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Find The Boots

Rantings from a few corporate types about life, technology, travel, guns, politics, and everything good in the world.

Save Jericho: Old Media Shows its Age

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I have fond memories of the 1980s. One of my first jobs was as a "sales consultant" at a chain of computer stores. We were selling fully loaded IBM PC XTs (20 MB hard disk, 640K RAM, Monochrome Monitor -- I still have one in my attic) for $5,000, and we couldn't keep enough inventory in stock. In one week in December I sold 75 machines just by standing in the store and doing a good job of explaining to people what they needed. Our profit margin was 50%, and I got a 20% of profit commission. It was a good week. The company Christmas party that year was lavish. Everybody was happy. And completely oblivious.

I remember that Spring was the attack of the clones. Upstart vendors such as Compaq, ALR, Leading Edge, and Gateway started to appear. They had figured out that personal computers were really just a commodity, and there was no need for opulent showrooms or high paid "consultants." I bailed shortly thereafter and got involved in a software startup. A year later the store I worked for had closed its location. The party was over -- the market adjusted. Things were over blindingly fast -- far too fast for the bloated companies feeding in that market to react. Does anyone remember Entre Computer Center or Compumart? Does anyone remember that IBM used to be known mainly for their hardware?

It turned out to be a good career move. Creating content (computer software) had a lot more value than taking orders for boxes, which is now done over the internet and by folks in Delhi. I'm just glad I made the move into senior management before the low level jobs went to India too.

I've seen two articles recently that reminded me of those heady days. This week's issue of Business Week has the article "TV Parties While Rome Burns," which describes a party similar to Comdex in the 1980s. "Upfronts" are staffed by salespeople that sell billions worth of advertising to a few select buyers. And then there's Les Moonves' performance reported on by the Wall Street Journal, which has caused great consternation within the ranks of the Jericho faithful. I thought this was the key part of the article:
Asked if CBS would consider producing the show and broadcasting the episodes online, Mr. Moonves responded he “would be losing a considerable amount of money.”
I've shown in previous articles how that's not really the case, and my calculations were for $2.5M/episode in cost. But Moonves is using a different view -- he thinks that if he can sell an episode that costs $2M for $8M in advertising, then selling it for $3M is a $5M loss, not a $1M profit. It's the same calculation my store manager made when confronted with PC clones back in the 1980s -- we can't live with less than a 50% profit margin!

Of course, the Old Media really doesn't get it. Just like a computer showroom, there's only one time slot available at 8:00PM on Wednesdays. Instead of selling one show for $8M via broadcast, they can sell 10 shows for $3M via the web. $10M in profit is a better proposition than $6M, and you don't have to take such a hit when you flop. The infrastructure costs are a lot less, and you can cut out the middleman (local affiliates) so there's a better margin. And it's much more convenient to the viewer since they can pick the time and how they want to watch.

This model is absolutely inevitable -- it makes too much sense. The only question is whether it will be supported by advertising or pay-per-view, or what combination. My guess is that affluent and busy people are willing to pay a premium (quite a bit more than the $0.50 the networks make from an hour of viewing) to get their entertainment without commercials. But at some point in the future, we'll look back at broadcast TV as being as foolish as printed newspapers.

This is somewhat bad news for producers and actors. New distribution methods will drive down their compensation as well. But there will be an awful lot more work available.

The "Save Jericho" people have lamented that the Nielson ratings don't take DVRs and web downloads into account. Frankly, under counting DVR views probably doesn't bother Old Media that much, because they assume that DVR viewers aren't watching the commercials, so the advertisers aren't willing to pay a premium for those views. In other words, it's a bug, not a feature.

As for web downloads, I'd bet CBS doesn't yet know how many times Jericho was downloaded. The royalty contracts with their partners such as Itunes and Amazon probably don't even require reporting until the second quarter after the view. They probably can't even integrate the data from Innertube with their reports from the Nielson ratings. People who don't work in a large corporation don't realize what a morass the islands of data and stovepipe applications create. Getting actionable, accurate, real time business intelligence is something everybody talks about, but very few companies actually pull it off. And given the level of technical competence Moonves just demonstrated, I'm doubtful CBS is on the leading edge.

