What getting engaged taught me about Facebook

He’s tweeting with the other hand.

In subtle ways, the media all around us reinforce social structures. Some might argue media help define them. I was reminded of that in a big way the other week, when I was lucky enough to get engaged to the lady I love. The night after she said yes, I was browsing Facebook and thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to change my relationship status?” I figured it would have to confirm with my fiancee before it formally published anything. I figured it’d be a small change that only some people would see. I figured it’d be no big deal.

Boy was I wrong. Instantly, people with whom I’d not spoken in years began liking and commenting, her friends did the same, and people with whom I wasn’t even connected on Facebook were chiming in (in all cases Facebook told me how they were able to see the post, which is a really comforting feature). Having bought a few Facebook sponsored stories in my time, I knew what had happened: the Newsfeed algorithm decided this was an event important enough in my life that not only did every friend need to see it, but it also needed to be at the top of everyone’s feeds. A quick login to my fiancee’s profile confirmed it – the secret was out, in a big way.

This revealed to me an interesting wrinkle in our quest to have Facebook be an interactive timeline of our lives: I’m not allowed to tell Facebook how important something is, short of setting global privacy preferences. In its quest to hook users into the never ending barrage of updates on the Newsfeed, the algorithm gets to decide what on my timeline is most entertaining (read: emotionally significant) to other users, even when that decision has implications beyond just what others are engaging with on the platform. Why does Facebook get to think marriage is so important? What if I were one of the many people who fall madly in love, but never wanted to get married? What if I were gay and my state hadn’t passed marriage equality, but my partner and I had made the same pivotal decision to spend our lives together?

Now I want to know what else Facebook gives automatic preferential treatment to. New babies seem an obvious one. What about breakups and relationship confirmations for kids in high school and college? What about a post declaring a major victory in a task someone has been working on for a long time?

5 reasons FOX’s ADHD will beat SNL

Meet your next plush toy, t-shirt, mug, bobblehead, etc.

Quietly in the past few months, FOX laid the groundwork for a revolution in late night. It has nothing to do with Lorne, Fallon, Leno, Conan, Kimmel, Letterman, Stewart, or Colbert. In fact, kids growing up in America for the past 15 years might never have been significantly exposed to those late night titans, thanks to 8 years of YouTube, 12 years of Adult Swim, and an incredible 16 years of South Park. What started as me begging my parents to drive me to a friend’s house to find out who Cartman’s dad was, is now a nightly collection of edgy animated content on Adult Swim, to say nothing of the hugely successful YouTube channels driven by animation. Now, animation is poised to take over Saturday late night on broadcast TV, and after winning their demo in a prime time preview on Sunday, ADHD is going to be king. Here’s why:

1. They have a proven digital strategy

When SNL hired the Lonely Island guys, it was a bold move that completely paid off. But they put all their eggs in one basket. Now Jorma is off directing movies, Akiva is a writer/director for big projects, and Andy (the face of the trio thanks to his ample camera time on SNL) isn’t even on NBC anymore. Yes, the Lonely Island YT channel is the lynchpin in the emerging Above Average MCN, but we’ve yet to see the way Above Average will integrate into SNL or other Broadway Video properties, and we’ve yet to see any new talent or brands emerge from the network. Not to mention, it’s unclear how or if NBC and Broadway Video can or will collaborate to sell ad packages spanning BV’s television properties and their online presence – that’s a key part of making sure your digital arm thrives, as Smosh and others have proven.

In contrast, ADHD is a digital brand at its core. Recognizing that their key demo spends most of their entertainment time online, ADHD grew a YouTube channel and a Tumblr blog before they even announced the name of the programming block to advertisers at this year’s upfronts. The channel is now doing a respectable 1MM views per month and growing at a steady clip of 8,000 subs per month. And almost none of the content on the channel is related to the shows that will premiere on TV – it’s all new IP that shares a tonal and thematic core with the TV shows, extending the brand experience into the digital conversation. To top it all off, ADHD was introduced to advertisers at the upfronts this year as a cross-platform experience – that’s refreshing.

