Showing posts with label Stephen King. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stephen King. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 16

Spooking Stephen King: Convergence

If someone asked Stephen King "what scares you" a few years ago, he might say never being able to write again (or perhaps lament that he might be asked that same cliche question in every interview). Nowadays, there seems to be something else weighing on King's mind.

"When crap drives out class, our tastes grow coarser and the life of the imagination grows smaller. ... It ain't coming back, son. That's what I'm really afraid of." — Stephen King

Writing for Entertainment Weekly, King questioned convergence, noting that the changes taking place in the entertainment industry are accelerating. The very media the article appears in is facing rapid change. Although faring better than most publications, the graph tells the story.

Entertainment Weekly's print circulation is flattening, enough so that that an arrow had to be added to create the illusion of consistent growth. With a circulation of approximately 1.8 million and a hopeful pass-on readership of 6.7, Entertainment Weekly doesn't pull as much as it once did (its online site tracks well, especially with younger audiences).

So what are King's concerns?

• If great publishers fail to e-books, what will happen to the quality? Who will pay advances?
• If radio stations succumb to all talk and air, what happens to the music industry?
• What is happening to the movie industry and why are quality movies being squashed?
• Will network television drop entertainment for talk shows and reality television?

"Why should we care? Simple: Because right now there are no replacements for the quality that looks to be on the way out — for entertainment that really moves us." — Stephen King

Answering questions for Stephen King.

While predicting the future is always fraught with disappointment, King's concerns represent a possibility in that there probably is already a parallel universe where Mike Judge's Idiocracy isn't fiction. The other possibility, of course, seems a bit brighter in that as crap becomes overwhelming, new vetting processes emerge to help guide the public toward quality.

However, it's a two-way street. It requires innovators and consumers working toward a middle as opposed to against each other.

• Publishers need to return to the business of finding and marketing quality talents as opposed to searching for talents that may market them because over the long term, e-book price points will increase and printed books will eventually be considered a delicacy. What have publishers done to engage, educate, and entertain readers online?

Penguin is working it, but has a lot more to learn about the online space.

• Radio stations need to remember that music formats don't make them great. It's the portability of the experience they produce that makes them great. More than 86 percent of listeners want stations to guide them toward new music in addition to playing their favorites and 36 percent listen while they are online. Why not employ social media to reinstate passionate people who know about the music?

We have a PowerPoint specific to radio stations, which we augment with specific station and area research upon request.

• Movie producers want to make great films for a public that has always seemed to wax and wane between escapism and timelessness. While that might not explain the industry's pass on Creation reportedly over content, limiting theatrical distribution will be the likely trend until the people calling those shots are proven wrong by consumer post purchases.

The film industry is still learning social media; it will represent a dramatic positive change, especially among independents.

• As long as networks chase ratings without appreciating their online prospects, quality programming will continue to slip under the mainstream radar. There are enough choices out there right now that dominating viewership just isn't the right model. It hasn't been for some time. Jericho, Veronica Mars, Black Donnellys, Journeyman, and more recently, Kings (for the exact opposite reason Creation cannot find a distributor), all could have had longer runs if it wasn't for mishandled marketing and being slaves to a ratings system they know is broken.

Nothing will save them unless they can save themselves. The big three will continue to slip and slide along until they realize that Hulu and iTunes only work if you have assets to put on them.

So no, Mr. King, the crap won't drive out the class. It will only make it harder to find in the short term. Or not.

"Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.” —  Charles Bukowski

Saturday, September 22

Making The Grade: Veronica Mars

Jericho fan John Rodriguez, who publishes the Jericho-dedicated video-driven ThunderHawk blog on Yahoo! 360 beta, knows that the “greatest challenge is keeping people motivated. It takes a lot of time invested into
promoting something. It takes good communication, and fresh up to date information, on what is going on.”

“You must fan the flames of your project, and keep it hot,” says the Internet veteran who used to run three early BBS networks. “There is a small handful I have seen excel above and beyond. The work I have seen is much better than current CBS promotions.”

Jericho fans continue to do their best, largely on their own, while waiting for CBS to officially reveal the start date of Jericho Season 2 (which is likely to be a mid-season break). Similarly, but for very different reasons, the power of consumer marketing is also being played out by another fan base. Unlike Jericho, they have nothing but rumors and faith that something, anything, might happen.

These are the fans of Veronica Mars, the critically acclaimed teen drama/mystery neo-noir series starring Kristen Bell. They could not save their show from being cancelled (the only reason perhaps, in my opinion, was the late start of the consumer campaign), but have, amazingly enough, continued to build on their momentum.

