Disney knifes fan sites in the back; starts its own theme park blog

September 28, 2009, 10:20 AM · The Walt Disney Company today launched its own blog devoted to its theme parks. The blog is written by Disney employees, including PR reps from the parks. The blog, which launched with three entries, promises "the latest, official information about our destinations as well as some exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at what makes Disney Parks the most magical place on earth."

Following the recent launch of its official fan community, D23, and Disney World's "Moms Panel" for Q&A advice, Disney's now moved into just about every space occupied by its legion of online fan sites and communities. Disney's been polling D23 members and other customers about their use of Disney fan sites, as the company makes it move toward taking over their readership.

Of course, not every online theme park community focuses all its coverage on Disney. (Ahem.) While it's nice to hear company-approved releases from Disney and other theme parks, it's also nice for theme park fans and customers to have independent voices covering the industry. We don't work for any theme park company at Theme Park Insider, nor do we take free trips and cruises from theme parks, as some folks at other sites do.

I'm sure that the biggest Disney fan sites will endure, since entire communities don't easily pack up and move from one URL to another. But I'm glad that the Theme Park Insider community covers more than just Disney. The Disney theme park blog won't breathe a word about the Wizard World of Harry Potter. Nor will it let you know about neat deals like free soft drinks and parking at Holiday World. Nor will the Disney blog, or the Disney fan sites, delve into the ownership situations at competing chains such as Busch and Six Flags.

And, most important, your non-park-sanctioned snark is always welcome here.

FWIW, I'd love to hear what you think about the new "official" Disney blog. I'm not above (or below) ripping off certain features if TPI readers would like to see us try them, too. ;-)

Replies (25)

September 28, 2009 at 10:26 AM · There's room enough on the Internet for all, methinks. I'm actually kinda surprised they don't already have an official blog. Besides, we'll still need Theme Park Insider to tell us the truth...and the glorified press release blogs aren't exactly thrilling reading.
September 28, 2009 at 10:27 AM · You're being WAY overdramatic. They're not knifing anyone in the back. They're starting their own blog, which they're entitled to, and which they should've done long ago.
September 28, 2009 at 10:35 AM · A little dramatic, no? Does every corporate entity that starts a blog "knife fan sites in the back"? It's a great medium to share insider knowledge and develop even closer ties to the Disney community. My only question is, "What took the so long?"
September 28, 2009 at 10:40 AM · What? I'm not allowed any snark? And you did read the story, didn't you? ;-)

Seriously, though, there are a fair number of people who now rely upon the income of running these fan sites as their day job. They've faithfully put out the Disney party line for years and now, having done little else than run what's Disney's fed them, they are at risk from losing their gig as readers go instead directly to the Mouse.

Yeah, Disney should have done this directly all along. And the biggest fan sites (and indie sites like TPI) will do fine, as Disney's entry on the Web expands the readership for online-delivered theme park news. But a few, smaller Disney fan sites are gonna lose their economic viability as Disney takes on more of this functionality in-house. And I think that's too bad for those folks.

September 28, 2009 at 10:50 AM · Yesterday (9/27) I tried to go onto the Disney Travel Channel (chan. 650) on Cablevision in New York. For some reason, it was gone. I thought it
was a technical problem but now, i'm not so sure. Can someone look into
that ? Evsry once in a while I check in for updates or some light humor
on a boring day. This is the first time i've been told it's not working.
I know many people who use it and to drop it would be a mistake. I've
been in Advertising for over 30 years and I see The Disney Travel Channel
as a very useful tool.
September 28, 2009 at 10:56 AM · Yeah, I can see what you mean, but I think its to make more traffic on Disney site, which, in my opinion, is a little cumbersome to get around. I checked some of the entries and I actually thought they were nice, but nothing really big in regards to competition. I still trust the current sites on my Disney trivia and gameplan. That mom's panel is, in my opinion, doesn't really give that great of information. Of course, I would want my Mom on there :). Still, Disney, or any park for that matter, will not really be able to give the inside gist of how to tackle their park since you might be able to get though parks a little too fast for them. I doubt anything will come through it.