2. Up-and-coming talent want to work with them

There was a time when a comedian’s ultimate dream was to be on SNL. Now a comedian’s ultimate dream to is get off of SNL. Getting the nod of approval from Broadway Video and Lorne Michaels is still a major accomplishment, a badge of honor, and an acceptance into comedy elite, but just being on the show pales in comparison to the money and fame that stars stand to receive by becoming Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon, or any of the other graduates who’ve gone on to become names themselves. I think that’s partly because the rise to fame for any comedian includes so much personal brand building, from standup shows to hilarious Twitter feeds and self-produced web series, and in the new media economy a personal brand can lead to amazing opportunities just like an SNL nod can. When a person has the opportunity to achieve success on their own terms, it’s a tougher to make the choice to give it to Broadway Video and become part of an ensemble.

Since ADHD offers multiple shows to write on and none are live action (yet), they’re able to cast a wider net without having to lock people into network staff writing or appearance contracts. It’s a setup that better accommodates the 21st Century comedian. With a premiere slate featuring Nick Offerman, Rob Huebel, Mandy Moore, TJ Miller, Tyler the Creator, and Nathan Barnatt to name a few, along with writers from respected web sketch groups like Good Neighbor, ADHD is making it a policy to work with comedians who are a bit left of center, people who I’d argue might not fit into an SNL cast but certainly not for lack of talent. They’re also people who are growing significant personal brands via their own original content and special appearances, from Offerman’s messages to Movember participants, to Huebel’s web series on Blip, and TJ Miller’s hilarious Gorburger show on YT.

3. Nick Weidenfeld is setting himself up as the new Lorne Michaels

Behind SNL is Broadway Video, and behind ADHD is Friends Night. The independent production company run by Weidenfeld still produces for Adult Swim while also building ADHD Studios, and they also participate in a host of other collaborations from music videos for hot bands like Major Lazer and YACHT, to books with alt culture leaders Odd Future. Mobility across multiple projects is a key part of Broadway Video and Lore Michaels’ success, because it’s allowed them to extend their brand and their success outside of SNL. I believe Friends Night will do the same, in its own way of course.

Broadway Video focuses on incubating talent, fostering comedians in one place (SNL) and then bringing them somewhere else (30 Rock, Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon). Like I talked about above, that’s much more difficult in a world where comedians feel they can develop and monetize a personal brand on their own. Friends Night has already structured ADHD differently, focusing on the shows themselves rather than the talent involved (not a single show begins with an extended credits sequence like SNL does). They’ve chosen to incubate IP rather than talent, betting that producing content creatively, efficiently, and with a distinctive voice will give them access to any talent they want. If mobility is the goal, I can’t think of a better way to achieve it.

4. FOX knows how to make and distribute merch

This is a key advantage for ADHD. SNL does a great business with its library of SNL sketches, a few coffee table books on the history of the show, and the occasional t-shirt, but anyone who’s grown a YT channel knows that nothing means more to a young demographic today than the ability to wear proudly your affiliation with a piece of content. FOX knows this business incredibly well thanks to nearly 25 years of The Simpsons and 16 years of Family Guy. It’s an important revenue stream, an important brand extension, and also a big advantage for conversations with advertisers, as ADHD will be able to offer ad packages that span TV, digital, and merch.

5. They don’t have to compete with topical SNL sketches…yet

Perhaps most importantly, FOX made the wise decision to start ADHD during the summer, when its target demo is out of school and staying up late every night, and when they won’t have to compete in Monday morning headlines with topical SNL sketches. Topicality is one thing SNL will always win on since animation takes time, but ADHD seems to be trying to stay timely by beginning their broadcast with a review of the week’s gifs from their website – we’ll see if that continues. For this summer however, every Monday’s press headlines can be dominated with how much steam ADHD is picking up, all in preparation for a showdown with SNL this fall. When SNL does return, it will be interesting to see if the younger ADHD demographic is able to propel them over the top or if they’ll prefer to wait to watch episodes online or on demand. But even if ADHD doesn’t win the ratings battle right away, my bet is on this horse for the long term.

Starting to understand the short, loopy language of Instagram video

I talk a lot about media as a new language, so I’m going to start using the blog to talk through some of the new ways we’re communicating.

Instagram video is easily a better product than Vine, if only by nature of it being integrated into the app I already use and love, so I’ll start there. Firstly, let’s acknowledge there’s a big difference between still and moving images. Still images leave at least a little to the imagination. They’re great when you’re trying to show one dramatic moment, and Insta makes them one better with a caption. My favorite Instagrams are those that use the photo and caption together to tell a bigger story, like this one:

Bro, you were so funny last night. #friendsdontletfriendsdrivedrunk

Pictures like this read like a Jeopardy question: you get the punchline in the caption, and you have to fill in the joke (drunk dog!).

