Odds & Ends

January 13, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

"Special" Sunday entry this week because this one covers a lot of miscellaneous topics, none of which deserves its own column...

The Golden Globes

For some reason, there's an expectation that I should have an opinion about the impact of the WGA strike on the Golden Globes. Truth be told, I don't care. I wasn't planning to watch them when they were scheduled as a ceremony and I'm not planning to watch them now that they're a press conference. It's a matter of complete indifference to me. I'm actually hoping the strike lasts past the end of February because I want to see how this might impact the Oscars, and I will be disappointed if some kind of waiver is granted or a special agreement is reached because it will spoil all the fun. I want to see what this "ultra secret" alternate plan is. Hopefully, such an eventuality will result in a shorter and more engaging program; after all, overplanning has killed many an Oscarcast. But that's a topic for next month.

The Blair Witch Project and HYPE!

I received a few e-mails wondering why I didn't mention The Blair Witch Project in my column about the Internet hype surrounding Cloverfield. While it's true that the 1999 horror movie had a nicely designed website that fed into the mythos, the on-line situation was different nine years ago. The Internet wasn't as sophisticated or widespread enough for an online marketing campaign to succeed. (Home-based Internet was primarily via dial-up and many people still got their log-on fix at work.) This wasn't a case of a new marketing frontier, but it was the first instance of legitimate web/film synergy. Plus, it's worth noting that Artisan (the movie's distributor) was terrible at marketing (that's one reason they're no longer around). Blair Witch became an unexpected success by the oldest of all publicity tools: word-of-mouth. The film opened huge in a small number of art houses, with lines around the block at ticket windows and sold-out showings a week in advance. Friends told friends and "must see" label spread like wildfire. When Artisan saw how well the movie was doing, they inadvisedly rushed it into multiplexes. It had a big opening weekend then crashed and burned as a backlash set it. The Blair Witch Project ended its run as it began it: in art houses. Ultimately, however, it was a major indie success story even though it left a sour taste in many mouths. Despite the interesting story of its distribution, however, it doesn't fit into the same category as Snakes on a Plane et al.


I guess it's a good sign that I get complaints every time I tweak the advertising design of the site. It shows that people are passionate about ReelViews and what they're reading here. I can assure my readers that I carefully consider every change before I implement it for overall impact. Yes, the Kontera context links (the blue ones with the double underline) slow the loading of the pages by 1-2 seconds. However, as long as you aren't using your mouse pointer to scroll down the middle of the text, it shouldn't impact readability. (I always use the arrow keys so it never occurred to me that some readers might end up causing the little windows to pop up inadvertently.) However, if you think the advertising interferes with the site's usability, consider legitimate options I have thus far rejected: pop-ups, pop-unders, layer ads that crawl across the page obscuring text, audio ads that make noise for five seconds, and "intermission" ads (those that redirect you to an intermediate ad page before forwarding you to the desired link). Most of those are quite lucrative but I find them to be intrusive to one degree or another. With the exception of the Kontera ads (which are only on the text-heavy pages), the site's commercials remain comprised of text ads, video ads, and banners: old-fashioned stuff.

Website Promotion

It's a difficult task for an established website with a significant reader base to grow. Setbacks over the last 15 months have actually hurt my traffic flow. (The first instance - the debacle that forced me to move from Colossus without being able to leave behind a "forwarding address" because they pulled the plug - did major damage. The recent incident with Mojolingo, in which my Google link was hijacked, didn't help.) The Google Page Ranking for the ReelViews main movie page is a respectable 6. I'm not a believer in blind link exchanges, so that's not a direction in which I'm interested in proceeding. One suggestion worth exploring is for me to become active in some non-movie forums and include my URL in my signature. Meanwhile, the approach I have been using most aggressively is simply to increase the site's weekly content in the hope that those who typically visit once per week might now have a reason to come back more often. Here's the daily schedule of updates for those who aren't aware of them:

Monday: ReelThoughts update (random subject), sometimes a new review
Tuesday: ReelThoughts update (weekly DVD release discussion), usually a new review
Wednesday: Almost always a new review (except during really slow weeks)
Thursday: ReelThoughts update (random subject), usually a new review
Friday: ReelThoughts update (weekly theatrical release discussion), sometimes a new review
Saturday: Video review (review of an older movie)
Sunday: Updates to movies front page and video front page

The "video" page will undergo a redesign soon to add features and content requested by readers. I will release a "beta" version of the page that ReelThoughts readers (a minority of those who visit the site as a whole) will get a chance to comment upon.

Finally, I don't mean to discourage negative comments about advertising or anything else. All feedback, whether positive or negative, is welcome and you can be assured that I read every e-mail even if I don't respond. (There are times when the e-mail volume gets to be too large for me to be able to respond to everything.)

This is a busy week so there will be a new review every day Monday through Thursday (with two on Thursday). I'll be back tomorrow with advice for those like me who own an HD-DVD player.