Kos on a Plane

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A great piece on the perennial disappointments of blog buzz by Louis Wittig over at the Weekly Standard today:

It's perfectly understandable when political junkies and box office watchers conclude that web buzz augurs big things, but it's also perfectly backwards. We look at the humming activity of the blogosphere and assume the cadre of online enthusiasts behind it constitutes the tip of an off-line iceberg. It is assumed that for every posting on MyDD, or SoaP rap on YouTube, there must be dozens of people out there itching for impeachment [or] python gags.

Reality is just the opposite. People go to the blogosphere because they can't find a sizable number of people in their everyday, off-line lives that are as enthusiastic as they are. The blogosphere gathers together atypical fans and brings them together in what quickly becomes a broadband echo chamber. The louder and more intense the online community gets, the farther it's likely drifting from what is happening offline.

For more blog bashing, check out Matt Welch's Farewell to Warblogging, and Dave Weigel on Crashing the Gate.

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  1. I’m impressed. Somebody’s essay is published in the best damn newspaper.

  2. The box office failure of Beloved was the watershed for this phenomenon. Oprah’s show has a wider audience than the combined readership for all SOAP-related sites, and she flacked that movie for months ahead of time. And it opened to negative BO. Even though Beloved looked to be about as much fun as castor oil and SOAP looks at least theoretically enjoyable, the point remains: If Oprah can’t do it, what hope do a bunch of undermployed websters have?

    It’s all about effort, and the odds against any amount of push-hype persuading you to unplug, get off your ass, walk, bus, or drive to the moviehouse, and be freed of $10. Considering that 1 percent response to a direct mail campaign is considered a success, hoping the web hype would lead to some incredible opening was just hoping for a pony that flies. Snakes On A Plane opened respectably, and that’s the best you can hope for.

    Of course, in movies you still have a secondary market. In politics you don’t.

  3. … hoping the web hype would lead to some incredible opening was just hoping for a pony that flies. Snakes On A Plane opened respectably, and that’s the best you can hope for.

    I agree with this.

    SOAP wasn’t supposed to be a blockbuster or even a very successful movie. And the fact that it pulled 15 million for what is essentially a B movie is pretty impressive, at least to me. I think what it suffered from was elevated expectations because of the buzz more than anything else.

    If the web hadn’t given SOAP the free publiciity and there was never any hype generated, what do you think the movie would have opened at?? And do you think that would have been considered a disappointment by the people who spent a whole 30 mil on it?

  4. “Of course, in movies you still have a secondary market. In politics you don’t.”

    What Tim, you mean the Deaniacs can’t get their money back by selling Howard overseas and on the DVD market?

    Most people don’t read web very seriously and think the people who do are insane. Whether it be movies or political candidates that sets a pretty low glass ceiling for web based movements.

  5. SOAP opening at No. 1 WAS incredible. Without the web hype and other clever marketing tactics (everyone I know got a phone call) SOAP wouldn’t have opened anywhere near No. 1. In this situation, the web was effective. As far as Beloved is concerned, not a goddamned thing could save that tire fire.

  6. Wittig’s point about blogs isn’t really blog-bashing, it’s just a special case of the self-reinforcing echo-chamber effect that can afflict any affinity group: the enthusiasms and dreams that seem so strong inside the group blind them to the problems of expanding and surviving in the world at large. This applies to many things from failed products (New Coke) to failed spiritual enthusiasms (the Harmonic Convergence) to failed empires (Napoleon, Hitler, Tojo).

    And I agree with Cab: SoaP has done pretty well, considering.

  7. Considering that the studio probably paid less than 10 mil to make the movie and got a ton of free publicity, I don’t think the makers of Snakes on a Plane are complaining too much about the movie not having legs.

  8. Considering that the studio probably paid less than 10 mil to make the movie and got a ton of

    Mr. Fact-free strikes again. C’mon John-boy — learn to use that internet. Is it really so hard to find a fact on the internet that you have to just pull stuff out of your rear?? Snakes on a plane had a prod. buget of about $33 million

    Don’t be afraid to look something up before spouting off.

  9. Tom,

    If I cared enough how much they paid to make the movie, I would have looked it up. The point still stands, however, it is a low budget movie and it doesn’t need legs to make money. Further note the key term “probably” its called a qualifier, meaning I was not claiming to actually know how much the movie cost and only giving a random figure as an example to make a point. Perhaps you might want to use your crack internet skills to look up terms like metaphor and sarcasm.

