Saturday, September 1

Missing Targets: Jericho's Tactical Overload

Not all Jericho viewers are created equal.

Some fans will spend hours over at CBS Jericho every day. Some enjoy a few minutes a week. Some will never go there at all, preferring any number of forum-based social networks instead. And others, once the show was brought back from cancellation, are simply content to sit on the sidelines until the first episode of a short season 2 unfolds on their television, TiVo, or DVR.

“I was one of the first people to send nuts, well before the efforts were centralized,” one fan told me. “But I’m not really interested in becoming involved in a Jericho group or reading about production. I’m especially not interested in social media dramas.”

Even here, some read our weekly foray into the communication aspects of this case study every week (some of those have no intent of watching the show); some have become daily readers; and others are content to read someone else’s take on whatever we might happen to write about.

It all works for me. But not all of it seems to work for Myles McNutt, author of Cultural Learnings, who offered up his “No Holds Barred” post that claimed there are too many blogs about Jericho.

Close, but not close enough to hit the mark. Still, I don’t fault McNutt for his analysis; he’s pretty sharp on his television critiques, a little less so on social media.

For his evidence, he pointed to Jane Sweat’s THREE Jericho blogs (his emphasis, not mine), saying “while each has some good content, it seems as if they all serve the same basic purpose: promoting Jericho,” he wrote. On closer inspection, each blog has details make all the difference.

Without question, Jericho Monster, is about capturing new viewers while providing original content to the fans. Recently, most of the content has centered on interviews with fans, bloggers, cast members and crew. One of her other blogs, JerichoCentral, tends to lean toward educating fans with news you can use, ranging from how to Digg a Jericho story to promoting the inside scoop from the CBS Jericho site. The third, Arabelle’s Alley, includes information on Jericho, but is more free-spirited, investigative, and broad ranged in terms of what it covers.

From a social media perspective, Sweat has smartly divided her content into specialized niches to better serve unique audiences. It's true. While there is some crossover, each audience is unique. I know because analytics on our blog tell me where Jericho fans come from. Add to her blog efforts, an apparent willingness to her team-up with several other blogs like Jericho On CBS or her participation on the various fan boards like Jericho Rally Point or Radio Free Jericho, and others. All of these, by the way, are different.

That's not to say McNutt is not alone in his assessment. On several occasions, I’ve read active fans on the Jericho CBS forum discuss how centralizing efforts on the network’s site might make sense. But yet, that doesn’t make any sense at all. Why?

Because not all Jericho viewers are created equal, but they all have equal value.

The truth is that many viewers, non-viewers, and even fans will never visit the CBS Jericho site. On the contrary, if they are to be nurtured, they have to be nurtured off the network site by dedicated people who manage bulletin boards, forums, and blogs, with each location gaining 50, 500, or even 5,000 new viewers to become interested in the show. Each one of them also serves as an important promotional outlet for CBS, promoting announcements like the upcoming chat with Dan Shotz next week.

Of course, this is not to say that McNutt is wrong. He is close.

You see, as the conflict caused by the cancellation has waned, some have noted that active fan participation has fallen off. And for some, less visitors means attempting to corral those who are left rather than enticing new viewers like we did with a contest. In other words, some have taken to cannibalizing original content of other blogs and then competing with them by duplicating their ideas. It makes you wonder … what good is a duplicated fan interview on the CBS Jericho site when the only people who will read it are existing die-hard fans?

And this, it seems to me, is where McNutt comes close. If there are any failings with the fan base, it is because they still have not structured a suitable central location to tie everything together. Don’t get me wrong, it was not for lack of trying to launch a fan representative central body. It just did not work. Fortunately, however, there could exist a contingency plan if CBS thinks strategy instead of tactically.

The CBS Jericho Fan Central Blog could reset its objective to round up and promote off-site fan efforts (as opposed to on-site forum discussions) rather than competing over same content (eg. duplicating fan interviews). The CBS Jericho Fan Central Blog might also work with off-site fans to nurture better off-site content instead duplicating these fans' best efforts.

