This weekend brings an interesting discussion to the Walt Disney Family Museum. Entitled “The Fan Driven Time Machine”, it promises a look at what fans have brought to the world of theme parks.
Having been around since the age when dinosaurs roamed the online world, I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say. My own connection to the outside world from home started way back when with dial up connections on a monochrome (a.k.a. green screen) Apple ][e. There were the local BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) at first. Then came the Internet newsgroups such as rec.arts.disney. After that it was the online subscriber services such as America OnLine, GEnie and Compuserve. And finally, when the Internet took off with folks creating their own websites. Today we have the mega-churches of online Disney fandom such as Mouseplanet and Micechat, with news/info sites like Yesterland and Jim Hill Media. Fanzines such as Persistence of Vision or the E Ticket. Toss in the podcasts such as Window To The Magic and various Youtube channels, Facebook pages/groups and you have a full multimedia package of information on your Disney fandom to choose from.
Take Disneyland for an example. Opened in 1955. The 25th anniversary? 1980. Fans gleaned what information they could from the resources available. Travel agencies or their local AAA clubs; the Magic Kingdom Club or the late lamented Vacationland magazine. The Disney Channel? Not until 1983 did it start sharing over local cable television.
No, it was the 35th anniversary of the Park when fandom communicated online on what to expect. Thanks to some of those resources, I took in the festivities from Park open to close with a couple of good friends. And actually was able to meet some of the people from across the country who I had only communicated with by online messages. Even e-mail was a rare treat in those days. Most folks simply didn’t have an ISP (Internet Service Provider) yet.
Now, every last detail of anything happening at the Park is available online for all to see, dissect and comment on.
In reality, it has only been that last ten years or so that most folks have taken up the online world and it’s fan communities in numbers worth noting. It has been amusing for me to have been a Community Manager at AOL and watch the growth we had there (notably X Files, Star Trek and Soap Opera fans) and how things have come full circle with similar communities now on Facebook. The only real difference is that instead of the paid subscriber model of services like AOL, today’s Facebook makes use of advertising revenue to drive the economics. Many of the same folks are still saying the same things or sharing the same information they did, oh so many years ago. Look over any of the message boards on the mega-church websites and you find things have not changed much.
The same dissemination of information was true in years gone by for fans of Star Trek as an example. Fans heard someone say something somewhere at a convention and took that for gospel, sharing it with one another. While that rumor may have been shared to gauge response with little truth behind it. For example, look how many years it actually took Paramount to have a new Star Trek series on television. Not on one of the major networks, but on it’s own network. And even that went through several attempts before it finally aired.
Part of the evil that this process has brought is that folks so want every last detail, that they are ripe for the misleading. Where one person may start a rumor because they heard information from a friend who heard from someone who works in a minor department in the Disney company, such rumors become gospel in short order. Spread out and about on the Internet, Twitter or Facebook, such rumors spread like wild fires. Running amuck with no one to stop them. Note the proliferation of scams for free this or that. Heck, I freely admit to having chimed in on some, because as much as anyone, I would like some of the free shrimp now and then.
And I have no doubt that folks at various levels inside Disney have used the online world to sample the waters now and then. Put out a good juicy rumor through a source and see what the response is. If enough folks like what they hear or hate it, that’s a good sample to craft future proposals. Or is it? Garbage in, garbage out or GIGO is a good online term. Folks who believe it because they saw it online? Oh, yeah…
Disney is not alone in this kind of thing. Be it theme parks or movies or other entertainment, plenty of folks have interests that they want to learn more about. And Disney is learning how to make use of this. Marketing using this as a tool? You bet! If you can go right to your consumers in the privacy of their homes with information, why not do so? As good as free advertising, directed marketing works. If people want you to share information directly with them, it would be downright silly not to take advantage of it. Why do you think all of these online pages/contests have that option to get more information? Because people ask for it.
Yes sir, it’s an age of miracles we live in!
Now, which one to believe…