Remember when blogging was just a fun hobby? When you could start a website (or visit one) that covered all the cool happenings going on at your favorite theme or amusement park?
Well, those days are numbered – in the name of clicks and likes.
Over the past few years – and especially the past few weeks – amusement park fans online have been bombarded with fake stories, new ride announcements spoiled through “investigations” and general bad behavior.
And it’s ruining our entire community.
Let’s get one thing straight: just because you cover a park, it does not make you a journalist. All true journalists are bound by a code of ethics with the constant threat of losing their jobs if they get something wrong.
Theme park “journalists” have no such code and as such, can (and do) post malicious, false or confidential information, generally with little to no ramifications. Take it from a guy who’s worked both sides of this story: Fan journalism is rapidly running out of style at parks across the country.
Can you blame them? Investigating and “breaking” news like shipping documents or permits showing what new ride is coming next season…what fun is that? It’s akin to searching for (and finding) your Christmas presents hidden in the closet.
Not to mention all the hard work and planning that goes into these announcements from the park side. True, the general public will most likely never visit these sites, but don’t you want to be surprised on announcement day like them?
For all the good bloggers out there, all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Some parks have even removed bloggers entirely from the equation, simply because of perceived issues with the greater community.
So what can we – as a community – do to stop it?
In so many cases, we cannot remove these people from our community – but we can take away from them the one thing they want: attention. Flag false stories. Don’t engage on tabloid-style stories. Basically, take back the community we worked so hard to create.
On the park side, actions must have consequences. Share problem bloggers with others in the industry and let them know (in no uncertain terms) why they’re not being invited to events anymore. Give them a road map to success and if they stray – it’s on them, not you.
These bad actors cannot be allowed to represent us as a whole, otherwise our community is doomed to toxicity (and irrelevancy) for eternity.
This week, a completely unverified rumor on the alleged fate of a ride at Walt Disney World grew so massive, the company took the unprecedented step of making a public statement saying that the rumor was completely baseless.
Let me repeat that: Disney. Had to make an official statement. About a rumor on the internet.
Just let that settle in for a moment.
With larger parks and chains, it’s become a cottage industry to report on park news and rumors, as if they were actual newsrooms, complete with reporters.
The only issue is, they aren’t.
These blogs and Twitter accounts can report on whatever they want, however they want, with no apparent recourse if what they report on is false or misleading. So why do we continue, time after time, to allow accounts like this to ruin the fun of our industry – and why do so many of the fans continue to believe them?
There is an elegantly simple solution, but it’s oh so difficult to implement: Stop giving them credibility. Not only as a fan, but also as a park / vendor / operator.
As park fans, just unfollow them. Don’t even let them know you haven’t forgotten about that one time they messed up. It’ll just give them better clicks and search results. We, as park fans, have an obligation to, as Ronald Reagan once told Gorbachev, “Trust, but verify.” Otherwise, we’re just as much a part of the problem.
If you are a park, a vendor or an operator, ask yourself, “Do these people get invited to media events or other special perks?”
If so, stop inviting them. Just because they have a lot of followers, that doesn’t give them the right to make your life as a Public Relations or Marketing Manager a living hell.
And to those who think I’m off my rocker, just remember this: Disney Parks have been around much longer without Walt at the helm than with him – so they must be doing something right.
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What do you think? Are bloggers and social media ruining the park fan experience? Or do you think it’s harmless interaction that doesn’t hurt anyone? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on our social networks!
Hidden in plain sight above Bourbon Street in Orleans Place, lies a little bit of Disney magic inside the confines California’s Great America:
The balcony of the Consulate as seen during the Taste of Orleans festival.
Known as “The Consulate” – it’s primary function is a meeting room, where some of the biggest decisions about the park have gone down.
Some of the biggest deals in the park’s history have been signed at this table. Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission.
But that wasn’t always the intended purpose. In fact, it was originally built with the idea that the Marriott’s would use the space to stay during trips, a la the apartment above the firehouse at Disneyland. That is, until the Marriott’s realized they had nice hotels already near their properties with concierge service and a lack of crowds.
So while the Consulate is still used today for business – what if it’s wrought iron gates were opened to a select few park-goers as a VIP lounge? And what if you could upgrade your Platinum Pass to a “Consulate Pass?”
Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission.
The idea isn’t that far fetched – several parks have hosted hospitality centers for bloggers and other influencers, where they could store items and get free refills and snacks, all away from the crowds. Why not give guests the opportunity to pay for that same, sweet access?
Plus, the pass could add a few other perks, maybe higher discounts for food and merchandise – or even a single fast lane per visit. It’s a Platinum, Platinum Pass.
Since upgrading to a Platinum Pass isn’t worth the cost for most Bay Area folks, with the exception of those who want to go to Knott’s (and I’ve covered that in a previous article) and considering an upgrade from a Gold Pass to a Platinum Pass doesn’t add any more value to a visit at CGA, maybe this benefit might be the incentive people need to pony up those extra bucks. And since we’re here in Silicon Valley, receiving that “premium” experience is not a hard sell.
The Consulate seems frozen in time. Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission
Should it be by invite only? Probably to start. Parks tend to (or should) know their heaviest users and could easily identify probable candidates from common knowledge – or just looking at pass usage data.
What do you think? Would you pay up to get access to the Consulate? How much would you be willing to shell out to step up to the second floor? Let me know in the comments below.
Again, special thanks to Kurt (The Coaster Guy) for permission to use his photos of the Consulate during ACE’s Coaster Con XXXVII!