The result would provide for the one-stop shop that is needed, allow CBS site fans to see what off-site fans are doing to round up new and future viewers (with links if you want to know more), and ensure network news like the chat sessions gets out to the public rather than being tied to a site that, frankly, non-viewers are not going to visit. It is not all that far off from what I hoped a central representative fan group might do, but didn’t.

Digg!

11 comments:

kystorms on 9/1/07, 12:52 PM said...

Hi Rich
I very much agree with you about Jane's blogs, and as a "fan" - I would not want to see any changes in each of them! I go to each one for a specific reason, and enjoy each very much. I also know how many others do as well.
In an attempt to have order in the chaos that is Jericho right now, maybe we bloggers can follow Jane's path and work a bit harder on sticking to our niche, and getting info to the others when it seems to fit their style more! I hope to have a google gadget made as well, that will pull all our various blogs daily posts into one place so the fans will be able to find us more easily.
Great post Rich, as always.

openminded1 on 9/1/07, 1:01 PM said...

Another great article, Rich. On the subject of Jane's blogs, I read all 3 daily, and I get something different from each. I agree that she has done a great job of dividing content.

Rich on 9/1/07, 1:01 PM said...

Lisa,

That is a great sum up on a solution. If I were developing a strategy for Jericho bloggers, I might encourage them to nurture their niches on a daily basis and then come together with occasional cross promotions and then unified messages on bigger, important issues when they matter most.

The Google gadget idea sounds good Lisa. I'll have to check into that as well. I haven't to date. I did check out a feed blog web tool called Tumblr yesterday. I was less than impressed by the hands on working of it ... but I like the concept and see potential.

Thanks for offering comment too. I know it's never fun when we drift away from praising fans, but I wouldn't write about it if it didn't seem like some folks are drifting too far off the path nor if there wasn't a solution, which there seems to be. :)

All my best,
Rich

Rich on 9/1/07, 1:06 PM said...

Hey Openminded,

I tend to agree with you. You know, it's less important long term where new viewers come from than the fact they actually come from somewhere.

It might not seem nice to say, but they will not spontaneously appear on the CBS Web site. Really, what CBS might start considering is that each blog is like its own online publication. If they fed these publications like they feed traditional media, then they would have better results. :)

Best,
Rich

maybei on 9/1/07, 1:13 PM said...

Rich - as usual, you da man!

Great article!!

Jericho Saved on 9/1/07, 2:33 PM said...

Hurrah!! I'd love to see a Google gadget. Great idea.
Thank you all for the positive comments about my blogs. That inspires me. Lisa, you do a superb job and I know we work together well.
Open knows she created the Goddess Monster. Ha.
Rich, Thank you so much. I'd hate to be someone whose blogs you didn't like. I do love your idea of CBS feeding us information. I see a contest with prizes from shows other than Jericho. Let our blogs draw those fans over then they might be interested in watching Jericho.So many possibilities...

Myles on 9/1/07, 2:46 PM said...

Here's the thing Rich: we both basically believe that something needs to be done to allow fans to better access the information about Jericho available on the internet, unless I'm mistaken.

However, you believe that this is not something that requires a dramatic overhaul of the existing structure, and I believe that some sort of consolidation needs to be done.

I'll use Facebook as an example of why I feel this way. People join Facebook groups in order to brand themselves as something: a believer in a cause or a fan of a TV show. They join this group because they feel they should associate themselves with it. The hope is that, if enough people join these groups, others will jump on the bandwagon.

The thing is, blogs don't work the same way. People don't visit blogs just to brand themselves a certain type of fan, they also want to be able to find information about their favourite show. And, more importantly, people who have never SEEN the show before might want access to a variety of reasons why people enjoy it.

In both cases, I would argue that having one informative group/blog that covers many areas would be more beneficial than a large assortment.

