Movie websites are businesses (if you have a single Google AdSense ad unit on your website, that includes you) and like any other small or large company, when the company is managed in a way that garners acquisition attention, it is a very gratifying occasion.
Movie websites constantly come into existence and then blow out like a blighted and beleaguered flame for a myriad of reasons. They cease operation because of a declining audience, there are time commitment issues, bad management decisions, et cetera. The Movie Blog is not one of those movie websites.
The Movie Blog has been online crunching and churning out movie news and movie reviews since 2003. They are consistent (Movie Content: Consistency, Starting a Movie Website: Write Consistently, 5 Strategies for Writing and Publishing Website Posts Consistently) in their daily publication of new movie articles. The entire writing team of The Movie Blog has now moved onto a new writing venture, a new movie website.
I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Rodney Brazeau, one of The Movie Blog’s senior editors and the founder of the new movie website Reel Time (now The Movie Snitch) about his former website and the new one that came online last week.
1.) What sparked the idea for The Movie Blog?
At the turn of the century in 2000, John Campea started a review site called Movie-Reviews.org where he and a few friends – myself included – would do weekly movie reviews. John also had his own personal blog, but as he found he was mostly talking about movie news on it, the idea of TheMovieBlog was born. He started the new site to do more than just reviews, and a new platform for movie discussion was born (though we didn’t know it at the time)
2.) How did you choose the name The Movie Blog?
Back in 2003 when John chose to create a movie blog, there was no need for clever names. TheMovieBlog was exactly what it was, and the domain was available.
3.) How long did it take for The Movie Blog to be built?
This was a drive of passion. The site was never built with the intention of making money or developing a career. We just kept plugging away and enjoying the discussions in the comments. After about 4 years of this “hobby” John was able to make TheMovieBlog into his full time career and us writers actually saw a return on our investment.
4.) Who built The Movie Blog? Who programmed The Movie Blog?
TheMovieBlog is like an old house. It was built on WordPress with a variety of themes throughout its history. Much of the programming fell to volunteers and paid scripters. The current version was a purchased Wordpress Theme that was heavily modified by Rodney Brazeau
5.) When was The Movie Blog launched?
July 28th, 2003
6. ) What content management system (CMS) do you use?
7.) Who designed the logo of The Movie Blog and how did you come up with the slogan “The Official Home of Correct Movie Opinions”?
The Logo has gone through a number of versions, the most recent has been in use for about three years. Rodney Brazeau designed this most recent logo. The Slogan “Home of Correct Movie Opinions” came from the very clever Dave Lapsley who coined the facetious phrase in conversation and it stuck. It embodied our belief that opinion cannot be wrong and the subjectivity of film is diverse and ripe with opportunity for open discussion.
8.) Do you have a basic hosting plan or are you on a dedicated server?
The current owners of the site house it on a dedicated server. We have had the site hosted on a number of hosting plans until its purchase.
9.) How was The Movie Blog financed?
Blood sweat and tears. This came out of our own pockets until the site was purchased. The site was actually purchased twice. The second and current owners are financing the operations of the site from its proceeds.
10.) Did you write a business plan for The Movie Blog? If so, how did you pitch the main idea of the site to investors?
Our driving passion for discussion and sharing movie news and opinion was our pitch – to ourselves. We were instantly sold on that. It was recognition of our accomplishments that drew investors to want to buy the site. Despite being sold twice, they were far from the only offers.
11.) Was your experience or lack of experience an issue when you launched The Movie Blog?
In 2003 there really were not that many movie blogs out there. Our lack of experience defined the site as it grew. We learned organically what things we could do and not do.
12.) What mistakes (if any) did you make in the beginning with The Movie Blog?
We didn’t make any mistakes. Just learning opportunities. How we word our stories, keeping integrity in giving credit for where we read the stories, and how we manage discussions (to keep it clean, no trolling or spam advertisers). These all became opportunities to make our site better shortly after uttering a soft “oops”. These opportunities also earned us respect with studios and many of the PR contacts we have.
13.) What type of business is The Movie Blog? A Limited Liability Company, a Sole Proprietorship, etc?
Currently TheMovieBlog is owned as a property of SimianPlay and in itself is not a company.
14.) The Movie Blog has gone through some changes over the years, most notably your acquisition some years back. Can you tell us a little about that? What spurred the changes, upgrades?
They bought the site because of what we were already doing. The audience we created was our greatest asset. Purchasing the site did give us a little more room for opportunity, but really did not have any impact on the direction or quality of the site.