When Moonves talked about web content, it's clear he's still thinking about minor productions done on YouTube, not big time entertainment. I agree with him that these small shows have their place, but I don't think Old Media can do anything for that venue than stunt its growth. Those small efforts work because they're "two guys and a coffeepot" and not giant corporations.

Old Media has a much larger problem on its hands than my computer store had back in the 1980s. They're in a similar position, but the upstarts they face are actually quite a bit larger than they are. The online advertising business has seen rapid consolidation, which means that future growth will come from expanding into new markets. Advertising revenue is already flowing away from television and radio into online venues. Worse yet for Old Media, Google is interested in moving into television and radio. It's only a matter of time before some of the internet behemoths decide that Old Media is doing a poor job with content and start to take away some of their action.

People often talk about CBS as if it's a giant corporation, but its market cap is only $24B, and small fraction of Google's $157B. Instead of dealing with an upstart, Old Media has an elephant wanting to eat their garden.

So what does this mean for the "Save Jericho" movement? Not much, other than that they're playing this out in a much larger context than perhaps they realize. By making a stand and growing into numbers that demand respect, they may have a key influence in pushing Old Media into modernizing, or by hastening their demise. Perhaps they get their show back and the networks start to take real feedback from the internet, or it gets sold to a network that's a little more savvy. Or maybe CBS fails to take advantage of the free advertising and ignores the groundswell of viewers against it and just continues to party.

Either way, if you've got an invite to an "upfront" party, I suggest you use it, because there aren't going to be many more of them. Enjoy the free shrimp and champagne while you can. Those parties are going to be replaced by a web page. Just ask IBM (or should I say Lenovo?).


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Save Jericho: Flexing Muscles

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The "Save Jericho" movement is now finishing out its second week. That's over 3 years in corporate time.

Well, maybe not that long, but time moves at a different speed for a web movement. The Nuts campaign has been wildly successful, edging toward the 15 ton mark as I write this. They've got ads in the print media, and they've been picked up everywhere. The web footprint of the "Save Jericho" movement rivals that of presidential candidates that are spending serious cash to build awareness.

So what's next for the fans and for CBS? I've previously written that I think this movement is different in scope and speed from other movements and that it will change how the networks deal with canceling shows -- they'll have to deal with the liability as a toxic waste. Kotr1 started an interesting thread ("In for a penny, in for a pound (or, why CBS won’t blink)") over on the CBS Jericho board that takes my suggestion a bit further:
We have reached an ironic juncture here where it may very well be in CBS’s best long term interest to commit to what they have done, and to not back away from their decision. The irony stems from the fact that renewing Jericho is a short term no-brainer. CBS would bring back the 8 million member fan base, and add another 4-6 million through promotions like “watch the show that was too tough to die”, or “see the next season of the show that created the greatest internet movement in the history of television”. Jericho would be THE most talked about show going into the new season. Without a doubt.

So if it’s a no-brainer, then why hasn’t it happened?

Because no network, especially the Tiffany network, ever wants to be humiliated like this again.
Kotr1 and I came to different conclusions. Kotr1 seems to think that CBS will stay the course and ignore the movement out of a long term desire to avoid fueling new movements. I'll admit that's a possibility, but I find it hard to believe even a corporate drone could be that foolish.

Wouldn't it be a terrible thing for the networks if every time they canceled a show they got hit with a gigantic amount of free advertising in favor of bringing the show back? In the words of Brer Rabbit, please don't throw me in that briar patch!

As I see it, CBS could harness the movement without destroying their existing Fall schedule. It's a very easy solution: Order up 13 episodes and run them starting in January, after the inevitable failure of something in their fall lineup. An outright reversal is probably too much to ask for -- they've already set their fall schedule and have started to take orders from advertisers.