I didn't mean this to be a criticism of Jane, because it really isn't. That being said, if we're going to discuss that three-blog structure, I cannot foresee a logical reason why they could not be combined while having the same impact.

Interviews, News and Editorials are all easily combined within any blog structure, so separating them seems unnecessary to me. It just forces existing fans to visit more sites to see her great content, but it also means that any new fans discovering the shows have a navigational nightmare on their hands.

And, for better or for worse, I believe that fans of Jericho need to step out of their own shoes for a second. A large majority of the commenters on almost all Jericho posts are Jericho fans...but is there really enough there in order for new fans to engage the material? If there is, why aren't they commenting. If there isn't, isn't that missing the point?

I don't have the answer to those questions: I'm not new to this series, and certainly wouldn't be able to see it from that perspective. Jericho bloggers are writing some great stories, but without collecting those stories together I am not entirely sure how much impact it is having outside of the existing fanbase.

And yet, it's an immeasurable statistic until the show starts again, so it's hard to use it as any sort of justification for action.

I guess, for me, you speak of the fact that Jericho fans are snowflakes, essentially. And while you're entirely right, isn't it the purpose of this campaign to build them into a Nielsen-Crushing Snowman capable of saving this series. Just letting them fall where they wish seems far less likely to bring together a unified front similar to what saved the show.

And anything that can lead to that snowman would be, in my eyes, a good initiative.

Rich on 9/1/07, 4:52 PM said...

Myles,

You're right that we both "basically believe that something needs to be done to allow fans to better access the information about Jericho available on the internet."

Where we disagree is in the solution, because I tend to be pragmatic in working with volunteers. While there some lessons that can be learned and cross over from corporate communication solutions to volunteers, the simple truth is the best you can do with volunteers, assuming there is a leader (and in this case, there are many leaders), is assess the assets you have and maximize them for the best possible results. There is no controlling volunteers or telling them what they can and cannot write about.

That's silly. Can you imagine me telling YOU that it might be best to stop writing about Jericho, because well, someone else is already covering it. Essentially, that is what you are asking. Isn't it? For people to give up what they have and work under management? That is not a solution.

The challenge is much simpler. But alas, there is no central leadership and CBS doesn't seem to know how to step up in this area to fill the gap. I do, but how much of my time can be volunteered away to a single subject? Not much; I can only do my best without loosing my own blog's focus on communication.

From my perspective, CBS would be best served by evaluating the various blogs that exist, promoting select posts at fan central, and then providing these bloggers with content they could use to further fine-tune their blogs. In turn, these posts end up back on fan central.

That would allow for the existence of many Jericho-specific blogs and groups while diminishing the competition among them.

Sure, sure, you can argue that one big multi-posting blog would better serve the group, but our own non-Jericho research shows that is the less desirable format to readers of blogs (we called it "blog buffet," and very few blog readers seem interested in that because they do not want to wade through stories they don't want read just to find those stories they do want). The only place it would work would be one central round up area, which CBS has ... but instead of rounding up, they are developing their own content, which actually mimics fan blogs. There is the mistake.

You are also incorrect in your assessment that just because some fans choose to comment on people's blogs that they are the only ones reading them. Comment counts are an erroneous measure for social media (but I'll come back to this).

Without going to deep in the methods or which blogs I am talking about (no, they are not all Jane's), I know for a fact that about 1,500 visited one Jericho blog; 500 visited another Jericho blog; and 500 visited yet another Jericho blog in the last seven days. I also know that these readers are all fundamentally different. Your solution guesses that if these three blogs were consolidated that all 2,500 visitors would end up reading the one new bigger blog.

It's not true. You would be lucky to keep the 1,500. Not to mention, not all of these readers are really "fans" in the sense you are talking about.

In many cases, these readers are more loyal to the individual blog or group than the show. It's something to keep in mind.

The same holds true here. I have some Jericho fans who read this blog, some readers who happen to be Jericho fans, some readers who never watched Jericho but might because they read about it here, and many, many more readers who could care less about the show. But you know, they care about the other aspects of what I write about when I do write about the show; eg. crisis communication, viral marketing, running online contests, etc.