So how does video change this equation? Well, sometimes it doesn’t. Some of my personal favorite Insta videos have been literally moving pictures – things that would’ve looked amazing just as a single frame, but are made all the better with subtle movement. These don’t necessarily tell a story, but video enhances the viewer’s experience of immersion in the scene. In this one, Ryan could’ve just taken a shot of the foggy lighthouse, but seeing the black streaks cross over the light really makes me understand more about the scene. In that same video, sound also plays a huge roll. I’d argue sound is the most underutilized feature of Insta video, and that’s probably because it’s impossible to get it right when you’re not yelling “HEY CAN YOU BE QUIET SO I CAN INSTA THIS QUICK PLEASE THANKS!” But done in the right way, it again enhances by bringing another sense into the mix, keeping the viewer even more immersed.

Some use Insta video to tell a short story too, and that’s the most exciting to me. They’re not huge stories, they’re more character studies or short jokes similar to the one I told with my dog. I can’t embed Insta videos (big flaw IMO, I bet they’ll fix it), but here’s a (SFW) video from today that show what I’m talking about. A perfect beginning, middle, and end: empty frame, dog falls to the ground, dog looks up. And no cuts even!

There are a few flaws to the technology though, certain elements I think would only add more to our bag of communication tricks and allow it to live up to its full potential. First, we should be able to choose whether or not to use sound, and each cover frame should indicate if the video includes sound. Like I said that’s a tough element to get right, and it’s also an easy way to completely ruin your video. Second, and most importantly, Instagram needs to allow us to embed video and pictures in other media: blogs, texts, forums, etc. That allows other users to create their own meaning out of each picture or video, in the same way we all now use gifs. It’s quite possible the best way for me to communicate something to a friend is to use a video of a guy pooping his dog(?).

What are you favorite Instagrams? Why do you like them? Let me know in the comments!

The NSA’s terms of service: click here to agree and use the Internet

You’d think these guys could talk once in a while?

At a panel discussion once, a founder of the Internet made an assertion that’s stuck with me ever since: if information is power, he said, then the public should have more of it than the government. Now, clearly the guy has an anarchistic streak in him (he is a founder of the Internet after all), but the idea has a place in a modern indirect democracy, where the public elects leaders to govern while we go on with our lives. If the public is part of the equation of keeping government power in check, and if in the 21st Century information is power, then surely there needs to be a balance of information between the public and government.

Obama has made this a policy all along, putting in place a ton of open data initiatives that keep the government transparent while allowing the public to find new and innovative uses of otherwise dormant facts and figures. But he’s stumbling at a key point, assuming firstly that people who’d do wrong to the US would be operating on a part of the internet that’s easily accessed, and secondly that the public wants to be as transparent as we want the government to be. I get why he’d think we want to be transparent: he hasn’t really been told that assumption is wrong before. During the campaign, his team drilled so far into the online lives of potential voters that Facebook slapped them on the wrist more than once, but let them carry on all the same.

It’s an incorrect assumption, as we’ve seen recently, but the only thing wrong is the assumption. Realistically, web companies do the same thing as the NSA, all day, every day, with far less altruistic intentions. Facebook has proven time and again, the public is not unwilling to have data mined once it’s public, but we must be directly involved in the conversation around such a program’s intended use and boundaries. I’m not talking about Congress helping to make those decisions. We all have to have a direct voice and craft a real set of expectations around what defines overreaching on the part of the government, and what’s permissible.

We may never know for sure, but I feel this is the spirit in which Snowden leaked the documents. He wanted to make sure we all read the terms of service before we created an account.

There is a valid argument here about the chilling effects of any sort of spying whatsoever, and I do agree it’s frightening to think of people who are afraid of communicating or publishing information because of a potential misuse by someone who gets a hold of it. But that hasn’t stopped people on a personal level, living their lives online. And I believe that if there is true transparency as to the nature and extent of any government data gathering initiative, those chilling effects will be minimal. What adds far more to a chilling effect is the way the government then deals with a case like Snowden, charging him with espionage when that’s exactly what he’s accusing the government of. Snowden is like an information hacker: at some point the government realized we had more to learn from hackers and offered them opportunities to help us rather than prosecuting them. How can we make the same thing happen for Snowden?

