Using and abusing the Wikipedia

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while but still wanted to address it. Chris Abraham wondered whether the Wikipedia would be the next front for promoting new TV shows, movies or other popular culture. For anyone who may have read Abraham’s post and thought it sounded like a good idea I have one word: DON”T!!

The Wikipedia is supposed to be a community effort where people can go for unbiased and factual information untouched by spin and promotion. In fact, the guidelines for submission specifically state this. There’s a difference between viral marketing, where you plant something that gets passed around via word-of-mouth and grassroots marketing, where there’s a popular groundswell over an issue. The difference is who’s in control. With viral campaigns the guiding hand is still those “officials” who created or are overseeing the campaign. Grassroots efforts are firmly controlled by the general citizenry. It’s best to make sure official sources don’t interfere with grassroots efforts since often they do nothing but muck them up.

If someone starts a Wikipedia entry, a fan-blog or any other sort of communal or citizen effort because they enjoy your TV show, movie, record or anything else you should reach out to them and acknowledge their support and hard work – even link to them off of an official site. But don’t get involved in creating them. It reeks of the old days where movie marketers would leave breathless praise for a movie on a message board, only to be outed and discredited within days (or hours) and have whatever good will the movie may have engendered smashed to bits. Let the ordinary folk have their tools for spreading enthusiasm and fan excitement.


Answering Private Ryan

Ryan Anderson has been good enough to give me two mentions in the last couple days. Most recently he quotes from my latest FilmThreat MMM column, the one on Pretty Persuasion.

On Tuesday, though, he (rightly) questioned the logic Buena Vista is dispaying by releasing four different variant covers for their upcoming Sin City DVD release. Here’s Ryan:

I don’t understand the marketing behind Sin City, they are releasing the same DVD with 4 different covers. Do they expect me to collect them all? Waiting for the
special edition…

I don’t think they are really expecting to people to buy four copies of a bare-bones DVD. Would they like you to? Yeah, of course they’d like you to but I don’t think the studio has reasonable expectations that people are going to drop $80+ on four DVDs, especially when there’s a special edition coming, likely before Christmas.

Instead I think the four different covers are an attempt by the studio to create buzz and make the covers a discussion point among collectors. They want people to compare with their friends which version they each bought and maybe encourage a group of people to all buy different ones. I think there’s a better way they could have done this, perhaps by including pictures with each different poster that could have been slipped into the front of the DVD case, but I kind of get this move. My bigger problem is with the whole releasing of the bare-bones edition in the first place, but I don’t think there’s any getting around that practice.

So there’s my two cents.

By the way, Ryan, I completely agree with your comment about the Cubs. (See the bottom of his Tuesday post.)