Fox outfoxes itself

"There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary."
- Irish writer Brendan Behan

By Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca. One of the potential downsides of giant media conglomerates with their hands in every consumer cookie jar is that the left-hand doesn't always know what the right-hand is doing, and that there are way more than two hands at work here.

Consider News Corp. They own Fox News, which makes its money when it attracts eyeballs and advertisers, and it attracts these by reporting news, preferably while shouting. Likewise, 20th Century Fox makes money by distributing films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, prequels of twice-sequeled films where things blow up and anyone who reads a comic book gets taken back to the time in their life before they had a mortgage.

As we discovered last week, these two goals are not always in sync. 20th Century Fox blew its top last week when a full-length version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one of spring's most anticipated Hollywood blockbusters, was leaked online this week.

And then, because this seemed to be news, or perhaps because he didn't want to review Fast & Furious, Fox columnist Roger Friedman downloaded the leaked version and reviewed it.

As Variety reports, some bloggers thought it was hypocritical of Fox to review the film while it called in the FBI to find the leak. The bloggers called for Friedman's head and the studio responded, calling Friedman's decision "reprehensible." Some reports say Friedman has been fired, others say he's just been disciplined. The review itself has been removed from Fox News website.

As Techdirt notes, it appears Fox has now overreacted twice over the same incident. I believe Techdirt's Mike Masnick refers to this as the Streisand Effect; how attempting to censor an action on the web inevitably backfires and creates more publicity for the offence.

Although in this case, it's hard to see how Fox can lose. Yes, there is a CGI-free version of their movie available to watch. But it's not coming out until May, yet somehow they've managed to get two news stories out of their movie. The only surprise is that many News Corp.-owned newspapers haven't covered the story of the controversy over the review of their companion studio's film.

I'll be checking out Techdirt's Masnick's presentation in Toronto tomorrow at the MESH 2009 conference, and maybe while I'm there I'll ask him the obvious question: Is Fox writing its own obituary with its hard line on the leak, or is it just keeping its film in the news?