Interview: Most Entertainment News Sites to Go Broke By Mid 2024, Says CinemaBlend Founder

The following is an exclusive and in-depth interview with Josh Tyler, the founder of popular entertainment news sites CinemaBlend and Giant Freakin Robot, the latter of which he is currently CEO. The interview was done over email correspondence, with only light edits for clarity and grammar.

Josh, it’s an honor to have this opportunity to talk to you. As a fellow entertainment reporter, I’ve been a long-time fan of your work. You’re a fixture in the independent news space, but for our readers who are unfamiliar, can you please tell us your origin story? How did you get into the entertainment news business, and what led you to create CinemaBlend and Giant Freakin Robot

“I grew up below the poverty line in small-town Texas, and when I scraped together enough money for community college, I figured I’d better get a practical degree to make sure I didn’t end up on food stamps like my parents. So, I worked my way through night school to get an engineering degree, even though all I’d ever wanted to do was be a writer.

I’d been an electrical engineer for about six months when I began to realize that not only did I hate it, but I wasn’t any good at it. Determined to do something more fulfilling, in 2000, I taught myself HTML and started a website which became, spending every spare minute writing for it.

I started out in the midst of the worst part of the dot-com bust, and ad rates had fallen 90% overnight. The big players surviving in the space in spite of that, outside of IGN, were all independently owned.”

So you have been involved since the early days of modern online entertainment journalism then. What was it like to meet and work with some of your heroes?

“I was a huge admirer of the work of those early movie and game blogger pioneers until I interacted with them. I soon discovered that with a few notable exceptions, they were corrupt creeps, lunatics, and narcissists who traveled in packs like hordes of hungry lemmings. They were not serious about business or journalism. All they cared about was their ego. That discovery was incredibly disappointing. I put my head down, stayed away from that group, and built my own thing anyway. Staying as far away from that crowd proved a good decision.

Many of them ended up being caught up and canceled in the #MeToo movement. A couple even went to jail. Those that remained either went out of business and ended up working at Starbucks or sold out and are still working in the industry at high levels for other entities where their corruption and egomaniacal behavior continue to drive the industry.

Now the world of entertainment journalism is, outside of GFR and a couple of other very small players, largely devoid of independent outlets. That doesn’t mean the players have changed; they’re just no longer working for themselves. Given the people involved, it should be no surprise that the entertainment journalism world is a mess. It was always a mess. Now it’s a mess funded by wealthy investment firms and run by big corporations, but nothing has changed.

CB grew until after 5 years of working two jobs full time; I was able to quit engineering and focus on only one. Then because I now had even more time to devote to it, CB grew even faster. Around 2008, I founded GFR as a spin-off to focus more on genre entertainment. It was a small endeavor, and I never had enough time to devote to it. Cut to 2015 and after years and years of working 80 – 100 hours a week CB was insanely successful but I was also totally burned out.”

That is around the time that you originally sold off your companies, right? What made you go through the cycle of founding, retiring, and unexpectedly returning as the Owner/CEO of Giant Freakin Robot?

“In 2015, I sold both GFR and CB to different companies. At the time CB had a staff of 30 and received around 20 million readers a month. It ranked as one of the top 4000 most popular websites in the world.

I stayed with the company that bought CB (Gateway Media) for six months to help with the transition and then worked in their acquisitions department briefly before happily departing into early retirement. I haven’t had any connection to CinemaBlend since 2016.

And then I got bored. In 2019 [sic], bought GFR back from the company I’d sold it to for a fraction of what they’d acquired it for. They’d done NOTHING with it; hadn’t even published any content, and the site had been totally destroyed. No traffic, no web presence, nothing. It was dead. I was starting over from scratch.

This time I had experience. In less than two years GFR grew to exceed CB at its peak, and it’s still going strong in an increasingly difficult market. I currently serve as GFR’s sole owner and CEO.”

You’ve had quite a journey in your career. Now to be fair, I’ve only been working in entertainment journalism for around 4 years now, so you can tell me if I’m wrong. The state of entertainment journalism is probably the weakest it’s been since the internet crash, with, for example, ad rates currently a fraction of what they were a year ago for some sites, including ClownFishTV.

In general, entertainment journalism as an industry is suffering, whether that’s the death of organizations like Vice, the mass layoffs in games journalism, or Gamur-owned websites now resorting to AI-generated news content. What do you think is driving this massive chaotic change and why?

