- The UK gaming-news hub Dexerto has emerged as formidable player despite a tough media climate.
- The site was founded to cover esports but has flourished by embracing online drama.
- It added 30 employees in recent months, as some endemic rivals shuttered or pivoted from journalism.
On the homepage of Dexerto, a seven-year-old gaming-news website, staid posts about competitive esports commingle with screaming headlines about online gossip.
You can read about the new audio-transcription features in “Overwatch 2,” for instance, and get up to speed on the beef between Pokimane and Corinna Kopf.
Dexerto — pronounced “desert-o,” “as if the x was an s,” the cofounder and CEO, Joshua Nino, said — was founded on “sport-style esports coverage.” But its mission has evolved to chronicle broader online culture, with a flair for drama in the gaming space and beyond.
“To focus on one area is to deny fans the whole pie,” Nino told Insider.
Its shift turned out to be prescient. 2022 has been light on new video-game releases amid a rare moment of revenue decline for the once-thought “recession-proof” global games market, per a recent Newzoo report. And individual streamers like Ninja and xQc accrue far more eyeballs than flagship tournaments that cost millions of dollars to produce, said the veteran esports journalist and industry analyst Rod Breslau.
“The culture around livestreaming and individual content creators has definitely overtaken the industry that is esports and competitive gaming,” Breslau said, adding that now-major organizations that started as esports teams were “spending way more money on signing influencers than actual pro players.”
In this climate, the UK-headquartered Dexerto has emerged as a kind of tabloid for the gaming world, with Breslau likening it to “the TMZ of esports.”
Today, dexerto.com attracts 30 million monthly visitors, it said — a formidable sum, though less than 30-year-old stalwarts like IGN and GameSpot, which clocked 98 million and 69 million monthly visits in September, according to the web-analytics firm Similarweb. That said, the figure would put Dexerto ahead of competitors like PC Gamer and Polygon, both of which nabbed roughly 26 million visits the same month.
Dexerto posted roughly $10 million in gross revenue last year, the company said, and is projecting 50% growth in 2022 — in line with its growth rate for each of the past three years. Direct-ad sales account for about half of revenue, with programmatic ads (30%) and social monetization (20%) making up the rest.
Nino said Dexerto had been mostly bootstrapped — aside from about £257,000 in seed funding — and had been profitable since 2016.
The company has grown its headcount over the past year to 150 employees, driven mostly by its advertising business, Nino said. It hired 30 new staffers in the past three months alone.
Its growth is something of an anomaly as other endemic esports publishers have faltered.
In recent months, competitors including G4, Inven Global, and Upcomer have shuttered or pivoted away from journalism. They’re part of a trend that’s befallen the larger media landscape amid slashed ad budgets as a recession looms.
A newsroom of amateur bloggers and veteran esports journalists
In many ways, Dexerto has modeled its business strategy after the influencers it covers.
Despite the diminishing financial returns of social video, it has become a priority for the publisher to help tout its in-house content studio, connect with influencers in the social milieu, and grow its overall brand.
Dexerto has 40 social-media accounts and sister websites covering various corners of the gaming space. With 15 million collective social followers, this includes the “Call Of Duty”-focused Twitter account Charlie Intel and the entertainment-leaning YouTube hub Influenced.
“BuzzFeed would’ve never become the brand that it did if it didn’t have Facebook to ride the wave in those early couple of years,” Breslau said. “Dexerto has certainly done the same.”
Its ad campaigns, which make up half of the company’s revenue and include deals with major brands like Chipotle and Xfinity, are frequently tied to esports tournaments and game launches. Dexerto also works as a kind of influencer-marketing agency, syncing up influencers and brands for select sponsorships. And it operates an in-house studio for both branded and original content.
The newsroom is made up of amateur bloggers and veteran esports journalists alike, Nino said.
Given its rough-and-tumble approach, Dexerto has been accused of clickbait, said Breslau, including by frequent story subjects.
“We do create entertainment,” Nino said, “but we’re also in part anchored by a number of journalists who have real credentials in the way of investigative reporting and high-quality, long-form storytelling.”
Sometimes, though, the site’s irreverent voice has landed it in hot water. When the streamer and adult-film star Adriana Chechik broke her back at a TwitchCon, Dexerto tweeted a callous joke that sparked backlash: “Former porn star Adriana Chechik gets her back blown out, this time by a hard floor at TwitchCon.”
The tweet was taken down promptly, Nino said. It served as a gut check on the company’s core values and its approach to covering the gaming space.
“We’re here to show the good in it, the fun in it, and sometimes the edginess of it,” he said, “because that is what will resonate with more fans around the world and grow our industry.”