BTW, Disney pays Ad Space on this site right? If so, it would seem that they do care for some of the sites (like TPI). I don't think its much of a stab, but rather a poke to see if they can get into the blog sphere. It also, whether you believe it or not, is an insider's look of whats going down at Disney.

I like the Ghost video though! Wish I was going to DL!

September 28, 2009 at 11:04 AM · My guess is my criticisms of the non-functioning Yeti, and the dilapidated Jungle Snooze will not go over big on the "Official Blog." I'll stick with TPI for a broader, more critical, and open discussion forum.

I wonder if this official blog will link into our “Best Attraction Tournament” next year? Yikes!

September 28, 2009 at 11:51 AM · Disney typically does not acknowledge the presence of any non-Disney theme parks in the world, so I can't imagine them linking to the tournament. (I will send 'em the links, though.) That said, I would love if presence in the blogosphere would help at least part of the Disney Company to lighten up and embrace irreverence now and then.

(I love how some Disney fans are tying themselves in knots over my over-the-top irreverent headline for this piece. The flock follows the pastor....)

FWIW, Universal's even worse than Disney on lock-down control of message these days. Where's Universal's blog? Twitter account? They've done so well with HHN, it's surprising that they haven't embraced social media for the rest of the year.

September 28, 2009 at 11:58 AM · I wonder how this fares for my favorite fan site, www.doombuggies.com, all about the Haunted Mansion? They also have a sister site called www.deadmentellnotales.com about Pirates of the Carribean.

Of course, DoomBuggies rarely updates its site with cool news. I stumbled across the fact that Disney Records released the 1969 promotional record, "The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion" on CD last week with the original art booklet included and high-res images on the disc. I couldn't find anything about it on Doombuggies. Maybe Disney will have more updates.

September 28, 2009 at 12:11 PM · No, I think the headline is a little much and its not because I like Disney.

I have noticed that press people tend to like to use attention grabbing headlines that may or may not be true. How about that Harry Potter Headline about the new theme park? I have noticed that one decline of the news is that it wants to be more entertaining than informative.

Now I am not saying that Mr. Niles is not entitled to whatever he wants to name the article, but he is not putting it out as information news, but rather lets us as readers decide . After all, its his opinion and yes, the headline got my attention.

I really do not see this hurting the current sites out there, especially this one. I think it could make us better. Then again, how is this different than all the theme parks having twitter sites?

September 28, 2009 at 12:21 PM · Wow Robert – Who are you going after next – Shamu on twitter…
September 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM · Hey, headlines are supposed to grab your attention. C'mon, what are you gonna read:

"Police investigate murder case"


"Headless body in topless bar!"

(The journalism school classic, by the way.) FWIW, I won't go that tasteless on y'all, but I really thought that a calm, corporate head just didn't work for a post about a calm, corporate blog.

All that said, after James' post, I'm wishing I'd not gone this route at all, and instead had written a gag post in the Disney Blog style "profiling" the Yeti at DAK.

James, if you want to take a "stab" at that (sorry, couldn't resist...) the comments are open to you.

September 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM · Brian,

Thank you for that wonderful, traffic-building idea!

Anyone got any thoughts on declaring Twitter War with @Shamu?

September 28, 2009 at 12:37 PM · I'm waiting for the blog posts telling us why Stitch's Escape What-Ever-It's-Called is the best attraction in Tomorrowland, and the detailed design history of Superstar Limo. ;-)
September 28, 2009 at 12:46 PM · Eh, its your editorial and your site so you can call it whatever you want. Like I said before, you got my attention.

Another thing that keeps us honest is that we need to use our real names (with so exceptions). The comment section in online stories gets a little wild.

Again, as for this new blog thing, the D23 blog is so far more informative than the new one. I actually have been impressed with the D23 except the Disneyland this, Disneyland that (I'm a WDW guy!).

I say make war with Shamu!

September 28, 2009 at 1:07 PM · Question is, how much censorship will be going on.

Can't see something like "Disney Sux, Universal is so much better" sticking around on the site.