So, in effect, I might not be a Jericho blog, but I am nurturing show fans, just very indirectly.

Now, apply this to Jane's blogs and you see the same sort of grass roots promotion. She writes about three different editorial thrusts that appeal to different groups. Consolidate them and she stands to risk alienating these groups. That doesn't make sense. Plus, you don't even consider her behind-the-scenes work on multiple social networks ranging from BlogCatalog to StumbleUpon.

The point being is that this three-blog structure works for her because each has a different target audience and is supported by different social networks. So it doesn't force existing fans to visit more sites to see her great content, but it means she is able to capture the attention of different people for different reasons to watch Jericho.

You're also incorrect in that it does not creates a navigational nightmare for them. You are assuming people want to read everything there is to be read about Jericho. They don't.

Having watched the migration of non-fans on Jericho, it works more like this: prospect sees Jericho content via Digg, etc. and visits a blog. From that blog, they might go to CBS or somewhere else where they can see the show or maybe they are happy with just reading about it on that blog. Whatever.

For those that do visit that blog and actually become interested in Jericho, they may join one of the many groups we both mentioned, depending on their social network tastes. Others will not.

Now, coming back to the whole comment thing. I really feel it is important to note that comments help blogs, but they are not a suitable social media measure. If you beleive they are, you will no doubt skew your content toward the comments and then are likely doomed. Ho hum. What is it about bloggers that always make them think that everyone acts like they do? Now that is an interesting question and it also happens to be someting that I'll touch on Monday.

All my best,
Rich

P.S. For Jane ... Hey Jane! I see good ideas are spilling out of you again! ;)

Myles on 9/1/07, 6:39 PM said...

Yes, Rich, let me be clear about Jane: I love the content offered, and love that it opens so many doors for discussion.

Rich, the place in which I still disagree with you (And I think I'm done attempting to know what I'm talking about with social media) is that Jane's three blogs are so inherently different that people would never buy them as part of the same site.

Jane doesn't have one blog that criticizes Jericho, another that satirizes it, and another that idolizes it: rather, she has three blogs that represent different ways to promote Jericho.

Personally, I cannot see how a fan could stop reading a site because they choose to use interviews, constructive opinions and news pieces together. I would also argue that, as has been shown in this and other threads, many Jericho fans (rightfully) read all THREE of Jane's blogs.

It's one thing when we're dealing with incredibly divisive opinions: you can't amalgamate three TV bloggers easily when one hates Entourage, one loves it, and the other is critical while claiming they still enjoy it. But in this case, it's just three different ways of saying the same thing. I'd argue that with blogs, the medium is not so much the message as you make it out to be.

That being said, you're entirely right about volunteers, and I would never suggest MANDATING anything. Rather that, if people are concerned about bringing in new fans, I like to be able to sometime raise these issues so that all bloggers, myself included, can be more conscious of it.

Jericho Saved on 9/1/07, 6:49 PM said...

Myles,
I never thought you were being critical. I do see your point. I don't think CBS does. I wish we were dealing with someone who cared about FC because it has endless possibilities. There's no variety and no spark. As someone asked me, "Where are the features"? What's saddest, to me, is that they mentioned having calls to action and that's never happened. Give these fans a call to action and watch them respond. If I was a new viewer who ended up at FC I'd take one look at that boring mishmash & hightail it back to where I could find something interesting.

Rich on 9/1/07, 7:05 PM said...

Good points all around. There is never a reason to take discussion here as anything but that, discussion.

It is often from discussion that solutions are found; I think that regardless of what CBS decides to do, the fans will find a way to better track content. Several solutions have been proposed; all of them have merit while allowing as many Jericho blogs as possible to continue on their courses to find unique readers and, possibly, promotional catches to entice new viewers to at least check it out. Exactly right, in that at the end of the day, that is all any fan beyond a viewer might care about.

All my best,
Rich

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