15.) How much was your site acquired for the first time? The second time?
I know how much, but again since this was not me it was paid to, I cannot share these details.
16.) Do you have a separate bank account exclusively for The Movie Blog, a business account?
As a property of private investors, we do not see any of the money directly. They handle all the finances of the site. Only the owners know exactly how much money the site is making.
17.) How many people work at The Movie Blog?
Until its recent takeover, we had myself (Rodney) and two other consistent writers (Anthony and Darren). However MANY writers have written for TMB over the years, many of them on their own successful ventures now.
18.) Do you have assigned work shifts at The Movie Blog?
News doesn’t come in shifts, so we work when we hear news or fit it in our schedule!
19.) How were you and your staff paid by the companies that acquired you?
I don’t know the details, as the site belonged to the original founder of the site. Part of that purchase included keeping John on board to run the site. I am not at liberty to disclose the amounts or what he arranged to pay staff at that time.
20.) How did the company decide what to pay each employee?
The payment was negotiated based on what each of us contributed to the site.
21.) How does The Movie Blog generate revenue?
Ad Space with some really respectable networks. Specifically BlindFerret Media (http://www.blindferretmedia.com/) and IndieClick (http://indieclick.com/). We dealt with a LOT of ad networks over the years and these guys have handled us with the most respect.
22.) How much traffic does The Movie Blog receive per month?
When I left TMB it was maintaining 700-800k in pageviews a month (60% unique). Since leaving I cannot say for sure.
23.) What is happening over at The Movie Blog now?
I can only describe it as a Hostile Takeover. The financial owners of the site made some false accusations against me and my character. It was quickly apparent that they were not interested in resolving this error in judgement. As a result they were left to run the site themselves after they locked out me and my writers.
24.) When did you become aware of what was happening?
Mostly after the fact. They were very much “hands off” letting me run the site as I choose. One day my login credentials did not work, and when I asked if there was a technical issue I was told that they were “auditing” the site, and I was locked out from that moment on.
25.) What reasons were you given for this move by the owners?
They felt I was less than honest about management of the site. I have nothing to hide from them. Everything I have done was to benefit the website, and its all there for the world to see.
26.) Did traffic levels or Page Rank have a part to play in their decision?
None at all. This was personal.
27.) Did you try to change their minds or alter the situation?
Yes. Repeatedly. This was decided the moment it was done.
28.) What legal recourse do you have?
None. Despite running the site for the last three years, I have no formal documentation outlining our responsibilities to each other (yes, we repeatedly asked for one to be drawn up – one I drew up was ignored). In effect, due to this oversight I was technically “squatting with permission” rebuilding the site after John Campea left to run AMC’s Script to Screen.
29.) What are your plans now for you and your writing team?
Freedom. We have launched a new site that will be benefiting from years of experience running one of the oldest movie blogs online, and thanks to the overwhelming support of the readership I have grown to know online, and the writers who once wrote for TheMovieBlog, we are creating a new home for what readers of TheMovieBlog have grown to love and more.
30.) What is the best advice you can give to an aspiring movie website master?
You have to LOVE what you are doing. If you are getting into this to make money your lack of passion will quickly show. If you love what you do, people will see it and they will be moved by it. With so many movie sites opening every day all hoping to make this their career,
Also, as we have learned the hard way, Contracts mean nothing as they can always be broken by bigger pockets, but no contracts just makes you homeless. If you DO have a site and investors want to buy it, make sure every contingency is on paper.
31.) If someone wants to read more about your new venture, where can they find you?
The Movie Snitch (http://www.themoviesnitch.com/) is the name of our new movie blog, and its just starting to grow. We have a lot of ideas for great unique content to come.
There are many lessons to be learned from this Rodney Brazeau interview (good, consistent content brings traffic and rewards), chief of all being: Do not let your website (small business) be acquired without defining the parameters of that acquisition in writing (a business contract). Clearly and thoroughly define your relationship in writing in the form of a employment contract if you continue to work for a company after it has acquired from you. Business contracts can be used to “define and strengthen relationships by increasing predictability, allocating risk and reward, creating and retaining options, and aligning incentives” [via Harvard Business Publishing]. When you do not have a contract, none of these attributes are present or possible.
Many companies get rid of the founders once the founders’ company has been acquired, especially if there is no contract protecting them. It happened to one of the two founders of Cisco Systems and it happened at The Movie Blog. Will it happen to you after reading this interview?