Yesterday my good friend Kirk Skodis at Film Plug pointed to the newly redesigned website for Paramount Pictures. I really like quite a bit of the new site, even beyond just the sleeker design and better overall layout it has. From a branding standpoint, it works very well, too. The main page has links to the different divisions of the studio, including Paramount Vantage (the art-house division) and Dreamworks, which Paramount recently purchased control over. It also highlights what I’d call its equity partners such as Marvel Comics, who will develop films based on their comic characters for eventual distribution through Paramount.

But in applying new media tools the site falls short. There’s at least one section that could have been completely re-imagined and, most importantly, given an RSS feed. That’s the “Newswire” section. That Newswire is just screaming for an RSS feed as well as to be used more regularly. This should be utilized for not only the occasional corporate announcement of how well a certain movie did at the box office. It should be updated every time the official website for a Paramount movie gets launched or upgraded, every time there’s a new trailer available, every time a poster gets released and any time there’s any other sort of announcement regarding the marketing a movie being created by the studio. And don’t get me started on how it could be used for production updates. That’s a whole other discussion.

More and more companies are discovering that blogs or, at the very least, RSS-enabled news pages, are a valuable asset. They allow the company, through either a junior-level staffer or the CEO, to speak directly to the consumer. Specifically, it allows them to speak to a sub-set of that consumer base that’s especially interested in that company or industry. A sub-set of that audience is also blogging about their interests and passions. That turns the company into a wire service in and of itself, distributing news on a regular basis to a citizen press corps which is happy to get such updates and, when they’re interesting enough, pass them on to their readers. Just like the traditional relationship between the PR industry and the mainstream press, only replicated X number of times.

By not setting such systems of news distribution up, companies are sending the following two messages out to the public: 1) We’ll decide who we speak directly to, thank you very much and 2) If you’re not in that group we’re going to force you to come to our page and spend an hour poking around to see if there’s anything new, which there might not even be.

Here’s something I said a while ago to a group of people: If a corporate site doesn’t have RSS, it just don’t exist to me. I have chosen which sites to subscribe to and keeping up with them takes up most of the time I have set aside for reading and information gathering. I don’t have time to go and poke around a non RSS-enabled site for what’s new. I need those updates delivered to me. By not doing so the company only increases my reliance – and brand allegiance – to those sites it has deemed worthy of communicating directly with. That’s because those sites do have RSS feeds, and that’s where I get my news.

And don’t try to say “Well not everyone is hooked into RSS and that’s why we don’t use it.” Go to FeedBurner or FeedBlitz. They allow you to create a feed that also can be turned into an email newsletter. So that excuse just doesn’t hold water. Just because not everyone uses it doesn’t mean that 1) they won’t one day or 2) that you’re not turning off audiences that do.

If a company really wants to communicate with its audiences, both passive and active, it would be wise to figure out how to do so in a manner that’s useful to the whole audience. Even more than that, look at the tools that also have the advantage of empowering the active part of that audience, the group that’s blogging, to help spread the word about the company. It’s well past time to move beyond “push” corporate communications and let people “pull” what they want and when they want it.

2 Comments

  1. The issue I have about the Paramount site is that the home page has nothing except the divisions and then once you click a division you still have to wait for items to load up.

    I’ve left already…I wish I could sample the functionality straight away and they bury the tidy graphics/movie in the site. It is reminiscent of the era of dull flash intros where the best element was the ‘skip’ button.

  2. Chris, couldn’t agree more. We’ve been building “Syndicating Press Rooms” for clients for some time and have been advocating that companies set up RSS feeds out of the news area.

    In our experience only about 10 percent of a website gets updated frequently and 80 percent of those updates are in the press area.

    To expect someone, especially the press, to actually “visit” your site to see if there is any new content is ludicrous.

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