“To clarify, ad rates are really only down around 30-40% industry-wide. That’s still bad, but not what the hyperbole out there suggests. Not nearly as bad as the rate decline back in 2000 after the dot-com bust, back when I was first getting started. From an ad rate perspective, the level of decrease now is more akin to what happened after the 2008 crash. It should also be noted that even though ad rates are down 40% from last year, they are still way up compared to what they were at any time before 2015. The ad industry has come a long way.

Ad rates are not the problem. No one wants to admit it, but traffic is the problem. It’s also not AI, though there’s a lot of hype and fear about it. That’s an excuse.

The real reason companies like Vice and Buzzfeed are going out of business (and expect a lot more very soon) is that they no longer have any readers. And they no longer have any readers because web traffic is now entirely controlled by a small handful of tech companies. Around September 2022, those tech companies decided to stop sending traffic to news publishers.

Facebook is the biggest one. They’ve all but cut off publishers entirely. Many publishers got as much as 40 – 50% of their traffic from Facebook. That ended in late 2022. No one and I mean no one; at least not if they are honest, gets Facebook traffic any more. Meta has tweaked their algo [sic] to make sure users never leave the Facebook app.” The other 60% of traffic for nearly every publisher came from Google. And now that is gone too. Look at any Google search result. A year or two ago, 80% of a Google results page would have contained links to publishers. Now it’s often not even 20%.”

Wow, that’s a bold statement, but I can’t help but agree with you. It’s alarming how much the landscape has shifted in such a short span of time. Many of my freelance friends have told me how hard it is to find work these days. I’ve experienced it myself; outlets and editors that I worked with suddenly dropped me without any reason or explanation. You raise a good point that the real issues affecting publishers, and consequently the rest of us, are not the ones that get discussed. There is a difference between the polite answer and the real one.

Yet to push back a little, from my observations, it seems that nerd news sites companies like G/O Media which owns Kotaku and Gizmodo did do themselves some self-inflicted damage by relying on bad faith tactics like clickbait and trolling readers.

“There’s no denying that things are a mess and only getting worse. I still remember when I first began noticing the shift.

It was late in my tenure as CinemaBlend’s CEO, and we’d sent a writer to cover a press junket with Clint Eastwood. The reporter came back excited, claiming that in the middle of the junket, Clint Eastwood went on a crazy racist rant.

The reporter wrote up their story, in which they talked in detail about what a racist Clint Eastwood was and how he’d said horribly racist things in a hate-filled tirade.

I reviewed the article with my Editor-in-Chief before we published it since this was a big and intense accusation at that time. We both noticed something strange: the article had no direct quotes from Clint Eastwood in it.

We reached out to the reporter and asked to listen to their audio recording of what Clint Eastwood said.

We listened to it twice; we couldn’t find the racist tirade.

We went back to the reporter; they gave us a time code, and so we listened again.

Here’s what Clint Eastwood said: “I have a lot of black friends.” That’s it. It was in the context of how much he’d enjoyed working on the movie, and he sort of said it as an offhand comment.”

That’s awful, but knowing my peers, I cannot say I’m entirely surprised. What did you decide to do?

“We went back to the reporter and asked if that was it. The reporter confirmed that it was. We had a 1000-word story written about Clint Eastwood’s racist tirade, and all we had to back up that claim was Clint Eastwood saying he’s friends with people of color. We killed the story. However, there were dozens of other journalists at that junket. They all wrote the racist tirade story, and their outlets published it. All of them. Not one of those stories published by our competitors contained an actual quote.

However, if you’re asking why the industry is in decline, none of this is relevant to that particular question. Only a small fraction of loud readers pay any attention at all to things like that. The internet runs on casual readers who have no idea what’s going on and wouldn’t care if they did. The real question that needs to be answered is: why do Google, Facebook, and other tech companies no longer want to work with publishers? It’s not because of those bad-faith tactics because those companies use them too.

I think it’s because they simply don’t need them anymore. Google and other tech companies have realized that people will look at whatever they show them, regardless of how good it is or isn’t. In that environment, it makes the most financial sense to keep all the readers to themselves without sending them off to other entities.

The internet has become a monopoly controlled by a handful of gatekeepers like Google, and now that they’re in total control, those gatekeepers are closing the gates.”

