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Friday, June 20, 2008

When You Need Traditional Media, and When You Need Bloggers

I'm in Silver Spring, MD today for Silverdocs.

This morning, I was on a panel with Karina Longworth, AJ Schnack, Anthony Kaufman, and Sandy Mandelberger, moderated by former Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson. We were talking about the differences between reviews and film coverage in traditional media versus the blog world.

I proposed one theory: that traditional media (radio, TV, print) and the blogosphere serve two very different purposes for filmmakers.

Traditional media coverage takes a lot of energy to get. Often you have to hire a PR firm, or hope your distributor employs a sharp PR person. But getting reviewed or written about in a magazine, or having Richard Roeper say nice things about your work on 'At the Movies,' is really important if your film is playing in theaters. Traditional media coverage is still very important if you're trying to put butts in seats -- or get people to watch your film when it is broadcast on TV.

On the flip side, blogosphere coverage is *much* more powerful if you're trying to sell DVDs or downloads of your film. The reason is that blogs will usually link directly to your film's site (or sometimes, directly to Amazon or iTunes or somewhere else where it's available for sale -- so that they can pocket the referral fee that comes from sending a paying customer their way). That link is a direct "synaptic connection" between someone interested in your film and the place where they can purchase or immediately watch your film. Traditional media just can't do that. Even if "Fresh Air" decides to devote a half-hour to interviewing you, listeners still have to remember the title of your movie, and seek it out in theaters or on DVD.

And blogosphere coverage is something you can get without an expensive PR firm (in fact, it may be better off *not* to have an expensive PR firm.) You can approach bloggers directly, offering them an interview, some exclusive clips from the film, a "guest blog post," a podcast interview with your star.... anything that will help them cover your film. The producers of "King Corn" did a really good job of cultivating coverage in the blogosphere (and I've written a case study about how they did it, which may one day show up online.) Just Google "King Corn reviews", and you'll see how much "ink" they got from bloggers.

In short, traditional media can still put ticket-buyers in seats and get people to tune in to TV broadcasts (or at least TiVo them.) But bloggers are great -- and perhaps even more powerful than traditional media -- when it comes to selling DVDs and downloads.

Your thoughts?

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