without going into too much detail, I don’t think Fanbyte would be viable without Dillon’s input and expertise. Dillon often knows more than I do about our site’s performance. Very often. Maybe too often. Maybe I should be better at that.

Steven Strom entered the company right after being hired by one of my colleagues we lost in September. I think the executive staff literally forgot Steven had been hired. Their oversight was my gain. Steven remains an irreplaceable part of Fanbyte. I would not have been able to navigate those first turbulent months of the site without Steven’s steadfastness and grasp of everything. Also, Fanwidth rules that’s mostly Steven’s doing.

merritt k was our first “big get” in terms of reaching way outside our existing network to find someone who could transform the language of Fanbyte into something that folks would keep coming back for. Her knack for finding stories in the unsearched corners of the web is the professionally expedient thing I could point out about her, but also notable are her singular dedication to Destiny 2 and Twitter account that makes me go “no” almost every day.

More of John’s Favorite Pieces

Niki Grayson’s hiring was a group effort to get someone in social to help every part of the business out. But once we realized who we had hired, I did everything I could to claim Niki for Fanbyte.com. It worked. You can pry Niki away from my cold dead hands. Working with Niki on Late Lunch is pure joy for me and Niki’s knowledge and energy is something we’ll be relying on for (hopefully) a really long time.

An early birthday present to ourselves was the hiring of Danielle Riendeau, someone I’ve admired for a very long time. I’m so happy I get to see her at work for us. The biggest compliment I can give her is that I feel like she’s been working with us for a year already. She fits so well and is only beginning to contribute her brand of extremely specific and cool interests to our site. It’s such an exciting time for us.

There are others! Andrew Whitmore has been our producer on Late Lunch, but he doesn’t get enough credit for pushing streaming and coverage of service games we sometimes miss. Andrew sometimes makes me “eat my vegetables” by exposing me to stuff the kids love. I’d be way worse at my job without his work. Ryan Stevens was with Dillon and I at the very beginning, helping draft 1.0 of Fanbyte.com. His video work and management of the entire (excellent) video team was the stamp on the site’s first E3 coverage. I’m so grateful for his perspective and experience. And dad jokes.

Jordan Mallory has been a contributing writer for us since the beginning. If you’ve seen something of ours totally pop off, there’s about a 48 percent chance he wrote it. I’ve worked with Jordan on and off for eight years and he’s a vital part of my own professional development. He’s a deeply ethical and conscious person, which serves the entire site more than he probably realizes.

Elby Hunktears runs FanFyte, our revitalized wrestling section. It’s tough to imagine a better person to be running that. I’m a big wrestling fan, but befriending Elby a few years ago right after they started watching wrestling was like watching Darth Vader ether Obi-Wan in like five seconds. I love reading their stuff and the entire section is going to thrive because they just have impeccable taste.

Our freelancers. Wow. We’ve worked with some unbelievable freelancers. I’ve been thrilled to see known writers bring their talents to us, but I have to say I’ve been even happier to see lesser known writers flourish with us. Some of the finest writing I’ve ever read in games can be found on our site, which feels like a dream I don’t deserve, but I’ll take it.

And Finally, Some of John’s Favorite Pieces

There are lots of folks you don’t see who make Fanbyte excellent. Rocky Pack is the first to know when something is wrong with the site. He’s the one who will tell me, more often than not, to essentially chill and try maybe one more thing before I panic and alert our engineers. He’s usually right. Evan Dobrowolski is obsessed with Fanbyte making money. He’s not wrong to do this, but he is the reason I lay awake at night. Ivan Espinosa handles the load of our Fanbyte-related engineering tasks. I’m not sure where things would be without him, but I know that things would not work as well. The rest of the engineers are amazing. Ian, Keith, Patrick, Alan, Deanna, and Nathan. All great. All a big part of how our entire network stays afloat.

I want to give a special thanks to Alexis Kusy, who runs Wowhead. Wowhead is such a beast. I don’t get it. I really don’t. I think WoW is cool, but Wowhead serves that community in a way that bowls me over. Alexis and her crew do an incredible job and it’s Fanbyte’s job to catch up.

Some Pieces John Wrote That Aren’t Bad

I wouldn’t be celebrating a year in the books if it weren’t for our readers and fans. If you’ve ever spent time on the site or listened to a podcast or stumbled into an episode of Late Lunch and typed “I don’t understand this and don’t want to” into chat, thanks. Thank you.

We’re not perfect. We’ve made mistakes and will again. Overall, though, so far, so good. I’ve had the best professional year of my life and hope to make the next one even better.

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John Warren

I miss Texas sometimes. Wheelchair person. Professional wrestling is humanity's greatest achievement. He/his, y'all.

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