So you are saying that this is more about the numbers for what is convenient for Google or Facebook and less about what is or isn’t being said in the media. That’s a frightening thought, to be honest

“Given the corruption and rot of the online publishing industry, it’s probably too early to say if that’s an entirely bad thing for consumers. But corruption and rot have always been there, and it’s not the reason Google is shutting the gates now. Unlike their competition, both CinemaBlend and Giant Freakin Robot are successful websites that drive solid traffic and regularly break important news. What sets these sites apart from others?

I no longer have any connection with CinemaBlend, so I can’t speak to what they’re doing over there now. I think the foundation of what I built there remains, however. Most of the people currently in charge are people I hired and trained and have a lot of respect for. I built GFR the same way with a focus solely on the things that truly matter. We avoid the bloat that plagues other companies. We stay lean, mean, and stripped down.

My philosophy is content first. And content first means being writers first. My focus is on finding and hiring the right editors, the right writers, and then giving them the tools and freedom they need to do their jobs and say whatever they want about the topic they’re assigned. If I can’t find the right person, I’ll work longer hours to do the job myself rather than hiring the wrong person.

We keep our staff simple and focused on writers, editors, and the content they produce. We don’t waste time and money on support positions or perks or office space. We don’t have complicated marketing departments or social media managers, even if we can afford them. They just get in the way of doing what we’re actually here to do: create great content for our readers. The type of content we produce follows a similar philosophy. We focus on writing about what people are actually interested in and don’t waste time on anything else. Often that’s difficult because sometimes we’re excited about something we know that no one else will care about. But our job isn’t to make ourselves happy; it’s to make our readers happy.”

Well, you can’t argue with the results, right? GFR has a reputation for its reliable scoops, while other sites will often resort to dubious and poorly sourced scoops and leaks. For instance, Inside the Magic and Fandom Wire will publish stories claiming that Kathleen Kennedy is about to be fired from Lucasfilm any day now; and when you dig deeper, it’s likely some YouTuber with no evidence, perhaps wearing a mask and costume. How does your team avoid making those types of mistakes, and why do you think other sites are running with lower standards?

“The flattery is appreciated, but we take as much heat as those sites do. And none of us deserve any of that heat. GFR puts a ridiculous amount of time into researching every exclusive report we publish. And our success rate is extremely high. If you look at our confirmations page, there are hundreds of confirmed stories there. For every one story we get wrong, we get twenty right.

But trolls only point out the one we get wrong as if that invalidates everything else.

What people don’t seem to realize is that every outlet gets one wrong now and then, and they always have. The accuracy rate of the default trades like Variety is no higher. Actually, it’s probably lower.’”


“A lot of the time, the “accurate” stories the trades run are stolen from us without any credit, and the rest of them aren’t original reporting, just reworded press releases they get from studio representatives. We have no interest in re-wording and re-stating the stories already broken by the trades or in publishing studio press releases. We feel the job of real reporters is to be out there reporting, and for us, that means doing original reporting. Original reporting is dangerous. It means that no matter how hard you try, sometimes you’ll make mistakes. We’d rather try and make mistakes than sit back and let other people at other sites do our job.

Most of the big sites don’t do any original reporting outside of showing up at a junket and asking the pre-approved questions they’re allowed to ask. Those sites have made it clear to us they resent our decision to do something different. We’ve been threatened by their staff and slandered by their teams. They make fake Twitter accounts to spread misinformation about what we’re doing. We ignore it.

Early on, when GFR started breaking really big stories, the Editor-in-Chief of one of our biggest competitors contacted me and demanded that I tell him who our source was and give him that source’s contact information. Journalism 101 is, of course, don’t reveal your source. So I declined. It was then insinuated to me that if I did not comply, he and his friends in the industry would do everything they could to humiliate and discredit GFR publicly. I continued to decline, and for the most part, that person and his friends have done their best to follow through on that threat.

I assume similar tactics are being used against Inside The Magic and some of the other very few journalists out there actually doing their job by working on original reporting.

CinemaBlend’s official response on Twitter to criticism of its Turning Red review.


Okay, you have me there. I’ve reported on leaks and researched scoops of my own for stories like G4TV or Resident Evil 4, etc., so I’m keenly aware of the risk and frustrations involved in trying to report the truth inside entertainment journalism. I can’t count how many times I’ve approached outlets with verified stories, and they turned me down, even though the veracity was solid and the value of the scoop was self-evident. I don’t think most readers appreciate how hard and relatively thankless it is to be doing newsgathering in our industry.