“The main problem with putting together a campaign of any kind is ensuring that there are not multiple campaigns working against each other,” says Shannon Miller, Web master of the Veronica Mars Movie Web site. “The best way to keep up morale is to work in phases … to have multiple steps to the larger plan, and continue to encourage smaller campaigns along the way.”

Like Jericho, there are several groups of fans with different goals, ranging from fast-tracking syndication to focusing on the full-length feature film (and some who still hold out for a complete reinstatement, which seems unlikely). Where Veronica Mars fans are winning is in their success in establishing a centralized forum called Neptune Rising. The goal of Neptune Rising is to consolidate fans with different goals under one campaign banner in order to benefit each other and support a larger campaign, whether that means promoting syndication or the movie.

“We occasionally have a hiccup, but we work them out,” says Mark Thompson, who was introduced to Veronica Mars as late as season 3 because of previous fan efforts. He works on Save Veronica Mars. ”Morale is something that has to be considered and it varies with each person [so we have to keep it high]. Right now, we’re concentrating on building our membership numbers because the more members we have, the better our chance of success.”

Thompson, like everyone we had contact with, stressed that they respect the privacy of the creators, crew, and cast (even saying they are excited that Bell will be appearing in Heroes), and prefer to keep their focus narrow: finding existing fans, creating new fans, requesting syndication, and keeping the dream of a movie alive. By doing so, their work has gotten noticed. Rob Thomas, Veronica Mars creator, recently responded to a letter sent in by a former Web master.

“I'm afraid I don't have a definitive answer other than to say I want to do it. Unfortunately right now, I need to pay the bills, and I'd have to write the movie on spec.,” said Thomas. “It's difficult to consult on a show, develop new pilots and knock out comic books and/or a feature script. I'm grateful that there are fans anxious for it, and I remain motivated.”

Thomas is not the only one. Rachel Gerke, who was instrumental in providing backgrounders and assisting us with collecting interviews (better than some public relations professionals, I might add) for this post, notes that Bell’s answers in interviews have changed.

“I think that Kristen Bell is listening. Her interviews went from thinking that a movie was not going to happen to talk between her and Rob Thomas that it could happen,” said Gerke. “I think the challenge is getting enough active people in each of our smaller groups. As long as we have someone overseeing each of them, which we do, it will work out well.”

Courtney Harris is one of the primary organizers. She created the majority of the sites, including the forum and MySpace page. She also made many of the petitions and movie posters.

“I’m not big on coming up with ideas, but I’m really good at getting things done,” says Harris. “A lot of dedicated fans seem to be listening and willing to take on the challenge, and fans in general seem to be interested in what we’re doing. Just getting a group of fans together to create a campaign is a huge success in my opinion. As long we stay on track, I’m hoping it will all go up from there.”

If there any is indication that their collective plans are working, perhaps Sara Pillitu is the perfect example. She is an Italian fan who followed the “Bars for Mars” cancellation protest campaign but suddenly found herself very involved in the effort.

“We’re very lucky to be happy to be ‘shiny, happy people’ and we work constantly to keep morale up with jokes and discussions about the show,” says Pillitu. “We do a lot of recruitment and we always look for new ideas to get the people involved in our campaign to save Veronica Mars. Unfortunately, Veronica Mars is not so popular in Europe, so right now I'm trying to spread the buzz on the show and create a partnership between us and the European fan sites.”

Collectively, while the outcome is anybody’s guess, Veronica Mars fans have a lot working in their favor. Here is a hot list of things they are doing right:

• They have established a centralized group that remains largely positive.
• They have designated smaller groups, each focusing on slightly different promotional efforts or social networks with informal leaders to provide direction.
• They welcome new Web masters and encourage them to promote specific goals.
• They have established clearly defined primary goals: engage existing fans (some who have become active supporters) and find new fans (loaning personal DVD sets when they have to) with the focus on supporting a movie.
• They have established secondary goals such as encouraging Warner Brothers to put the show into syndication and promoting DVD sales.
• They have a consistent message. Each participant responded separately, but they all had very similar answers. Their message sticks.
• They have remained courteous and supportive of the cast and crew, even going so far as to promote other ventures.
• They have remained courteous and supportive of each other and have fun.

All of this seems to demonstrate marked progress since we first mentioned Veronica Mars fan efforts in June. Currently, the fans are also looking for ways to raise funds to support promotional efforts as well as encouraging other sites to pick up on their efforts. (Hey Stephen King ... maybe you could plug fan base movements in one of your Entertainment Weekly columns.)

For some other insights into the fan base that will never say Neptune sets, visit the VMCW MySpace page where they still comment today. Consumer marketing. You have to love it!


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