Webmaster Program Rant

More and more, movie studios are releasing raw assets for a movie in order to allow community members to build fan sites related to said movie. Rather than having users hack photos out of the official site, or scan a magazine picture, or other low quality methods, the studios are giving away photos, videos, backgrounds, logos, and other materials.

Warner Brothers has a full site dedicated to their "Webmaster Program" for the new Superman movie.

First let me say that I love that studios (and other businesses for that matter – we had a LEGO Bionicle Web Kit at one point, EA Games has a kit for the awesome, buggy Battlefield 2, etc.). No question this is a smart move. After all, if people want to make fan sites to help you support and market your product, help them, don’t take legal action on them. It wasn’t that long ago that many businesses would send out Cease and Desist letters to fans who were creating fan sites.

But nearly all of these programs seem to fall short of the touchdown. Sure they offer the assets, but what about ideas? What about tutorials on how to do something with the assets? Here’s my suggestion for future web kits:

  • Include the imagery, logos, AIM icons, etc.
  • Give ideas for what can be done with these elements – nothing to pushy, just some high level concepts (Make a Web page for the product review, create a custom wallpaper and share it, post a story with images about your product usage experience, creating a footer for forum postings that shows off the love for the product in discussion forums, etc.)
  • Tutorials, tutorials, tutorials! It’s great that you’re giving away AIM icons, but what if the users doesn’t know how to use them? What if the user doesn’t understand how to create Web pages?
  • Provide a place for people to link to from their own efforts that is more specific than the product home page. This should be similar to the home page in content, but designed in a way that empowers the user to want to always provide a link to the official site because the product owner recognizes that the user isn’t simply trying to sell their product for them.
  • Provide clear usage rules, but make them fun to read. People want to know what’s kosher with their images, but most of these web kits either skip the usage rules or, even worse, make them pure legalese. Take the Flickr approach and make them fun to read.
  • Think bigger. Everyone has a couple of logos and a few headshots of the core cast. But what about offbeat cast shots, or action shots, or background images that can be used in a header? Think through the process of what you’re hoping to see from your users, then provide them tools that actually encourage that to happen. The Superman Webmaster Program goes down this path a bit, but doesn’t fully realize it.

Did I mention I’m excited about Superman Returns??

Superman Returns