To me the craziest thing about the whole leak scandal is not the contradictory messaging coming from the White House, or even that the NSA knows what my girlfriend texts me to pick up from the grocery store. It’s the reaction I got from friends abroad, most of whom live in countries that are not very far removed from dictatorship or some version of it. While we in the US are outraged…they shrug. It’s not that it doesn’t bother them, they just accept it as a fact of life and they move on to more pressing issues affecting their quality of life, like unemployment, poverty, health care, education, on and on. It’s not ideal, but it’s practical.

I hope Snowden finds asylum. I agree with those who say history will view him as a pioneer, and that it’s unfortunate current laws and political climate prohibit us from doing so now.

Event programming is here to stay, no matter the platform

This could be a picture of James Bond, Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, or anyone else with a JB. That’s the point.

I’ve written about event programming here before in the context of live TV, so here’s an update. At a certain point, we had to know it was coming: just like the movies, it’s getting harder and harder to take a good risk on TV. That’s a shocking thought during this golden age of television, but it’s true. My first sign of this apocalypse was FOX’s recent announcement that they’re bringing back one of my favorite shows, 24, but this time for only 12 consecutive weeks. It’s a perfect marketing formula for network head Kevin Reilly, based on a pre-existing property with a huge built in fan base, a star who’s not really been able to get anything else going since the show ended (The Confession, we hardly knew ye), and a topic (terrorism) that’s still red hot. Mark my words, when it’s time for those episodes to start airing, we’ll be inundated with Jack Bauer imagery on TV and off, and it’s all we’ll be talking about for 3 months.

Sound familiar? Maybe like a certain series of superhero movies that all led up to the highest-grossing superhero film of all time? Or the other series of superhero movies trying to do the same thing, from a different studio? Or maybe you’ve noticed how many sequels, reboots, re-imaginings, and re-jiggerings of older movies we’ve seen lately? I just passed a billboard today with a big Man of Steel picture on it asking “…but how does he shave?” It’s not rocket science, it’s easy marketing, and it’s the same thing FOX is after with 24.

Cable networks aren’t far behind in this strategy. A+E jumped into the ring first, launching A+E Studios to start capturing production profits and further exploit successful IP the company owns. In this vertically integrated environment, the studio is incentivized to find a hit and milk it, taking only calculated risks (that’s industry speak for “no risks at all”).

YouTube can save us, right? In theory anyone can start a YouTube channel and find popularity, so creators are more apt to take risks. But not so fast: as Jason Calacanis and many others have been talking about the past few weeks, it’s not so easy to turn a profit on YouTube alone, especially not as a single content creator unaffiliated with a multi-channel network. If you’re a new guy entering the fold, you rely on your own type of event programming to make sure you can get found. For some, that means making lists with clickable titles (Buzzfeed is far from the only one doing this…looking at you, Smosh). For others that means making a huge deal with a brand, who will convert marketing dollars for you to make sure they see at least some return on their investment (I call it the Forward Unto Dawn model). For other still, that means using an MCN to drive viewership (not necessarily engagement) that will allow you to tell a story or success from season to season (DanceOn does this well for Dance Showdown, a great show that they make sure works).

Events just work, no way around it. In the emerging media economy, event programming will get bigger in every medium, giving us more expensive movies with extra services at the theatre (as Spielberg and Lucas talked about this past week), bigger TV shows from fewer networks, and massively dominant web channels whose business models will soon fall into line behind their broadcast and cable predecessors. Risks will have to be taken the old fashioned way: by those of us with nothing to lose.

Web comments sections are affecting our public policy

Don’t know what a flame war is? Not voting for you.

It’s so obvious when you talk to, or watch the actions of someone who’s taking web comments too seriously. Typically these people don’t post very much, keep posting but ignore their fans and therefore never grow their audience, or worse, they get defensive in the face of all the criticism and just keep feeding the “haters.” I’ve seen all three scenarios play out in one way or another over different platforms, and in every case the ones who prevail are well-adjusted people who can take the heat and still keep doing what they’re doing, grow an audience and a swell of public support, and see their work be crafted into something even better. I love it, for instance, when iJustine makes fun of her hates all over her comments section, allowing horrible comments to sit at the top of her videos so everyone can see her ALL-CAPS SARCASTIC RESPONSES.

Not to say that it’s easy to keep your distance from the hate. It gets even harder when all that vitriol spills from one social platform to another, catching more people along the way who either really believe in the contrary point of view or are just in it for the lulz, and creating a real trend of people, who really believe in what they’re saying and are very vocal about it, but do not in any way represent the opinions of the majority of people on a particular issue. After all, the vast majority of people who watch a video or read an article or a blog post do not leave a comment at all.

