Paramount has now accomplished two very distinct things with the release of this increasingly large batch of photos from Star Trek. First, the images are great and they have everyone excited about the movie. That’s a good thing and if the new trailer which is supposed to debut with Quantum of Solace looks half as good as these stills, then they may really get some serious buzz going for this film. Second… they’ve managed to piss off just about the entire Star Trek fan site community.

Here’s the thing: Paramount has released all of these photos as “exclusives” to specially chosen, high-profile websites, most of them backed by big corporations who really have nothing to do with Star Trek. Mere hours ago they did it again with two more photos, included with this post, and released in high-res exclusively to Yahoo and Omelete. Meanwhile in the background, they’ve launched a “Star Trek Webmaster Program” and invited 600 webmasters from movie sites and Star Trek fan sites around the web to join, with the promise that the group will give them all first crack at material for the film whenever it becomes available. The group has been in existence since January of this year, and it has yet to deliver any content of any kind. Instead, what Paramount’s Star Trek Webmasters have been given, is a series of messages with links to Paramount’s corporate partners and their exclusives, directing the webmasters whom they had courted with promises of content… to send all of their readers to other websites which Paramount likes better.

Doling out content in the form of exclusives in exchange for well, whatever mysterious payola big studios gets out of it, is of course a fairly common practice on any high-profile film. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the sites they’ve released these exclusives to. JoBlo.com for instance was one of them, and they’re a site I personally hold in extremely high esteem. They, and most of the others involved aren’t exactly known as hardcore Trekkies though. TrekMovie.com was also in the bunch given exclusives, a very well run Trek site… yet a Trek site which has only existed since the production on this particular film started, not one of the hundreds of Trek sites which have literally been the backbone of the internet since the web’s early 90s inception; sites which back in January Paramount invited to work with them, and have since gone out of their way to ignore.

For those 600 Star Trek fan webmasters involved in Paramount’s Webmaster Program, it was only somewhat disappointing when Paramount released the teaser trailer to everyone before them, and mildly annoying when Paramount leaked all of the movie’s first posters elsewhere. But last night the private forum inside the Webmaster Program erupted with polite yet perturbed anger, as Paramount continued to ignore them by releasing photo after photo exclusively to other sites. When community members politely asked why they were being ignored, Paramount’s representatives responded with the equivalent of “take a hike.”

This morning, when those same fan webmasters didn’t take kindly to being yet again given the brush off, Paramount simply silenced them by completely deleting the private message board which had been part of the Webmaster Program, ending what had been a fairly polite but concerned discussion of the matter. In doing so, the studio has made something loud and clear here, and it’s something which I’ve been saying for nearly a year now. Star Trek fans: Paramount doesn’t care if you’re involved or not. They want new fans. You’re old, you’re used up. This is a new Star Trek for a new group of fans, hopefully pretty ones who don’t live in their parents’ basements. You can buy a ticket to see it if you want, just make sure you bring a teenager with you and wear a bag over your head.

There’s another way to handle this, a way to bring in new fans while holding on to the old ones. It’s simple. Don’t release images exclusively to IGN, AICN, or even Cinema Blend. Paramount, you’ve started a webmaster program. Use it. Release these Star Trek marketing materials simultaneously to everyone from now on. No, handing them out to the fan community three days later doesn’t count. Everyone, all at once. What’s the worst that could happen? Even more exposure for your film by having the images displayed across a broader range of sites? Or do you think UGO and Yahoo will refuse to cover the movie unless you give them special treatment? Unlikely. Don’t worry, the cool kids will never know you’ve let the nerds have them. It’s not like the Fast and the Furious crowd is going to visit TrekWeb and find out. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, unless you’re really and truly out to cut the Trek community off. If so, I’ll be the Trekkie in the back row with pointed ears drawn on the bag over my head.

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