  10. John,

    Ok johnny — Ill bite…

    Perhaps you might want to use your crack internet skills to look up terms like metaphor and sarcasm.

    Metaphor : a rhetorical trope defined as a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects and don’t hide their intellectual laziness behind “qualifiers”.

    Sarcasm: sneering, jesting, or mocking a person, situation or thing. It is strongly associated with irony, with some definitions classifying it as a type of verbal irony[1].

    Since your post neither contained sarcasm nor a metaphor, I submit that it is you who needs to look up these words, genius.

    Further note the key term “probably” its called a qualifier, meaning I was not claiming to actually know how much the movie cost and only giving a random figure as an example to make a point.

    The point is that your “point” can’t be taken seriously because you are fact averse. Even the mundane shit you try and discuss has to be complemented by your lazy fact free ways. The only way to back up any of your opinions is by making false claims on the hopes that the people reading won’t bother to fact check.

    Serious people who have a legitimate point usually use real facts or at the very least avoid making uninformed statements about facts that are quite easily verifiable.

  11. Yes, because when I read or write about something online, I NEVER talk about it when I’m out at the bar chilling with my friends.

    Shit, usually, that’s all we talk about…what crazy stuff each of us has been reading online.

  12. John, to be fair, you were off by upwards of 300%. It is tough to make an accurate point while being that far off about anything. In this case especially, given the movie cost 30 mil, and has taken in 20 mil. Therefore the makers will complain if the movie doesn’t have legs. Your point was they won’t complain if it doesn’t have legs. That being said, I don’t think your error was on a topic important enough to be called out on. There are bigger fish to fry.

  13. Bloggers actually have jobs, and do things that people want using their skills. In addition, they write.

    Journalists pander template soap opera news to trailer park women.

  14. Really, Ron?

    Blogs are just Shareware Journalism (remember shareware?).

    Or a launchpad for a handful bloggers to get jobs in the “MSM” they claimed to hate so much.

    What’s next, I wonder?

  15. I don’t think the makes of SOAP were TOO worried about losing money. It’s a dirty little secret (although not much of a secret, really) that movies almost never lose money. In fact, almost every mainstream Hollywood movie ends up turning a profit by the time the back end starts tumbling in. It takes a real H-bomb level failure to lose money for the parties actually supplying the money that gets the movie made. Even for $33 million (whether that includes the promotional budget, I don’t know; promotional activity is usually about 40& of the final outlays for the picture), SOAP was going to make money. Only depth charges like Pluto Nash, Town and Country, and Cutthroat Island actually lose money for the investors, producers, and studios.

  16. They’re getting about as much out of the movie as they can. Mid-August is a notorious dumping ground in the movie industry, a dead zone nearly as bad as January. So they had a little hype and they magnified it by releasing the movie into a largely competition-free environment. Good marketing, that, and there’s no reason to doubt the outcome was as good as it could possibly be.

    If you’re going to spend money on a movie, I recommend The Descent. Chicks fighting mole-men in a cave. Very cool. From the guy who brought us Dog Soldiers.

  17. Shareware Journalism?
    I’d say it’s closer to the punchline to the old “why do dogs lick their genitals?” joke.

    Present company excepted, of course.

  18. If Oprah can’t do it, what hope do a bunch of undermployed websters have?

    “Websters”? As in, “web” + “hipster”?

    Despite being a software guy, most of my social circle consists of technophobes, so almost never talk about what I see online.

    It does, however, let me steal good jokes I find online with almost no chance of being called on it.

  19. The question about The Descent is not “How did the girls-spelunking-hunted-by mutants horror film get to be a genre?” but “Why did it take so long?”

  20. Oh irony of someone at the Weekly Standard calling the blogosphere an echo chamber. The next thing you know he’ll be telling all of us to get a life.

  21. “How did the girls-spelunking-hunted-by mutants horror film get to be a genre?”

    dude that is only a sub genre of “6-10 people trapped at some exotic location while alien/monster/ghost kills them off one by one”…genre inspired by “alien” and “the thing”

  22. Of course, in movies you still have a secondary market. In politics you don’t.

    and what the fuck exactly do you think Reason magazine is???

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