It was one of those nights when the internet was at its best and the internet was at its worst.
The band of brothers (and sisters) that started OneRing.net more than five years ago captured the leadership in news coverage of the trilogy’s phenomena. They’re obsessiveness even pushed the day-to-day coverage beyond the award-winning web presence from New Line. In the process, the site and its leaders became very close to Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and many members of the Rings team. And in the last year, that led to a collaborative effort in KongIsKing.com, where daily production videos, produced by Jackson’s team and webcast without any clear credits, are the ultimate in movie obsessive meat.
It was only a matter of time before another studio followed in their footsteps. Warner Bros. is using the strategy for the new Superman movie. WB is not the first company to have a direct relationship with a fan site. DreamWorks has owned CountingDown.com for years now. But when Bluetights.net ran a video of Bryan Singer saying “hello” to fans from Australia, the OneRingers (now Kongites) got pissed off.
Welcome to Hollywood.
Michael Regina aka Xoanon sent out a mass e-mail yesterday to movie site webmasters. I’m not going to publish the five paragraph long e-mail because given the end of the story… less than two hours later…. its harshness and arrogance would be breathtakingly embarrassing and I am not writing this piece to embarrass Michael, but to illustrate a bigger point. Let’s just say that Xoanon accused Warner Bros. of meeting with his people, offering the possibility that they would hire the now incorporated One Ring, Inc to build a fan site for Superman , then backstabbing them and doing it themselves. His central argument, designed to enrage webmasters, was, “When a production company creates a site 'by fans and for fans', is that not akin to the tail wagging the dog?”
Xoanon’s first big mistake was that he didn’t investigate Bluetights.net, which was started by a guy named Justin Korthof who went to graphic design school up at Cal State Fresno and still lives in Clovis, CA, near Fresno. He registered the site name with GoDaddy.com. It is a .net because the .com is owned by a URL broker in Hawaii. (It comes up for renewal next November… I imagine that WB could have bought it for $10,000 or less… and probably still should.)
And note… none of this info was given to me by Warner Bros. or anyone else. It took about five minutes of snooping around Whois.com and Google to figure it out.
What Warner’s has done is very much what Peter Jackson has done. They went to a real fan site and offered some financial support and singular resources (and if you don’t think the Kong set reports would bill out to the film budget/studio at $10,000 or more a pop, you’re wrong) and created a hybrid that serves all masters… and serves them pretty well.
Somewhere in there, Xoanon started to confuse his love for the movies he and his team are covering with a business that fakes love like a $5000 a night hooker. Then he forgot whether he was the blower or the blowee. Like so many others in the young history of the web, he thought he had ownership rights over being a “real fan.”
Within minutes of the e-mail blast, WB’s Don Buckley was trying to figure out where Xoanon got the idea that there was a deal on the table to do a Superman site. He went right to Michael Regina and in exactly one hour and forty minutes, the following e-mail arrived.
After some phone calls from Warners the situation has been rectified. Warner Bros. has pointed out that The One Ring Inc. was not in contention for a Superman site, merely doing research. Warner Bros. has stated that while they love the sites we maintin they decided to work with an existing fansite, rather than create a new one.
I apologize for any confusion, thanks.”
Getting past the typos and grammar problems, the WB story and the OneRing story became as one after one conversation between Mr. Buckley and Mr. Regina. And I have been assured that this was not a big threat talk, but rather a clarification of the reality of what happened.
Yes, WB loved what happened with OneRing on the Rings trilogy. Yes, someone chatted with someone at OneRing… but apparently, there was never an official proposal on the table, in either direction, that would lead a more established site to think that there was a business transaction in the offing. And indeed, Warners was not interested in creating a site out of whole cloth – no matter how loving OneRing’s whole cloth is – but wanted to, just as OneRing once did, offer special opportunities to a real and existing website.
Anyway… the very web-ian mistake was taking something public with a sense of high-handed rage without really knowing all the facts. And in this case, Xoanon didn’t know the two most important facts of all… the website he was attacking was not created by WB and he had no deal pending with WB. In other words… black was white, white was black, all because he was seeing red.
What is the best of the web here? The hour and forty minute turnaround. The access to senior execs at Warner Bros to address this issue within minutes of the first e-mail. Regina making a formal retraction that will go up in all of the places the first e-mail went.
If this mistaken accusation was woven into a story in the mainstream press – and if you think bad fact checking is a web-only phenomenon, you are sadly delusional – a correction would be buried and never seen. Follow-up story? Yeah, right.
Of course, the best thing is always for cooler heads to prevail, for deep research to be done and for “the accused” to get the chance to face the accusations before anything goes public.
And so it goes…