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Thursday, 14 October 2010

Power To The People?

I have just read an article in The Word magazine. One of my favourite magazines as it happens.
In the article, the writer mentioned that he just been to see a pre-screening of The Social Network, here in the UK.

Obviously, movie reviewers and journalists have been seeing new movies earlier than the rest of us mere mortals for many years now. But, now some things have changed.

As the journalist mentioned. Before seeing the movie he and every other fellow reviewer, were told that they were forbidden from giving any opinion about the movie in any form, until October 11th. A few days prior to the UK release date. Even though the movie had already been released in the USA.

This embargo covered such social media avenues as Twitter, Facebook, Blog posts etc.
As was pointed out in the article, this was especially ironic, considering the subject matter of the movie.
The Social Network was not allowed to be discussed on any social network. Hmm...

Now, this is by no means the first time that i've heard of these type of controls and effective gagging orders being put onto reviewers and journalists.
As media companies, in their many forms, get increasingly paranoid about potential bad publicity and leaks, these controls are likely to become even more widespread.
But why?

I do understand why companies would be concerned about the potential leaking of their music and movies all over the Internet. And i know that record companies have now started playing new music down the phone to music journalists. Or, inviting them to "special" playback sessions, where they have to leave their phones etc outside. But, stopping a reviewer even talking about a movie is getting a little bit ridiculous, in my opinion.

All of this paranoia does, partly, explain the reason why movies and music are increasingly finding their release dates corresponding, across the world. Similtaneous release dates are becoming far more frequent. Partly as a result of piracy concerns.

But, as with anything out in the big wide world. It is the quality of the product that really matters. As has always been the case.
No amount of gagging orders and secrecy will help to stop the news that you have unleashed a huge turkey of a product onto the unsuspecting public.

And, this brings us to the real crux of the matter.
The reason that we are not being allowed to hear the opinions of reviewers and journalists, is because of the power of social media.

There have already been examples of new and very expensive movies, that have bombed at the box office, because of the power of social media and word of mouth generally.

Word of mouth has always been a very valuable tool to anyone selling a product. But, in these days of increased use of social media, that word of mouth can spread like wildfire and within timescales not before seen.

You may well have been thinking of going to see that brand new blockbuster movie, at the weekend. But, because of your numerous social media connections, your friends and anyone else whose opinion you value, may well be telling you to avoid that new movie like the plague.

We all know that we always tell far more people about something we dislike, than we do about something we've enjoyed.
Now, those opinions are available at the click of a mouse.

So, maybe this is a case of power falling into the hands of the people at last.
No longer do we have to be sucked in by fancy advertising. We can just listen to the opinions of those whose judgement we value, or listen to.

This is what those huge media corporations are really worried about, when they attempt to gag those reviewers and journalists.

But, there is one very easy solution to all of this.
Release good quality products in the first place.

I wonder if that idea will ever catch on?


  1. While there is a certain irony in being told not to tweet about a social media story, I'm not sure I agree that it's from a new level of paranoia.

    It's always been a regular practice to send out press releases on one date with an embargo date that's a week or so further out, and by the same token, to hold a screening of a new product (movie, music, whatever), but ask that the reviews be held till closer to the release date.

    The early screening/press release is a courtesy to the journalist, to give them time to write their story, and to the editors to schedule their content. Meanwhile, the embargo is simply asking the journalists/editors to reciprocate that courtesy by not putting the story out so early that the buzz has died down by the time the film/record/event is actually out for the public.

    What's new here, and is relevant to this blog, is the inclusion of twitter, facebook, and blogs in the specific embargo language.

  2. Point taken.
    I think the main issue i had, as did the journo who wrote the article, was that the movie had been released for a while in the USA, before he saw it.
    By that time, we were all reading, or watching reviews from people like yourself, who had already seen it.
    That's what made it so absurd to me & made me wonder if these movie makers actually know what goes on in the real world :)