Are Online Press Nothing More Than Fanboys?!
by Alex Billington
April 24, 2007
In an interview I did with USA Today in support of 300 back in March, I was referenced as a "fan site". Sure I'm a fan of some movies, but a fan site I think we're not. Now recently a number of movie websites, including Cinema Blend, Ain't It Cool News, and JoBlo were referenced in an article in Time magazine (a good read) about the internet medium and the fanboys that make it up. Cinema Blend wrote a great commentary on the idea that most of us aren't really fanboy websites. That doesn't mean we're not dedicated to the idea, but we're actually made up of talented writers in a new, revolutionary medium of media that's causing the likes of print magazines to die off.
If you're sitting reading this article at all, you yourself are embracing online media whether you're a "fanboy" or not. These two references mentioned above aren't the only times I've seen "professional" or mainstream print media refer to any and everyone online as "fanboys" or "fan sites" when it is just not the case. Part of it is they're afraid of the internet and think that everyone on there is just some kid sitting behind a computer screen not a professional writer, and part of it is that there is an abundance of fan websites (all of the comic book movie websites can technically be considered such). It's just that they're missing the important point that a handful of writers and journalists online are certainly professional and actually write better than most of (not all) the print publications. You just have to weed out the bad ones and find the good ones.
It's just distressing to see the hardworking writers and website owners out there being referred to as fanboys when we put in as much work as all of their staff and are as big of fans of any celebrity as they all are. It's a tough world to live up to the supposed size and power of the print medium, which is coincidental given that some movie websites out there have more readers than most newspapers or magazines. Another key to this always changing world of press is that the online medium "spices" up all their posts with a little bit of personal flavor and opinionated writing. If you don't like it, you choose to read a website that just reports the facts and those alone (like the Wall Street Journal), but in today's world of YouTube, MySpace, Fox News, Bill O'Reilly and everything else, the writing with a little flavor and a little perk is what gets read the most.
We can only hope that in time through persistence and professionalism online press begins to be recognized and respected at the same level as print magazines and newspapers. Only time will kill off the magazines and newspapers quicker and force them to move to online only, meaning they'll soon come to appreciate what we do, especially since we've been doing it much longer and much more successfully. For now, kick back, relax, and enjoy the world of online press as much as you can - it's only the beginning!
I dunno here - I would agree that FirstShowing, like Aint-It-Cool, is a fanboy site. But unlike some mainstream journos, I see that as a compliment, and maybe even more of a way to define what you're writing, and where you're coming from. But this doesn't mean you're not a legitimate journalist at all. If anything, you're more reliable than the usual hack because you have the opportunity to usually choose what you write, and you have in depth knowledge and insight on the subject you write about: movies, moviegoing, and moviemaking. How often does the MSM (main stream media) get their facts off, or just plain "not get it", on any number of topics? Freakin' often - and why? Because they're assigned to subjects they have a short period of time to do research on, tend to pull from the usual stable of sources and experts, and pretty much just do as much as necessary as they have to for the paycheck. (not to say the vast majority aren't better than this, but the folks who like to demean web writers tend to be the gross violators). Anyway, I'd just say embrace the fact you're a fanboy - it only adds to your credibility as a journalist covering the film beat.
David Markland on Apr 24, 2007
I would not lump this in with Ain't It Cool for one reason only: the writing is much better from a journalistic style sense. That is not to say that I don't enjoy the heck out of the writing at AICN, but they are definitely fanboys first and foremost, and you really can never trust any review (good or bad) that they throw up on their site. Alex, I think in the case of your site, the "fanboy" tag is still somewhat true, because the site is generally about actors, directors, films, projects, etc., that would generally appeal to movie fanboys. In other words, the amount of ink(?) that you devote to the latest Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy is certainly not the same as the amount that you devote to Transformers, etc. That would be where these types of sites really differ from the reporting done by most newsprint outlets. (Thank God you're different!)
Matt on Apr 25, 2007
I wouldn't necessarily consider a niche news site as a fan site. When I think of fan site, I think of Suzie's Buffy The Vampire Slayer Web Shrine, not FirstShowing or JoBlo. These are news sites with some commentary and some of them put more emphasis on certain types of films. Nobody refers to indie film sites as fan sites. I also don't believe that "fan" should have a negative connotation and be considered mutually exclusive from journalism. Nowadays, the meat space entertainment writers are more reliant on the Interent fanboys than the fanboys are on them.
Kev on Apr 25, 2007
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