State of Online Media and Disney Media Events

I was just reading a really long thread on LaughingPlace.com‘s message boards. It covered a range of topics, but is generally concerned with Disney Park’s social media efforts, including inviting online media to events & and some perceived special treatment for certain websites. I’ve been invited to many events, having just returned from one that showcased Disney World’s resorts and the Star Tours 2.0 re-launch. Naturally, I have some thoughts on the matter. Here’s an abridged version of what I had to say over there:

Long time readers of The Disney Blog will recall that I have long been an advocate for Disney to get into the blogging and social media game. I was happy to take a meeting or two and a few questions about blogging and social media strategy when Disney World was laying out the plans for its blog. While I’m not totally happy with the current direction of the blog, it’s better than the complete lack of communication we used to get from Disney. I’m a believer that the more great Disney blogs (official and unofficial) we have out there, the stronger our fan community will be.

Obviously, as I’m part of the group of bloggers and website owners who get invited to Disney media events, I have a certain bias. I believe The Disney Blog should continue to be invited as part of the media. But I don’t have any illusions that my circulation (estimated at above 400K article views a month) reaches as many of Disney’s target market as some of the traditional media does (Local news stations, morning shows, even Disney travel planning authors and websites (such as LP.com)). But I begin to rival some magazines and radio audiences. Add to that the fact that my demographics lines up pretty well with Disney’s target demographics and I think that’s a pretty strong case for inviting me to media events. I don’t expect the same treatment as Good Morning America or MyFoxOrlando and I don’t get the same treatment. I’m fine with that. Most of the time I get what my audience needs.

I quickly want to address Disney Park’s push on social media. I don’t see it as a replacement for traditional media, but rather as an addition. When online media is invited to Disney media events it’s not at the exclusion of traditional media, but as a supplement to it. That goes with the whole trend of the internet. Everything is getting spread out and coverage can come from anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Photos of the BTMRR Accident at Paris Disneyland, some guest snapped them. Photos showing the sad & rotting condition of the Sailing Ship Columbia before a cleat was torn out from its rotting wood and killed a guest, that came from online media.

Now, I know I have a role to play with The Disney Blog (or you might say I’ve chosen a niche I’m comfortable with). It’s not to be the most critical of online media, but I’m also not the most fanboy either. I pretty much call them like I see them, which is usually through some pretty thick pixie dust filled filters, since that’s how I live my life. You can choose to read what I write or not, that’s the glory of The Interwebz. I’m thankful every day for the people who choose to read what I write.

I’m thankful every time I get invited to a Disney media event. Because frankly, they don’t have to. They could go back to the way things were in 1998 when I had to arrive early to stake a spot in the crowd and get my quotes only from personal contacts. Then, in 1999 when the US Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup for the first time everything changed. Laughing Place was invited to cover a media event as press for the first time. Doobie took photos and I ran around with a notepad and interviewed guests (screaming young girls attired in their soccer gear). I’ll never forget watching the LA Times reporter see me interview two young girls then heading over to ask them some questions too. The next day, before my story could run in Laughing Place, the LA Times had an interview with the same girls. I was crushed, but also elated. (Btw, I have a communications/journalism background, so I wasn’t just winging it out there.)

After that we were invited to a few window dedications and then larger events. Then a few other online media sites were added to the list. Eventually the trend spread east, where guidebook authors and travel planners (who also ran websites) had been invited for sometime, but around 2004 they started inviting a few select other sites as well. It wasn’t really until 2008 that Disney World started inviting more online media. In 2009 the Mommy Blogger program took off and the Disney Parks Blog found its footing. Since then, everything has been riding a crescendo that corresponds to the accelerating pace of the online marketing revolution. Disney is riding that wave, just as we all are.

Eventually it will all level out, but for now I’m enjoying the ride. Just remember, we have former Disneyland President Cynthia Harriss (and her 1999 era staff) to thank for online media being accepted as press.

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