When Pacland Was King
(Originally Published: July, 2018 @ Boxing.com)
Back when Manny Pacquiao was at the height of his popularity, the Filipino icon commanded a fiercely loyal tsunami of fandom that washed over the sport and turned the boxing writing industry upside down. In many ways, this water blasting of the business revealed some fundamental truths about modern boxing writing as a whole.
Between 2008 and 2012, Pacquiao fans, by the hundreds of thousands and pretty much acting as one unified Manny-hungry block, brought waves of traffic to boxing sites, turbo-charging ad revenue like never before. And boxing sites responded by providing more Pacquiao content to bring in even more clicks. Writing about the future first ballot Hall of Famer became a money-making venture—a rare occurrence in the world of boxing writing.
But no site was as big in the Pacquiao business as Pacland (Now, Pinoy Greats), the news aggregator and fan site dedicated to posting stories about the beloved folk hero, culled from sources all across the Universo Pugilistico.
A placement on the Pacland news feed guaranteed high traffic, causing editors and site owners to rush to submit their Pacquiao-related pieces to Pacland bossman Dong Secuya for consideration.
But, along with “legit” sites of all sizes and levels of professionalism, there was also plenty of junk posted to Pacland.
Much of that junk came via Examiner.com, the now-defunct home of “citizen journalism” that compensated its writers on a pay-per-click basis. The Examiner was intended to be a learning ground for young journalists, but it never got past being a hobby for a handful of semi-serious writers and a home base for many more crackpots with axes to grind.
Examiner.com’s boxing section was especially awful and while it occasionally showcased good writing, it was mostly a space for faulty boxing logic and, in the case of Pacquiao, shameless pandering for those coveted penny clicks.
On any given day, Pacland was packed with Examiner.com articles written by the usual suspects, who were beginning to make more and more money from their efforts.
Former boxing publicist Michael Marley, who milked the eager and often naive Pacquiao fan base for millions of penny clicks over the years, earned a nice chunk of change for posting utterly meaningless daily affirmations about the benevolent awesomeness of boxing’s “humble superhero.”
Dennis “D’Source” Guillermo, Marley’s young Fil-Am, hip-hop protégé and self-proclaimed accomplished journalist, was the ultimate source for fan club information such as the inside scoop on Manny’s collector Topps card or Manny’s favorite shoe for pick-up basketball games. Guillermo also holds the distinction for having created the single worst headline of all-time: “America may think he’s damaged goods but Pacquiao just like Boxing is bigger than America.“ [sic]
Behind Marley and Guillermo, there was a small, but tenacious crew of eager penny-click collectors who wrote non-stop about Pacquiao from every conceivable positive angle in an effort to rake in the loose change from click-mad Pacquiao loyalists. Converting Examiner.com pap to penny click scores via Pacland became a cottage industry of sorts.
Some of these authors, eager to make even more money, entered into an agreement to pay Secuya a share of their penny-click profits for preferential placement on the news aggregator. The informal pay-for-play arrangement [which was made public by this writer’s own site, The Boxing Tribune] generated thousands of dollars for these writers and turned crudely written trash bin articles into hundred dollar (or more) pieces.
“I asked several of them to give me a cut from their earnings since most of their traffic came from my site anyway,” Secuya said in a post on his site’s message board. “I do need money to pay for the maintenance and servers for the site. All those I approached happily obliged (I hope) and we had [a] good business going on…”
A casual perusal of Examiner.com boxing columns, in its prime, got you articles such as: “Preview of Pacquiao’s new Nike Air Trainer 1.3 shoe and release date,” “U.S fans heckle Floyd Mayweather, demand he faces Manny Pacquiao,” and “Does God want Manny Pacquiao to win?”
While the exact percentage of the split between Secuya and the writers was never revealed and all the participating parties have not been “outed,” it’s safe to say that at least a handful of the Examiner.com people were a part of this payola-like arrangement.
One writer who we do know participated in the “pay-to-play” arrangement was the aforementioned “D’ Source” Guillermo, who eventually got banished from the Pacland news feed over a disagreement he had with Secuya about an article Secuya refused to post.
Guillermo hinted at the payola deal on his personal Facebook page when he became angered at his banishment and claimed that he had paid over 100,000 Philippine Pesos (about $2,500) in kickbacks to the fan site owner. Secuya would later confirm this fact on his site’s message board.
More interestingly, though, was the email exchange between the two, posted by Secuya in order to dispel some of the gossip brought about by this decision to cut Guillermo off from Pacland penny clicks.
Upon learning that he was persona non grata at Pacland, “D Source” went through a roller coaster of emotions, apologizing for any disrespect he may have demonstrated to Secuya, blaming the harsh tone of his correspondence on a battle with the gout, and looking to appease the fan site owner by assuring that the specific report Secuya had refused to post was actually pro-Manny and “even made Pacquiao look like a victim.”
Guillermo was in full panic mode because he had lost out on a good thing. The Examiner fluff got “D’Source” a brief gig at Boxingscene as chief Pacquiao panderer, but there was nothing quite as sweet as being able to make a wad of bills for a poorly-crafted 350-word bit of Manny Pacquiao minutiae via Pacland.
Alas, the era of the penny-click Pacquiao Press Corps ended in 2012 when Examiner.com, upon seeing so many of their “citizen journalists’ actually making some real money, decided to change their pay scale and keep a larger part of the money for themselves.
For the major Pacquiao-pandering players, the potential payout wouldn’t be worth the kickbacks anymore. Suddenly, the Examiners stopped caring so much about Manny Pacquiao and his exploits and they stopped flooding Pacland with their poorly-crafted articles.
Hall of Fame Pacquiao cheerleader, Marley, who wrote fourteen Pacquiao-friendly articles in the month prior to the June, 2012 Pacquiao-Bradley bout, only managed to churn out one Pacquiao piece in the month prior to Pacquiao-Marquez 4.
Guillermo gave up boxing writing altogether.
Back when Pacquiao’s massive fandom had just washed over the boxing scene like a gigantic tsunami, the rush to exploit his hard-headed but charmingly naive and loyal fans opened up the industry for a brief moment and, for the first time ever, revealed the true nature of the business. While the keyboard slappers at Examiner.com were heavy-handed with their hustle, they weren’t doing anything that some of the big boys at the major sites don’t regularly do, albeit with greater skill and aplomb.
Selling fights and passing along talking points is the boxing media’s prime function these days, but at least, back in the glory days of the Examiner’s Pacquiao Press Corps, there was some unintentional humor mixed in with the cheerleading.
We may never see headlines for well-traveled articles like this again:
“Manny Pacquiao’s religious reawakening results in beatific glow, promoter says”
It’s all well and good that the Examiner clowns are gone from the sport, but one could argue that dealing with the clowns who paint their faces in public and wear rainbow wigs is preferable to dealing with the ones who hide behind the illusion of professionalism.