Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Open Letter to The LiveJournal Community...

Hi there. How are you? Probably pretty pissed, right? I get that. See, for a long time I was you. In many ways, I still am. I understand fandom maybe more than the next blogger. I understand getting so invested in characters and a world within a show that you feel the need to share any little nugget of news with the rest of your community. In truth, I welcome that; it's what keeps us bloggers in business. But that's the thing of it: this really is a business, and yesterday you severely hurt mine.
Is this how the intrepid reporters of The Daily Planet would act?

See, though the blog on which you are reading this letter is a personal site, and one I keep up as just a hobby (I have had offers to take advertising out on it, but I want to keep it "clean" for as long as I can), my passion for television has translated into working for larger news media outlets. Yesterday I posted a piece about Smallville's upcoming 200th episode, entitled "Clark Kent takes a trip down memory lane so he can fulfill his destiny on Smallville", on the main news media outlet for which I write: LA Examiner. Examiner is a professional news source that pays its writers in part by number of hits and number of comments. I was thrilled to be asked by Warner Brothers and The CW to attend a preview screening of the episode because of my professional affiliation, but I was even more thrilled to see what you guys had to say about the spoilers, however mild they turned out to be.

But in the end what I found was that my article was copied and pasted-- in full, without proper citation and proper linking-- on a number of LiveJournal pages and fan message boards. While I encourage posting a blurb from my articles (with proper byline) along with the link back to the original article, blatant copy and paste in full is never okay in my book. It's disrespectful to take someone else's work and claim it as your own. Or even if you do give proper citation credit, it still drives traffic away from my site of employment.

Now, I don't mean to single out Smallville fans. I have heard this happens within other fandoms, as well, but I have yet to see that problem with my articles. The bottom line is, regardless of who is doing it, it hurts my business. Why should Warner Brothers or The CW grant me future coverage opportunities if they don't see any interest* reflected by the fandom on my past pieces?

But it's not all about money, so let me break it down a way you guys may find more important: If the number of hits and the number of comments on my articles about a certain show or a certain fandom are low, I stop writing about it. This is not meant to be a threat but basic math. If I put X amount of time and energy into a piece and the article gets zero response, then the logical conclusion is that people just don't care. And if people don't care about coverage of a certain show, I move onto another one. There aren't enough hours in the day for all of the television at my fingertips. I like to think I am somewhat discerning with what programs to which I give promotion, but the truth is, I really am listening to what you guys want more of. Where there is demand, I do my best to supply.

Yes, I understand the argument that the response of copying to LiveJournal is, in and of itself, a response of interest, but I do not have a LiveJournal account, nor should I assume the important eyes at Warner Brothers and The CW do. The only way I see interest reflected on the topics I cover is through the traffic on my page.)

From what I understand, there was quite a heated debate going on over at LiveJournal about my article (
and to be honest, on a personal level, I'm also disappointed not to get in on the heated debate. If something I wrote sparked such discussion, I'm honored in a way and even more intrigued, and I'd love to have a chance to jump in the conversation or at least see what you guys are saying so I could take some of the points into consideration in future pieces). Seven pages worth of comments or something insanely juicy like that. I wish even a fraction of that passion had migrated over to my actual article. I checked StatCounter this morning, and the number I saw there for that article was apparently nowhere near the true interest. But since it is all I see, and therefore what I base my business decisions on, it falls into the category of "an under-performing article."

Maybe we should use the analogy of ratings here. If a network series under-performs, ratings wise, within its first few episodes, it really doesn't matter how much critical acclaim the show had; it all comes down to the numbers in the end. The network pulls the show (look at Lone Star) so they can focus their time, money, and marketing push on those shows that are performing well for them. Well, it's similar in this situation, if an article doesn't give us the proper return, then my editors prefer I not waste time on the topic in the future. It's unfortunate but there are a million and one journalists out there all with the same information a lot of the time. So if you do like the way I cover a certain show, read the article in its original form, on its original source.

Sorry if I offended or angered any of you with the article or with this blog right here. It's just super disappointing to work so hard, be so proud of something, and then not get to reap its rewards.


Kate, Dating in LA said...

I absolutely agree with you-- but you are dealing with a generation of people who routinely use torrents and other illegal download sites to watch tv and movies. They are used to stealing intellectual property-- don't even think twice about how it impacts the person/teams creating it. And those same people are shocked when something gets cancelled because a network doesn't take them into consideration as viewers.

danielletbd said...

Exactly. That's why I equated the issue with website traffic to ratings. It was just really frustrating and disheartening to see that an article I was proud of, and one that I thought would do well with the fans, got really no more hits than a simple slideshow (like what I put up for Hawaii Five-0 on Monday or Better With You earlier yesterday). The fandom is so intricate and detailed about dissecting articles and spoilers, but unfortunately I saw none of that on my site. So just like how networks cancel shows with no interest, I will be changing my beat slightly regarding what shows I cover.