Lately I’ve realized, as social media increasingly plays an important role in capturing the news cycle, this idea applies to people in public office. Some people get it: Mayor Corey Booker of Newark talked to Jon Stewart about his active and productive Twitter handle the other day, and how he deals with the usual hate. But damn is it frustrating when others in similar offices prefer to use the position of the vocal minority to justify what, to a statistical majority, just doesn’t make sense.

I don’t mean to blanket-label a vocal minority or say one side “isn’t doing enough.” I’m just remarking broadly how public policy is now being crafted on the groundswell of a social- and traditional-media message that is, by definition, easily manipulated by anyone with enough Twitter/Facebook followers, or anyone who news organizations deem worthy to listen to. You could argue that this is how Obama was elected by a younger, more-techno-savvy group of voters, while the older white men who voted for Romney could never take control of the media narrative unless Obama made a misstep like the first debate. I think you can apply this logic to the level of party platforms too. Thomas Feidman’s NYT column today talks about a GOP base who “denies global warming after Hurricane Sandy and refuses to ban assault weapons after Sandy Hook — a base that would rather see every American’s taxes rise rather than increase taxes on millionaires.” And I’m left wondering…who are these people? Surely they exist, but surely the over 50% of Americans who voted for Barry O disagree.

The solution here is NOT to have Obama-supporters take to the internet and demand anything – that’s just going to force opponents to become more defensive, hold their ground more passionately, and create more gridlock (a.k.a…it’ll start a flame war). The solution is for all of us to learn to read your comments section and understand that even when the haters comment, they still watched your video. And they’ll probably even come back and watch more.

Multiscreen Experiences are an American Sunday Tradition

Interactive games are making football the most-watched sport

While ratings for every network get lower and lower, Sunday football ratings continue to be the anomaly, gaining viewership and fans faster than Bieber. People are throwing around lot of reasons why: the game is better, it’s become America’s past time ( I wholeheartedly disagree), ESPN and other 24-hour sports networks make the stakes higher. But none of these address the fact that ratings are continuously falling for the 162-game baseball season (where fewer steroids and more Moneyball led this year to arguably the best game of baseball ever played) and the 82-game NBA season (despite the players being rockstars and reality-show fodder). Meanwhile, MLS (34 games in one season) and NASCAR (36 races in the Sprint cup) attendance and TV ratings have also never been higher.

Without any consideration for the quality of game play in any of these sports, one thing is clear: sports with shorter seasons with fewer games are doing better on television. That’s because if there’s one thing we know still works on TV, it’s huge events that take over public consciousness and drive tune-in, from the season finale of LOST to this year’s premiere of Two And A Half Men, to that age-old ratings juggernaut: the Super Bowl (in fact, those events are doing better than ever thanks to the echo chamber of social media). The NFL season is perfectly scheduled to take advantage of that event status, while also adding a dash of routine. Every Fall Sunday is football day, no doubt, and we only get 16 of those so we better take advantage while we can. The major networks play up the drama, reminding us that every single game has playoff implications, and if we miss one moment we could be lost in a sea of meaningless plays. Monday at work, if you’ve missed the highlights from yesterday, good luck with the small talk.

What makes NFL stand out from the pack of short-season sports and get even larger ratings than the others is the millions of people around the country who are currently playing a game while they’re doing it. Fantasy football, now easier to play than ever thanks to numerous websites that do all the math and the drafting and trading for you, gives audiences an excuse to be invested in every moment of every game, because every extra yard a player runs or throws and every extra tackle could be the difference between winning and losing your office/family/friend/enemy pool. We’ve game-ified the experience of watching football, creating a structure around the flow of information about NFL that lasts throughout the week and culminates with games on Sunday. And the preferred way to get that information in real-time? Watch it happen on TV.

The interactive experience gives audiences a personal investment in what’s happening in the NFL every week; it’s not just Ravens vs. Jets, it’s me vs. my boss. That means audiences have an even more intense personal relationship with what’s happening on screen, adding to the event status that the NFL has already carefully cultivated. For all the talk of how interactive experiences are eroding TV viewership, fantasy football is the shining example of how interactivity can be additive to the TV experience, both in terms of audience size and emotional impact. One tackle could mean the difference between winning or losing for the at-home player; that’s a big deal.