You haven’t been involved with CinemaBlend since 2016, but I’d like to hear your perspective. Last year a review for the Disney film Turning Red was retracted after accusations of racism and sexism made by Pixar itself. How do you balance healthy film criticism today with all this corporate or social pressure? In your opinion, was retracting the review the right call?

“That review was written by Sean O’Connell, who I hired and promoted back when I still owned CinemaBlend. Sean is one of the kindest, most caring, most dedicated, most serious film journalism professionals I have ever known. He’s one of the gold standards for what people in this business should be.

I don’t know what was happening at CinemaBlend during that time or what they were thinking. I no longer have any involvement with the site. So it’s possible I don’t know some key detail. What I will say is this: I’ve been in this business for 23 years. No publication of mine has ever retracted or changed or modified anything due to pressure. And over the course of 23 years, there has been a lot of pressure.

I wouldn’t have cared what anyone said; I wouldn’t have cared what the review said. Whether the review was offensive or not wouldn’t have mattered to me and wouldn’t have been a factor in the decision. I wouldn’t have pulled the review. My reviewers can say whatever they want. People can like it or not, often even I don’t like it, but I’m not going to stop our writers from saying it as long as it is accurate and genuinely their opinion.”

With everything we’ve discussed, what does the future of entertainment journalism look like? Is it going to just be influencers and YouTube and TikTok, or will written online and print content continue to still have a place? And what would you tell people like me already in the industry or those who want to enter? Knowing our present trajectory, would you encourage your own family to go into journalism or to stay far away?

“I would expect most of the big corporate-owned sites to be out of business by mid-2024. A lot will be gone before the end of this year. Barring some radical course reversal by Google, there is no path for them. Most of the smaller independent sites will be gone too; they were already barely holding on, and now they’re being totally removed from the internet.

I’ve talked privately to the CEOs of a lot of those companies (big and small), and they’re all shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. They are going under; they all know it, and they don’t see any way out of it. A few, the more proactive ones, are making plans to pivot their companies to entirely different businesses. No one sees any future in online publishing.

The only sites which don’t seem to be floundering are the ones owned by Valnet, CBR, Screen Rant, etc. Valnet is sucking up the internet traffic being taken away from other sites like a vacuum and getting bigger and bigger as everyone else shrinks. I’m not sure what their secret sauce is, but they seem to be the only ones who have it, and it’s working for them. Outside of Valnet, anyone else who wants a future will have to get lean. Publishers must find ways to run their businesses without corporate bloat. Most of them do not have the ability to do that, so most will go under. It’s not a question of will they; it’s only a question of when.”

That’s grim, but I agree with you.

The future of entertainment journalism is smaller outlets with a smaller staff and a more clear focus. Sites that can survive long enough to pick up whatever smaller amount of traffic is left after those big sites go out of business will find enough left to keep going.

Our aim is to be the last site standing, and I think there’s a pretty good chance we will be. Entertainment journalism will continue to exist on a much smaller scale.

If you want to get into this business, I hope you’re good on camera. That’s the clearest path. What was once a business of introverted nerds writing about the movies they love in their basement has morphed into a business ruled by extroverts glad-handing for likes and jumping in front of cameras.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when it all started, the internet was a haven for introverts struggling to make it in an extrovert-run real world. I’m not sure where my fellow introverts will go now.

That said, I have four children, and my high schooler has started working with me on GFR. I’ve been training her on basic editing and proofreading. It won’t be a career -she wants to be a welder, which is awesome- but it’s a useful skill, and with the future so uncertain, the bigger and more diverse your talent stack is, the better your chances are at making it.

On the other hand, my middle-school-aged son has started a YouTube Channel where he makes a lot of silly nonsense. Unlike his father, he’s a wild extrovert and well-suited for the new extrovert-controlled internet. It won’t be a career, I hope, but he’s having fun doing it and learning new skills in the process. He doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s also building his talent stack and preparing himself for a wide-open and completely unpredictable future.

Click here to check out other entries in our Interview Series. strives to be an apolitical, balanced and based pop culture news outlet. However, our contributors are entitled to their individual opinions. Author opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of our video hosts, other site contributors, site editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. This website contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. We disclaim products or services we have received for review purposes, as well as sponsored posts.

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Peter Pischke
Peter Pischke
Peter Pischke is an independent journo covering health & disability by day & entertainment and games by night. Host of CultureScape YouTube show & Podcast Longtime mega otaku, happy to share the seas w/ ClownFish TV @happywarriorp on Twitter

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