Another solution would be to release them as pay-per-view, either over the web or cable. Tell the fan base that if they get an overwhelming response, they'll get a full season and possibly a return to the airwaves in the future.

This fits with the model of movies that are made "direct to dvd" -- they bypass the normal distribution and focus on a pre-existing niche for their sales. Would viewers buy a DVD set of 13 episodes of Season 2 without it ever being released on TV? Would they pay $4.99 to watch an episode as a download from Amazon/Itunes that was only available via pay-per-view?

You'll notice that former Googler Chris Ender has been talking to the press about the "Save Jericho" movement. My bet is that he's pushing this solution internally. The networks are clearly one of the best sources of web content. Look at how successful YouTube is, and it's mostly amateurs. The question is economics. If it takes $30M to produce a series, you'd have to sell 600K DVDs at $50, or 6M downloads at $5. If there really were 500K downloads per episode, then they'd have to have at least that many to pay for each episode over a 13 show season. The real question is what percentage of the 8M viewers they had would pull out their credit cards to watch the show. If it's more than 6.25%, then it's a cash-flow positive proposition.

The only way the fans are going to get their show back on "free tv" is to demonstrate far greater numbers than they already have. The petition is at 95K signatures, they've had 3,577 orders for nuts, and raised about $15K in advertising. These are impressive numbers for two weeks of work, but they'll have to demonstrate far more muscle. The 8 million viewers that watched the show weren't enough for CBS -- they'll have to show that if they bring the show back they'll get a much bigger crowd.

The petition is a measure of how many people were willing to give up their email address for the cause. The nuts and advertising are a measure of how many people are willing to spend money. Being willing to watch the show is obviously some multiple of these numbers, but the movement will have to get these numbers way up in order to avoid being ignored. It's one thing to say that 3,500 people sent nuts to CBS. It would be something entirely different if they could point to 100K people being willing to spend money.

Probably the worst thing that could happen for the movement would be for CBS to make a quick decision. Not much danger there, because CBS moves at corporate speed.

So what can they do? They need to grow their base. They've gotten CBS's attention, but now CBS is in wait-and-see mode to see how they do. Advertising in the trade rags doesn't make further sense - CBS knows the movement exists, as does everyone in the business. The Nuts campaign has been a good story to drive press coverage, but how much longer can that story run? The Greensburg story is a good one, but it risks the story becoming more about Greensburg than the movement.

A mistake the campaign may have made is to look at the first ads and say "There, we advertised!" Advertising is about reach and repetition. You've got to reach more people and you have to tell them the story several times before they get it. It's like taking a shower -- you can't say "Ok, I showered. Now I'm clean!" You're going to need to shower more than once a month...

They should treat this like a political campaign. The key is to get supporters and more money, which leads to more supporters and more money. Advertise in venues that will bring in people that don't already know about the cause. Keep up the internet noise, because you want people to be able to find you once they've logged into the internet. Do some things that will demonstrate that they have financial muscle.

What if 10,000 people purchased an episode of Jericho from Amazon or Itunes in a week? That would put them at the most popular product level in a very public venue, and it would demonstrate to CBS that they're willing to pay-per-view, which is probably the calculation being made in internal CBS meetings right now. Being willing to pay for a rerun shows an awful lot of loyalty to a show, in a way they can't ignore. And it would provide ammunition for the faction inside CBS that must exist in favor of distributing content via the web.

What if the 3,500 people that bought nuts set up a booth at their local flea market, gave out free peanuts, and had a computer set up to sign the petition? Or at least distributed a flyer? What if they combined that with a radio campaign? With advertisements in the local paper? What if they start doing fund raising in those types of venues? How about a few hundred "Save Jericho" car washes, funneling the money to a charitable endeavor?

