Let us speak, for a moment, about a new phenomenon: the Internet. As some of you may recall, it slipped quietly into the room way back in, what?, the seventies? For many years, it cruised along quietly, picking up fans via discussion groups and bulletin boards. Somewhere along the line, they added pictures and clickable links and sound and motion and more users than you can imagine. All of this is the stuff of legend and only included to make a point: the Internet is not this brand new thing that just showed up yesterday!
In a thinly disguised promotional piece about the upcoming Studio 60, the Los Angeles Times tries to focus on the rapid-fire response of the blogosphere to every bit of news about the show. Hello? We’re bored out here. It’s summer and they don’t seem to be rerunning anything good but The Office. You can only watch “The Injury” so many times, you know?
I realize that network suits are trying to wrap their minds around the new rules of the game. While advertisers were puzzling out what “60” is about and wondering if it is wise to commit dollars and product, a group of fans who either got it immediately or decided they trusted the creative team behind the project were sharing analysis and opinion. Mostly opinion.
In other words, they were doing the job of the studio marketing department and building buzz. That’s what fans do, and now it’s cheaper and easier than ever before — truly, you don’t have to buy a stamp to tell your great-aunt about a cool new show.
Since the article focused on the intense attention being received by “60” and included this line:
In an attempt to keep up, networks and studios are developing new levels of fan interaction using a variety of digital platforms.
I was, naturally, very interested in how NBC is leveraging new media to create even bigger buzz. The closest I came was discovering that explanatory Lost podcasts are inviting sharp-tongued responses from fans who would do it all differently. Of course they would do it all differently — that is why fanfic was invented. It keeps the obsessive safely occupied while those who created the show keep on keeping on. (Note to Damien Lindelof: as noted in the lead, this dialogue did exist 10 years ago.)
For all the early discussion about “60”, it seems we do not have to worry:
For his part, Sorkin is learning what a few in the industry already know about Internet fans: They may bark loudly, but there’s not that many of them. Yet.
Natural, considering the show is in the early stages of production and — this is important — hasn’t yet aired. It’s really hard to be a fan of something when there’s nothing to be a fan of. Right now, the energy is derived from people who have loved Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme’s previous work (probably a naturally obsessive group), those who swoon over Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry, and the crazed Amanda Peet or D.L. Hughley lover. It’s possible the cameramen and line producers have a few groupies out there, but the technical crowd is a different animal.
The message is “Pay no attention to the blogger behind the curtain.”
Here is what Sorkin and others in the industry should really know: when I google Studio 60 today, the first result is a paid ad. The second is the Wikipedia. IMDb comes up next. A business in Australia has the honors after that. NBC’s own site makes a respectable showing, but then there’s Television Without Pity right behind them.
Now, as a potential fan of the show, am I going to go for the official press release and authorized material or am I heading for TWoP’s forums for some good dirt? I don’t have to be a vocal (or in this case, literal, if I may) fan to start forming opinions. I can take my pick of external links posted on the Wikipedia page
I have no idea how NBC is developing new levels of fan interaction to build interest in this show (though knowing what they did with The Office, I can predict a mix of bold moves and serious missteps). I do know that the loud barking, pajama-clad blogosphere is combining with a whole lot of other sources to hold a discussion that NBC isn’t directing.
This is the true challenge being faced by traditional entertainment companies.