Thursday, August 24, 2006

Internet duds

Snakes on a Plane got huge internet buzz, but flopped at the box office.

Why?

Take the priors -- how well do you think a tongue-in-cheek movie about a bunch of snakes going loose on a plane, with chaos ensuing, will do? It probably will not be a blockbuster, but may find an audience among young males. Certainly it does not sound like anything with mass appeal.

Now add internet buzz and suddenly the expectations for the movie rise. People think that how often they see something is correlated to how common that thing really is, which is why most people think disasters are fairly common when in fact they are quite rare (but highly publicized).

The movie comes out, and does about as well as a movie about snakes on a place could do, which is not well. People say the internet is a dud.

I think the crowd at Slashdot have the right take on this: the Internet buzz probably helped it do better than it otherwise would, but that baseline was low. I should probably invoke Bayes theorem somewhere in this post.

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