Social Media


Knowing I’m a fan, Dave Rogers sent me an email on Friday pointing me to a Talking Points Memo post that discussed how to get press passes for an early screening of the upcoming. “Serenity”. All we had to do was send an email to Grace Hill Media and mention we were TPM readers.

I sent the email in, and received a reply later in the evening saying that all the slots were full. That’s cool, and not unsurprising since I sent my email late. That’s when I noticed Dori Smith mention the Serenity promotion appeared on several of conservative weblogs, first:

Okay, here’s something that’s been puzzling me since yesterday: you’ve got Joss Whedon, who’s a well-known Hollywood liberal type and John Kerry supporter. He’s got a new movie coming out next week, name of Serenity.

So why on earth is Whedon, or the studio, or the PR folks, only working with rightwingers to plug the movie?

Maybe it’s ‘cause there aren’t any progressive bloggers who are long-time fans of the show?

It would seem that in the days before TPM mentioned the press pass for the showing, the publicity company, Grace Hill Media, had been targeting conservative webloggers. Now this isn’t surprising when you consider that the purpose of Grace Hill Media is to promote movies with ‘good family or moral values’ to Christians.

If you access the web site, all you get is a page with an address and the tagline Helping Hollywood reach people of faith. An associated press release states:

Tara Shaffer, a publicist with Grace Hill Media, says Hollywood executives have come to realize there is a big market for family-friendly films. The media company she represents is “a small group,” she says, “and our mission is really to make Christians aware of entertainment that shares in their beliefs or explores the same values they believe in.”

At the same time, Grace Hill Media is trying to help promote films that are family-friendly or that put meaningful, positive values onscreen, Shafer says. While not all the films the Christian firm highlights are necessarily family films, it tries to select projects that honor many of the heartfelt concerns of Christian viewers and “really just kind of elevate their view on the world.”

The email reply I had was from a Tara Shaffer.

I’m not sure how I feel about getting a free movie courtesy of an organization that equates ‘faithful’ and ‘values’ with Christian. If I had gotten the press pass, what would have been expected of me? According to Al Hawkins, the stipulations and requirements that go with the pass does not make one a happy customer:

Congratulations. You had a shot at some decent publicity from some real fans (my wife and I just finished enjoying a Firefly episode when I received your email) and you threw it away. I was more than willing to engage in a fair exchange – publicity and Google rank for a early shot to see a movie I’ve really been looking forward to seeing. Instead you tried to dictate the content of my space on the web for a nebulous offer that could disappear at a whim.

Forget it. Maybe other people are willing to abide by your terms. I’ll go ahead and buy a ticket, see it when everybody else does, and talk about the movie the way that I like.

Now, let’s trip away from movies to another discussion floating around freebies this week, but this one related to wine, discovered via Scott Reynen.

It started with a promotion that Hugh MacLeod is involved with, which includes giving away wine. There’s a wiki involved, and blogger bashes and geek dinners and what not. I can’t even find the beginning post where this all started.

Anyway, Ben Metcalf, writing personally and not in his capacity as a BBC employee called the wine “crappy”, leading to an interesting exchange of comments, where Ben wrote:

I also do think the way it’s being marketed is pretty ‘crappy’, but then I don’t deny that it’s all above board and you are within your right to push it in the way you do.

I just think it pollutes the blogosphere as you are giving one brand an a disproportionate advantage over its rivals — it’s not “natural selection”. Plus there is certain expectation (be it implied or just passive) for someone to give it a favourable review having received a complimentary bottle.

This led Hugh to go after the BBC:

Ben thinks it’s OK for the massive, State-funded BBC to use blogs to connect with people (Ben works on the blog thing for the Beeb), and think it’s OK for a huge company like Microsoft to use blogs to do the same (he happily attended the last Scoble dinner, and according to this, he’s coming to the next one), but it’s not OK for a small, independant winery to use the blogosphere to connect with people? And here he is kvetching about “disproportionate advantage”?

I find his double standards appalling.

I like the BBC (”A fine British anachronism- just like the Royal Family” etc). And I think some of the stuff they’re doing online is pretty nifty.

But here’s the thing they’re not getting: “Social Media” and “Socialised Media” are not compatable. Why? Because the former does not need the latter. And the latter cannot accept that.

The Beeb likes to think it’s in the business of “Empowering People”. Maybe they are, but only if it doesn’t lessen their own power base within the British Establishment. They sneer at commercialism; their currency of choice is control. Are they transparent about that? The hell they are.

Again, I was surprised that Hugh went after the BBC, because Ben wasn’t writing as a member of the BBC but as himself. I’m not sure how this became an incident of big media and little guys, or social media and socialized media, whatever that means. Regardless, in comments to Hugh’s post, Scott wrote:

I thought Ben made it clear that the implication that positive responses are expected comes with any free give away. Peter repeated the same thing. Personally, I find the “big business is out to get me” incredibly boring. But that’s not really the point. You sitll haven’t addressed Ben’s criticism. How can you expect to get honest feedback on the wine when the act of giving it away completely changes the context? How is this any different from giving free toothpaste to dentists and then saying “4 out of 5 dentists recommend our toothpaste”?

Tom Coates of “Bag” fame also jumps in:

Well firstly, yes, of course people can give things away without there being any cynical intentions. But any corporation that gives away their own products is trying to sell you something. That’s not a bad thing to do, but it’s not charity either.

Which goes back to my post on “clean industry” that I wrote yesterday, saying that the tech companies–any company, really–do not act from altruism. I found the link to Tom Coates from Dave Rogers, returning full circle, who wrote:

Interesting discussion going on in a number of weblogs. I won’t call it a “conversation,” because it isn’t one. But it is interesting. Favorite quote from a comment by Tom Coats:

Well if that’s true, then I find it completely depressing, and will look forward to my friends dropping in brand associations in telephone calls in the future so that they can scrabble for a few extra pennies at the cost of any respect I had for them.

But I maintain that this is the logical conclusion of the metaphor that “markets are conversations.” There is no distinction between the social and the mercantile, no boundaries. In effect, the mercantile becomes preeminent, and the social merely exists to support and facilitate the mercantile. The social fabric becomes social capital, and every relationship is valued mainly as a business opportunity. We then pay attention to people, not because there’s anything intrinsically worthwhile in paying attention to people, but because we don’t want to miss a potential competitive advantage. And if it’s to our advantage to ignore some people, then we will by all means do so. Compassion is something that is outsourced because it’s not part of a competitive core competency. Education becomes the means by which we prepare people to enter the work force, not to help prepare people for something as soft and mushy and inane as life.

What I want to know, considering who I am and my beat, so to speak, is: Why aren’t more women being given these opportunities?

No, no, just joshin’. Except in a way, I’m not. When Dave writes, We then pay attention to people, not because there’s anything intrinsically worthwhile in paying attention to people, but because we don’t want to miss a potential competitive advantage. And if it’s to our advantage to ignore some people, then we will by all means do so, he’s touching on an issue of worth and value, and those who have value in the marketplace, aren’t necessarily those who have something worthwhile to share.

I am so sick of this marketing crap. Dave, nice dragonfly photo.

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