Movie Websites Attack

MAsters of the Web
Photo courtesy of IESB

IESB‘s Robert Sanchez has never been one to keep quiet. He’s known for his no nonsense tough guy attitude, and is usually very vocal on and off the internet. During Robert’s Masters of the Web panel at Comic-Con 2007, the IESB webmaster attacked Cinematical.com and the blogosphere:

“It’s not only established media … we’re not bloggers, for God’s sakes. I’m not a f**king blogger. You know, we might have a blog, but we don’t blog. Chud’s not a blog. Latino Review’s not a blog. And I hate when the established ‘quote unquote’ media treats us as bloggers. But at the same time, bloggers who live 300 miles away from any f**king studio will pick up our stories and they do the exact same thing. There’s even a couple that are owned, by like, AOL — I’m not gonna mention their f**king names — that will run stories without giving us credit. Or they’ll do a stupid little hyperlink, like ‘sources are saying,’ you know. But they won’t mention your name. We’re the ones working our asses off to bring you guys news, and we do. I think everyone here does it full time, or almost full time. You know, we have families to support … but son of a bitch, these little bloggers who don’t do anything but live with their mom will take our stories and not give us credit and they write them up as their own.”

Cinematical fought back with an angry editorial by Ryan Stewart. But honestly, it came off like a lame high school argument, with Stewart bragging about all the interviews, festivals and set visits he’s been invited to. What does that have to do with anything? You get invited because you work for a website which is owned and operated by AOL. That’s why you’re there. Nothing against Cinematical, but Ryan’s argument is weak. I like cinematical, and Ryan Stewart is usually a very good writer (much better than I will ever be). I have met a lot of nice people that work for the company, and the truth is that Cinematical does have some top notch writing. That’s way it’s so disappointing to see they engage in such deceptive linking practices.

I’ve had problems with Robert in the past (I think we’ve both agreed to move forward), and I don’t agree with the way that he fights his battles (I still haven’t been able to get the guy to return a phone call to settle a long ago misunderstanding, but I digress). I do however agree with him on one issue: It appears that Cinematical makes an effort to hide story credit using text-based hyperlinks within the story and/or sometimes in a nondescript “read” link in the post meta area. This is certainly the wrong way to handle things. I use to work for Cinematical years ago before AOL bought them out. I was trained to write posts using this method of formatting, and continued to use that policy when I started /Film. Robert (IESB) and Ronnie (then of LatinoReview) contacted me and changed my mind on how news stories deserved to be linked. You will notice that every nonexclusive news story on /Film contains an identified link to a website source, usually in the first sentence. This has become and remains our policy.

However, I do disagree with Robert in the area of blogs. We don’t all live in our parents basements. This is a full time job for me and many others. I also think it’s narrow minded to think of blogs as noncontributing content. As the web becomes congested with more and more information, content and news overload, audiences need to find a filter for content. Look at the big websites out there today. Amazon has an extensive recommendation engine to further filter the products on their website to the user. iTunes offers user playlists to further help filter their library. The same thing is happening to news and content. Social sites like Digg, Delicious, Reddit allow users to submit and vote on content from around the web. Filtering is the future of the long tailed web.

Blogs like The Movie Blog, FirstShowing, FilmSchool Rejects, Screenrant and /Film serve as a personal filter of the news, adding opinionated supplemental content. We don’t cover all the news stories of the day, nor do we try to. We cover the news that interests us the most. Hopefully our readership relates to our sensibilities. There is a value for this. Even blogs that don’t offer “scoops” on a regular basis have a big value in this new long tailed web world. How many scoops does a site like PerezHilton get? Probably not many. But Perez knows what news and photos will appeal to his readership because it appeals to him. He acts as a meta filter.

Breaking scoops is not the bottom line key to everything. Sure it helps, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. All that counts is readership. Readers will flock to the source they find most valuable. May-be it’s because of the site usability/design, maybe the personal voice and sensibilities, may-be the content filtering, may-be the scoops, may-be it’s because of exclusive editorial content, maybe it’s because of the community. But I’m guessing it’s a combination of all of the above. Readers aren’t stupid, and they certainly won’t stand for deceptive practices. And at the end of the day, the site that people like to read the most will win out.

What the other blogs are saying:

Neil Miller at Film School Rejects:

“The ultimate problem I see is that there seems to be a rift between to sectors of the online community, almost unnecessarily. What Robert was referring to is the fact that there are websites (specifically some blogs) out there that give online press a bad name. These sites are not responsible with information and have made studios nervous about really opening up to the online community. Unfortunately, he chose to lash out toward a site like Cinematical, which is certainly not the root of the problem. It seems sad at this point, but things are not going to get any better if online outlets continue to lash out at each other. Our real battle is with traditional media. Our readerships are larger, our interaction with our readers is more instant and undoubtedly more impactful and it is time that we get the respect that we deserve.”

Ray at The Rec Show:

“We all have something unique to bring to the common movie theater we share together. We are bound by that love of dimming lights, trumpeting fanfare, and the roiling emotions of an electrified crowd. We all love being transported together – despite being even thousands of miles apart – and then swapping intellectual spit with each other through our various sites.”

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