Or "Walt is actually still very much alive, thanks to advanced technology and a robotic body"
Which is actually very true, I just made it up so it must be :)

September 28, 2009 at 1:52 PM · I was actually very excited to find out they were opening an official blog. To be honest I wish more Theme Parks would. I try to keep my customers up to date on all Theme Park news through a blog, twitter, and facebook to name a few. It will be nice to find out Disney info from the horses mouth so to speak. And now when I have questions about a new event I wont have to call Disney directly and wait on the phone for 15 min. I believe having a direct line of communication with Disney will really benefit people in the travel industry as well as fans. Everyone has an opinion, Disney fan sites are mainly a way for people to express those opinions, having a new source of information will not stop stop anyone's opinion - it will actually give them more to talk about. I just hope it will be as informative as I think it will be!
September 28, 2009 at 2:39 PM · People in the travel industry have long had direct communication with Disney. (Their PR people has always been responsive to me... well, at least once Eisner was gone.) The question to be answered is... how actively will the new Disney Blog's writers engage with its readers, the non-industry public? Or will the site's comments be restricted to those moderated by the writers as the most favorable to Disney?

The public is really cool. That's one thing I learned, ironically enough, working for Disney. I see the lovely chaos of the blogosphere a natural extension of my long-ago work on Disney's parade routes and queues. Yeah, some folks are jerks, but most folks are nice, interesting and kind, though often tired. Just like at Disney World.

September 28, 2009 at 2:41 PM · How can Shamu Twitter? Maybe because he's not really a killer whale, but an animatronic, controlled by the reanimated body of Walt himself, fired from his company and now seeking revenge!

That's one rumor, folks. Now go spread it. ;-)

September 28, 2009 at 6:13 PM · I posted a comment to the new blog as a test, asking about the broken down Yeti. I tried to be nice, so we'll see how they respond (the post is awaiting a moderator, so we'll see if it even gets posted). If it does get posted and I get some pat, corporate answer like "all rides are fixed on a schedule that we cannot reveal at this time" or "the Yeti is beautiful on the inside and that's what counts" then we'll know the blog is just another avenue for Disney to post thinly veiled advertisements for their parks. If they actually provide a real answer, then I'll have to reconsider my cynicism.

We'll see.

September 28, 2009 at 6:43 PM · I just wonder what they are trying to accomplish with it. Is it just to increase traffic to their own site? Or is it because they want more control of their presence on the web? I would tend to say both. We all know that park fansites... especially Disney ones, draw lots of traffic, and discussion about the park flows freely. In essence, fan websites create buzz and publicity at a cost of zero to the park... which is why I wonder the reason they are doing this. Site traffic and more control of content are the only two reasons I can think of.

I would be willing to bet on the notion that it will be heavily moderated (cough..censored...cough), and likely scrubbed of any real negative opinion about Disney. Why? Because it's company run, and I just can't see them allowing any negative talk about themselves, or even talk about other parks or off topic discussions on their own website. I think the well run fansites will still be there.

September 28, 2009 at 7:09 PM · I'm looking forward to the official Disney spin on the rumors and reports flying around on the other blogs/boards.

One reason they might have picked now as the time to go public is a way to combat H1N1 rumors while posting highlights of their seasonal makeovers...

I like the videos they posted about the Halloween theming in Space Mountain CA, and the new show... that's something we don't get at the other fan sites until public attendance.

Seems like some "insiders" aren't as "inside" as they used to be... ;-)

September 29, 2009 at 7:53 AM · The blog looks like nothing more than Disney PR spin. I won't be reading it and I doubt many others will. The Disney fan sites have nothing to fear.
September 29, 2009 at 1:52 PM · Update: they posted my entry, but my question went completely unanswered. Oh well, just like TPI: I ask Robert questions and he ignores me like I am the dirt on the bottom of his shoes. ;)
September 29, 2009 at 9:53 PM · This seems like the most pointless blog. It'll only talk about how amazing and perfect Disney is and since all the news will only be posted once Disney confirms it in a press release, information regarding new attractions will most likely be months behind other blogs.

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