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Wednesday, May 16, 2007
TV courts bloggers.
According to an article in this morning's Wall Street Journal, TV networks are courting bloggers for some much-needed publicity for their shows.

My first, big question is--why in the world isn't there a message in my in-box from one of the myriad of networks? I will totally and completely sell-out to you if you'll send me screeners of things or swag (Jericho not included...sorry, but I can't get behind that show no matter how much stuff you send me)

Then, I got to thinking--I actually have sort of been on a mailing list of bloggers to promote shows--in this case, one Veronica Mars. Now, first of all, let me say I was a fan long before the promotional department for the show contacted me and asked me if I'd like to sign up to get press releases about upcoming episodes as well as invitations to special Internet-only chats and videocasts with producers, writers and stars (alas, Kristen Bell was never one of those stars..but she's in just about every scene of the show, so I can understand she's a)busy or b)tired or c)all of the above.)

Calls for free-stuff aside, I find it interesting how Hollywood is trying to reach out to the Internet to create a buzz for their product. We saw it happen last year with Snakes on a Plane. This year, I think NBC has been the leader in embracing the new technology and avenues of content delivery to reach out to fans of their shows and to enhance the viewing experience. Heroes is a prime example of this, with the weekly comics as well as the archive of full, streaming episodes available to view on-line. Same thing for Friday Night Lights. And there have things like a Twitter commentary for My Name is Earl and a running blog during certain comedies and shows.

It's interesting to see Hollywood embracing the Internet when a few years ago the news was all about shutting down web-sites and directing fans to the official web-site only.

Of course, this whole reaching out to fans is nothing really that new. It's just becoming more mainstream. Ron Moore used to be an active part of the Deep Space Nine bulletin boards on AOL when he worked on the show and he's actively embraced the web as a way to add value to shows with his weekly audio commentary podcasts. (The new Doctor Who has taken a page from this book as well with commentaries offered within hours of the new episodes airing in the UK). And, of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the granddaddy of all the Internet grass-roots campaigns, J. Michael Stracysnski of Babylon Five.

When B5 was on the air, you'd regularily find JMS on the B5 boards, discussing plot points and dropping hints about the show's future storylines. He was always accessible and polite and he did all of this in the few minutes a day of free time he had away from the show. It was his embracing of the Internet fans that I think helped keep the show on the air with such a loyal following and, speaking personally, it's what made me a huge fan.

Back in my UT days, I was working on a project for a business reporting class. At the time, TNG and DS9 were at the height of their popularity and B5 was just starting out. The professor told us to write about a business topic that interested us--no matter what it was. I sat down and decided that I wanted to look at what factors got a syndicated TV show renewed. I started making phone calls and spoke to local stations and even got a few good quotes from some people at the companies that produced the shows.

I was watching B5 at the time, but wasn't what you'd call hooked yet. It was about six to eight episodes into season one and it just hadn't hooked me. But I knew that the producer hung out on-line and I could contact him via the message boards. I jumped in, dropped him a line and explained who I was and what I was doing. I asked for a few minutes of his time to ask some questions and hoped he's respond.

I got an e-mail back the next day. It was from JMS who told me he didn't do interview as he was so buried running his show. But he understood what I was doing and he wanted to help out a college student. He told me to do my homework, write an article and then send him three specific questions to which he's happily give me answer. I was pretty impressed by this and did as he asked. I worked on the story, spoke to a lot of people, did my homework and then sat down to formulate my questions.

I fired off an e-mail to him a few days later and figured I'd get some good quotes for my story.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd get back at least a printed page per question of answers from him. As I opened the e-mail that morning, I was stunned at the generosity of this man who didn't know me from Adam. I wanted to include every last word of his quotes in my story, but there was a word-count limit.

I finished the story with his quotes and turned it in. I got an "A" on it and made sure that JMS got a copy via e-mail. He congratulated me on the story and even gave me a few compliments.

And I'll be honest--that is what kept me watching Babylon Five. I figured if the guy in charge could take time out of his schedule to help me out, I could at least give his show another shot. And man, am I glad I did. It was about that time, that the arc that made Babylon Five so brilliant began and I was hooked. I tried to get other people to watch the show and was quick to bring out my experience on how the producer was just a great, all-around guy.

I'm not sure I won many new fans to the show. But I will always recall how one guy embraced the power of the Internet to reach out to his fan-base.

And now, we see it starting to go mainsteam. So, any shows that want to reach out to me (esp. Lost, Battlestar Galactica, 24) and have me shill for you...drop me a line!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/16/2007 09:12:00 AM | |
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