No longer can the NFL fan be satisfied watching one game at a time, or even a Red Zone channel that cuts between key moments. When a fantasy football player has different players from different teams playing in different games simultaneously, the only thing that will work is a multi-screen setup so as not to miss a single second of any game. At the hub of all of this is the tablet or laptop, perched within arms reach and constantly refreshing the player’s game for the week in real time. It’s like we’re all playing a day-long game of Call of Duty, with our fantasy football provider of choice as the controller. There’s even a cult of masculinity around the creation of the perfect watching experience; I’ve already planned my man-cave for that inevitable time when there is a lady living with me.

The next question of course is how we can use this model and bring it to narrative TV programs. Imagine a hypothetical project where users become invested enough in an extra-filmic game that they had to watch every episode the moment it aired, and where small pieces of narrative information were carefully released by the show’s writers so as to affect the game in perfectly calculated ways. That’s true power, and true entertainment.

Now I get it: Google wants my cable box

Robert Galvin; pioneered cell technology as chief executive at Motorola

Bob Galvin in his prime

I was upset to hear of the passing of Robert Galvin, the longtime CEO of Motorola and a man I was lucky enough to spend a day with in 2006 (a story for another post). But even in death, he’s inspiring some ideas: I didn’t realize Motorola Mobility, yes that half of the company, doesn’t just make phones. They also make the box my cable company gives me and millions of others to connect to our televisions.

In all the analyses I read about the proposed Google acquisition of MM, most focused on patents (they were on a patent purchasing spree after all). But with this week’s announcement of the new YouTube channels, along with a revamped GoogleTV, no doubt Google is also after an efficient way to get GoogleTV into all of our homes.

It’d be a welcome addition. I’m a recent adopter of VOD, and while I’m impressed with the amount of content available (I never have to DVR almost anything!), my fingers are doing a ton of work to get there – it takes about 10 clicks to get to an episode I want, and that includes a step asking if I want to watch in SD or HD (what is this, 2010?). It sounds like a dream: a new Google interface, with a specially designed remote and hey, maybe even some integration with Android phones and tablets a la my Apple TV and iPad. And of course, I’d love an easy way to watch some of the new YT channel content on my widescreen.

New year’s resolution

2011 is bringing a bunch of change for me, including blogging more. Stay tuned for more…

What do the “most engaging” shows all have in common?

From AdAge today comes this great tidbit about the shifting influence of TV ratings (though I’m very curious to see the metrics by which these are measured).

When it comes to engagement, or a show’s ability to command attention from viewers, “Ted” (3.4 million viewers) trumps “Idol” (average viewership of 50 million across two shows each week). According to Nielsen IAG, the most “engaging” show on TV is ABC’s “Lost,” followed by “The Middle,” also on the Disney network. Tied for third this season, as of April 19, are ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters”; NBC’s “Chuck”; ABC’s “Desperate Housewives”; NBC’s “Heroes”; and CBS’s “Rules of Engagement” and “The Amazing Race.” Rounding out the list are Fox’s “24,” ABC’s “Ted,” NBC’s “Parenthood,” and CBS’s “Survivor” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

What do these shows all have in common?

  1. Only TWO are unscripted (The Amazing Race, Survivor)
  2. At least three have rabid, if small fan followings (Lost, Chuck, Heroes, 24). I’d argue you could add B&S, Desperate Housewives, and Parenthood to this list, if the fans are given a chance to show it (as Chuck fans did when their show was about to be canceled)
  3. Only TWO are ending their first season (Parenthood, Rules of Engagement)

I want to see someone analyze the narrative elements of each of these shows, to see if there’s any overlap. For instance, Survivor and The Amazing Race are fairly similar in that they involve ordinary people in extraordinary situations, with interpersonal relationships stressed as a narrative device to keep the show engaging (think Survivor strategies and the way the producers paint a hero and a villain, and think of the dramatic pairings in Amazing Race). 24, Lost, Chuck, and Heroes all have a big online fanbase (Lost and Heroes in particular, of course), and their narratives have often been described as video-game-like (well, not Chuck, but there’s an argument there, especially in more recent seasons when he’s a legit spy). I think that narrative structure encourages engagement, as it asks the audience questions and then lets them sink in for months, even years before giving what might be considered an answer.

Of course my immediate follow up question is how engagement changes on each of these shows when watched online. While we’re at it, what are the most engaging original web shows or videos?

As a side note, I for one am depressed impressed The Office isn’t on there, with its Dunder Mifflin Infinity, huge fan following, and constant line-referencing in pop culture.