I don't know what will be most effective, or what the movement will do. Part of the power of the movement is that it's unpredictable, which is part of why you can't control the monster and shouldn't even try.

My prediction is that different people/groups will try different things, and as some fail and others have success, the practice will get wider adoption. If they run an ad in the Atlanta paper and get 10,000 new signatures that weekend, they'll start running ads all over. If one group has a car wash and raises $500 for Greensburg, then car washes will break out all over the country. The key is that the group rewards successful endeavors with piling on. It's not through leadership, it's the power of thousands of independent people harnessing positive energy and doing what they think is best.

The movement can take action quickly. If you haven't been clobbered by the evidence already, the Greensburg donation drive has raised $1,300 since I started writing this article. I think they're making a lot more money at this than I am...

The last two weeks have been an interesting phenomenon to watch. The difference between this movement and others that came before it is the speed and scope at which is has operated. They're running circles around CBS's decision cycle. But they have to make it to the next level in order to make a real difference.

In the words of Johnston Green, "We'll be watching you."


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Save Jericho: A Movement with a Heart

May was a tough month for small towns in Kansas, both fictional and real. While fans of the TV Series Jericho saw their show wiped out, the residents of Greensburg had a more important crisis on their minds.

I received an email from Diane Cookfair this morning reminding me of a previous post:
Think of how long it takes to build consensus in a business organization. I've worked on projects where it took a year just to get everyone on the same page -- just to agree about what needed to be done. The execution then took months. The way the "Save Jericho" movement operates, those plans could have been suggested on a Tuesday and completed by Wednesday afternoon.
She then pointed out:
Thought you'd like to know that NutsOnline and the fans of Jericho have done it again. On Tuesday, May 29th at 4:09 pm, Jeff at NutsOnline posted a request asking that Jericho fans help the people of Greensburg, Kansas, a real town that had recently experienced its own apocalypse, in the form of a tornado that destroyed over 90% of the town.

It is now 11:00 am on Wednesday May 30th. Currently, NutsOnline and the Fans of Jericho have raised $5,239 (in less than 24 hours) and the total is rising. Jeff Braverman has set up a mechanism that will allow the funds to go directly and quickly to the Greensburg Rebuilding Fund at Greensburg State Bank in Greensburg, Kansas. Unlike other charities, there will be no loss of donations to overhead. One hundred percent of donations will go directly to the people who need it the most. Even the Red Cross can't claim that.
As I write this, it's about 4:00PM EST, and the total has passed the $6,000 mark. That's in less than 24 hours, in case anyone is watching. Here's the link -- go donate now!

I've said repeatedly that you can't control the monster. But it's nice to see the monster doing good things. It's yet another way the "Save Jericho" movement can flex its muscles. CBS would be wise to figure out how to harness all of that positive energy.

UPDATE: I can't believe I didn't check this. The Google footprint for the phrase "jericho greensburg" (no quotes) is now 72,100 pages. In 24 hours. Unbelievable.


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Fred's Gonna Run

Politico claims to have the inside scoop. He'll be formally announcing his candidacy over the July 4 holiday.

The interesting thing about Fred (other than that I agree with him on most things) is that he seems to be the blogger's candidate. Consider some google stats:
John Edwards    7.2M
Fred Thompson 4.6M
Hillary Clinton   4.1M
John McCain      1.8M
Mitt Romney      1.5M
Rudy Giuliani     1.5M
Fred Thompson, who isn't even a candidate yet, is behind only John Edwards in Google footprint. And he's ahead of Hillary, who has been in the news for a while. His footprint is just barely less than the three Republican front runners combined!

John Edwards had a lot of support in the liberal side of the blogosphere. But he's had several years to build his footprint. Fred Thompson is more than halfway there, and he's not even a candidate.

What does this mean? The blogosphere moves the media. A huge percentage of the stories the mainstream media covers first appear in the blogs. Having a huge footprint means that the candidate can set the agenda.

