I usually like Peter Bart. I watch him every week on AMC’s Sunday Morning Shoot-out. He’s a smart guy who has been in the business for a long time. He’s a man who should be respected. So I’m always shocked to read his thoughts on movie websites. His latest rant on the state of movie blogs is unbelievably ignorant.
Bart is usually a very intelligent industry voice but today he has been reduced to a cranky old man who is unwilling to let go of the way things use to be. The industry must change, or die (as was/is evident with the music industry). Movie studios to embrace professional bloggers is a step in the right direction.
This, in turn, encourages some bloggers to wallow in non-stop rants as a form of self-promotion. Living dangerously is sweet revenge, they seem to be saying. To be sure, if a piece gets posted that proves instantly incorrect, or that places them in legal jeopardy, they can simply pull it down and pretend nothing happened.
In fact, Variety sometimes steals from the same blogs and movie news websites they often bash. Last January Variety stole a whole story from CHUD, without credit. If that wasn’t enough, they even reprinted some of CHUD’s original content as their own. Where was the fact checking then? And what did Variety do to that article? They didn’t pull it down, they pretended nothing happened and left it up. Peter, what is worse?
Earlier today we reported that Disney would release Pirates 3 one day earlier. Not only were we the first website to report this news (a full 4 hours before Variety), but our story was accurate and fact checked. I can’t say the same for Variety’s story which contains a huge innacuracy. Variety writes:
Summer tentpole “Shrek the Third,” by contrast, isn’t budging from its opening on Friday, May 18.
WRONG. As we first reported, DreamWorks is releasing Shrek the Third at 10:00pm on Thursday May 17th in the larger markets. This fact can be substantiated in any movie ticket search online (movietickets.com, fandango.com) or with the studios. So let’s get this right: An online movie blog not only beat Variety to the story, but also provided more accurate information (backed up with fact checking). We actually sat on the story for a couple hours while we obtained confirmation from the studios. But Bart paints most movie blogs as reckless and inaccurate. Peter does not understand that we build our audiences out of integrity. People read blogs for the opinionated views. For a no holds barred viewpoint on the current events. Our audience will leave the minute when we sell them out or start becoming inaccurate and irrelevant.
Publicists increasingly court them, but are infuriated by the bloggers’ disdain for the rules of engagement (ignoring fact-checking and review dates, for example).
Variety was able to post their Spider-Man 3 review on April 26th. /Film is an international movie news blog, and we were unable to post our review until the day of release, May 5th 2007. This is not a freak example, this happens week after week. We are punished for being online media. And sure, some blogs post reviews early, but usually not as early as print sources. Our local THA Publicists have told us that if we break a release date, we will be banned. And so we, like all other accredited movie bloggers, always hold our reviews until the date of release.
While the blogosphere has its share of heroes, it’s also populated by pseudo-journalists who have never done a fact check or apologized to a public figure whose career may have been damaged by their bizarre rants.
Today alone I was in contact with two studios and 3 publicists to confirm facts for news stories. Sure, may-be there are some bad eggs, but I’m sure the same thing could be said of print media. Look at Earl Dittman and the countless other studio plants. It seems to me that Peter Bart is trying to lump the majority of accredited bloggers in with the everyday blogger.com folk who find the time to post reviews of test screenings and unconfirmed rumors.
Bart seemingly gloats that Bloggers aren’t protected under the first ammendment because they are not “true journalists.” Mr. Bart, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Clearly, the landscape is crowded and confusing, but decisions have to be made: To whom do you grant interviews and credentials?
I think for once Bart is asking the relevant question. Here is the answer: Studios are interested in coverage and reaching a big audience/readership. If a blog can provide that readership/audience, the studio will reach out to them – like they have to us. If a blog breaks the release date on a review, their media accreditation will be suspended. This has happened in the past, and will happen in the future. But this brings us to the real reason behind Bart’s rant: Readership.
We tried to do a little fact checking and contacted Variety concerning their readership numbers but the editor we talked to was on deadline and didn’t have access to the circulation numbers. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Daily Variety’s weekday circulation was 35,716 in 2001. In just four short years, their readership dropped to 31,622 (2005). I could only assume that the numbers have further plummeted.
While our daily readership numbers might not be in the millions, that doesn’t matter because we know how to promote. Most of our articles are read by a couple thousand readers, but every week something finds its way around the internet. One of my friends once wrote an article that had almost 250,000 readers. Variety can only dream of reaching so many people.
Even the biggest newspapers like The New York Times only have a circulation of around 1 million copies. Some of those copies are freebies at hotels. Others are subscription copies that never get read. I wonder, out of all the newspapers delivered, how many actually get read? Out of that number, how many people do you think read the Arts section? The movie area of that section? How many people read one single movie article in that area? What is the readership of one article? And one could also ask, how many Hollywood offices/suits subscribe to Variety but never read it? What is the readership of one of their articles?
Obviously we’re not as big as the Times, and we never will be, but we also don’t need to be. We are providing content to a targeted demographic of people who are interested in movies. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, our articles will reach wider than the Times. This scares Bart and people of his generation. Because what right do we have to reach so many people. And the movie studios don’t care about who, how, why or where – they just want to reach their demo.
And according to the Alexa.com, an online media metrics site (graph posted below), Variety.com’s readership is are also in a free fall (it appears they are getting 50% less hits than only a few months ago). And that other graph, the brownish-red line, that’s a little blog. Little blogs like Slashfilm.com and FirstShowing.net went from next to nothing and are now competing with Variety (at least in terms of online hits). I don’t mean to “wallow in non-stop rants as a form of self-promotion”. /Film is just one of many blogs that are now competing with Variety in the online movie news landscape. And a huge movie site like Ain’t it Cool News dwarfs both us and the industry trade magazine website in all comparisons. But we don’t ever need to be that huge.
May-be Peter Bart is just afraid of the competition? Or may-be he wrote the article as link bait, hoping that the movie bloggospghere would angerly respond. If so, I’m sure he’ll get the website hits he so desperately needs.
Around the Blogosphere:
FirstShowing.net: Variety Attacks Bloggers; Lies And Rants About Losing Business
Ian Schafer: “The only decision to make is whether or not to evolve along with your consumers.”
Anne Thompson @ Variety.com: Blogs reshaping film coverage