So the news of Jimmy Fallon taking over for Conan O’Brian somehow slipped by my radar. Thursday evening on the bus ride home from work, I watched an episode of Diggnation on my iPhone and Jimmy was Alex and Kevin’s first celebrity guest. He disclosed that he was addicted to Twitter and a huge fan of social media. Jimmy briefly mentioned his new show starting in March and plugged his new website www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com . I took some time today to browse through his website and low and behold, there were tones of vlogs that Jimmy had posted to promote his new show.
I’m quite impressed with the “Ask Jimmy“ segment of his website where he asks his fans to send video questions to him. He usually picks a few every Friday and answers them in a vlog. During his appearance on Diggnation, he mentioned that he’s trying a new late night formula which will appeal to the internet generation. This is a great example of a company (NBC) finding the value in listening to fans of one of their programs and giving them what they want. Each vlog (or video podcast) allows for comments, blog embedding, and sharing on social websites like facebook, myspace, del.icio.us, digg, reddit and stumbleupon.
I think NBC and Jimmy Fallon are onto something here. Giving Jimmy Fallon’s fans the power to shape and influence his show may prove to be a successful idea for not only late night television, but television in general. Building an online community surrounding a television show has worked for Stephen Colbert as he often challenges his fans with video remixing contests which are posted on www.colbertnation.com . Having an online community based around a television show gives fans a sense of community and perhaps a feeling of rapport between Colbert and his loyal fans.
Major broadcasters like NBC have been obsessed with ratings using Neilson Ratings since the 50’s because it gave broadcasters bragging rights as to how many people were tuning into their stations. This measurement allowed for broadcasters to set standards for advertising agencies who want to do business during programs that appeal with appropriate demographics to promote their products. The problem with this model is that Neilson Ratings only represent a small fraction of the total television audience and is limitied to those who have equipped their television with a little device called “set meters”. The only accurate information this tool tracks is what station that specific television set is tuned into at any given moment. Set meters only report data on television viewing habits of the user however this says very little about the viewers consuming trends which seems to be of huge interest by web companies like google, myspace and facebook. Set meters are very primitive even as they were upgraded in 2005 with the explosion of digital television and TiVo.
Major broadcasters like NBC are very interested in what you are watching on television, what websites you visit, what products you purchase and even your hobbies! Jimmy Fallon’s interactions with the interwebs will attract bloggers and internet geeks who will embed the show’s clips on their blogs and social networks. Why is this important? Because web metrics are FAR more intelligent that Neilson Ratings. Say I post a clip from Jimmy Fallon’s show on my blog. NBC can track back to my blog and search for what other social networks I belong to and then web spiders will search my blog posts and find my interests and hobbies. Ever send an email on gmail and notice that the adsense ads along the right side will pertain to keywords found in the email you just sent? NBC will mine and store this data and the next time you are on their site, the advertisements COULD (not yet) be a personalized advertisement based on your web habits and product mentions.
This all may sound a bit far fetched and creepy however you have to ask yourself why analog television is going to die on February 18th, 2009 (which may be delayed to June) in the US. There are several reasons however encouraging (or forcing) viewers to go digital, namely that it will free up bandwidth as more digital channels become available to consumers. I wonder if rating tracking has anything to do with the digital television transition?