It will be very interesting to check back towards the end of July and see how much Fred's Google footprint has increased. Perhaps then Michelle Malkin will have something to say.


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I Guess I Am Too Stupood To Understand....

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This whole immigration thing. I mean, what is so hard about the debate?

I am a big fan of almost unlimited legal immigration, but I can certainly understand the position of people who want, say, only educated childbearing immigrants. It's a matter of degree.

What I don't get is people who don't understand the word "illegal" in illegal immigrant.

I'm a parent - before you give a kid his dessert you make sure the room is clean, homework done, and that there has been general good behavior.

So, I'm calling and faxing my senators and representatives to ask them to consider the following:
  1. Fence
  2. More cops at the border
  3. End to so-called sanctuary cities
  4. Immediate deportation of all illegal aliens known/found
How hard is that? Let's talk about 'amnesty' once the population of illegal aliens is quite low. I'm not asking for zero, but let's not kid outselves that the cops in most cities couldn't round up 10K illegals in a day or two.

I betcha if we put in a 180 day window for everyone to really have to fill out their I-9 with a notary present, really present ID to get a Drivers License, really prove citizenship to get free lunch or other benefits, really prove citizenship to get 2nd stage hospital care, etc....


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Clearly Bringing the Wrong Tools

From the news:
Residents not sure two bullets enough to stop giant lizard
Ok, well, if you've got Godzilla running around, then what you really need is a freaking 120mm cannon. From two over the horizon if possible.
CASSELBERRY, Florida (AP) -- Police say they're sure they shot a four-foot-long, 80-pound monitor lizard that had been lurking in an Orlando suburb for months.

An officer shot the reptile twice Sunday but wasn't close enough to catch it before the animal scampered into a retention pond, said Lt. Dennis Stewart of the Casselberry Police Department.
WTF they shooting out there in FL? I got several commercially available rifles shooting .308 and 30-06 that should make a four foot lizard disappear. How about some buck-shot with that walking clutch purse?


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A Sad Memorial Day Present

Apparently Cindy Sheehan, tool and uber-fool, has quit agitating for the surrender-o-crats:
I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a “tool” of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our “two-party” system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the “left” started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used…

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing…

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home.
What is sad is not that now $harpton and all the rest of that ilk will plunder whatever money remains in the "Crawford Peace House" kitty.

It's that a brave American soldier, Casey Sheehan, died honorably for our country, and on Memorial Day, of all days, his mom still didn't get it.

There are some emails I keep around to try to help me counteract times when I get this mad. So I went to Wounded Warrior and popped $100 into their excellent program to get some transitional care packs to our wounded guys:
WWP Transitional Care Packs are a smaller version of the WWP Backpack, filled with many of the same comfort items. Transitional Care Packs are sent directly to Iraq and Afghanistan to provide immediate comfort during a warrior's recovery at medical facilities overseas. Give a transitional care pack to a wounded warrior today and include a personal message of support!
I'm not saying this in an Oh-la-la-I-am-so-good way. I've just found that when I get so steaming mad I'm likely to pimp slap the next smarmy filthy peace hippy that looks at me crossways on the bus ... well, let's just say this is much more in line with my middle-aged dad disguise. (I mean, once you start slapping idiots, where do you stop? :-)

The other guys I really like are Operation Gratitude. They ship care packages to the troopies. Simple stuff like cookies, flash drives, batteries, etc, etc. So far they've put 220K+ packages out there, and are starting 50K more this Memorial Day weekend. The new postage rates are killing them so I finished my calming exercise with another hundred bucks there - shipping for 10 packages.

So, Casey, I apologize for saying harsh stuff about your mom, but dude, the rest of us are so amazed by your sacrifice that it is hard to keep quiet. Perhaps she'll go home now and complete her healing and won't inflict her pain and lack of understanding on the rest of us.


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Happy Memorial Day

Monday, May 28, 2007

We're pretty much taking today off, hope you are all having a wonderful day.

In lieu of a post about why we have memorial day (hello, Google, you could put up a darn graphic for once) I'll just reccy that you pop over and read Kim DuToit's annual post.

To all my friends in the military - thank you again, and we really do understand the sacrifices you make and are prepared to make.

Semper Fi.


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Save Jericho: Monsters, Trolls, and Molasses

The monster is definitely gaining steam. On Friday I posited that to make the next break out, the movement would need to get picked up by some of the larger blogs and get articles in the mainstream media. Within 24 hours they had been slashdotted, Michelle Malkin put up a post (and she even quoted me!),the New York Times had an article, and the list of smaller media outlets covering the story had exploded. And this is over a holiday weekend, when web traffic for most sites is historically very low.

How can one measure the size of a web movement? To me, it seems that Google is one of the best, non-partisan arbiters of how much activity is happening. Last Friday, we measured the total footprint CBS had on the net before the "Save Jericho" movement at 741K pages. This morning the page count in total is 1.55M, making the "Save Jericho" movement responsible for 809K pages in 2 weeks. My guess is the movement caught the google indexing system at a favorable time and got a lot of pages indexed last week, and in another few weeks we'll see a much larger explosion.

Several detractors have claimed that "this isn't the first movement on the internet" or that "other movements have sent items to the networks". Let's put these into perspective. I did google searches for other "Save Our Show" movements, counting the number of pages they had. Before Jericho, the largest movement on the internet had been the "Browncoats" of FireFly, with 233K pages in 5 years. Arrested Developmen had 127K pages in a year. "Trek United", the movement to save Star Trek: Enterprise came in a distant third with 25K pages in 2 years.

And "Save Jericho" dwarfs them all with 809K pages in two weeks. Applying a little dot-com business logic, we can clearly see than within 6 months the internet will cease to exist and will be replaced with websites asking CBS to renew Jericho.

Well, maybe not. But this is a huge amount of publicity by any measure. The monster is completely out of control.

Trolls will inevitably be attracted to any internet movement.Before this newfangled intarweb thing, people that wanted to discuss a certain subject met in person, such as club meetings, with friends, or the local pub. You had the occasional person that would stir things up just to get people going, but mostly people were polite because they were in person. Today, people will say things behind the mask of the internet they wouldn't dream of saying in person. Imagine a PETA activist wandering into a hunting camp....

The "Save Jericho" movement has had its share of trolls. For example, people with only a few posts say something such as "This is useless, I'm giving up." Or make inflammatory statements about Michelle Malkin and how the show is really liberal. Nothing special, it's just people trying to see if they can get a lot of posts on a topic. That exercise provides a certain level of pleasure to some people.

It's the reaction to the trolls from the "Save Jericho" movement that has been so interesting. The "Commanders" have told people that CBS has hired an outside PR firm to combat the movement. People are concerned that any negative posts or new posters are really trolls from the PR firm designed to fracture the movement. I even commented in an update in the last article that I thought CBS would be crazy to do this.

But now that I've thought about it, I don't think it's possible. If you haven't worked as an executive or mid-level manager in a fairly large sized business, you just don't realize the difficulty in movement that permeates a large organization. It's like swimming in molasses. People on the outside tend to think that big, evil corporations have masterminds pulling the strings with employees that implement their nefarious plans in an instant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Things that you think should take hours take days and weeks.

Few people realize that the real communication at large companies takes place via Internet messages. While I have absolutely no knowledge of what is going on at CBS, I think this is what might have happened:

Tuesday, May 22:
NinaTassler: yt?
ITPeon: y
NinaTassler: wtf? my email is broken
ITPeon: yes, your inbox is full.
NinaTassler: fix it please

Later that day:
ITPeon: yt?
ITPeonBoss: y
ITPeon: Tassler's inbox keeps filling up because of fan mail about Jericho
ITPeonBoss: ok, set up a filter and delete all that junk
ITPeon: k

Wednesday, May 23:

NinaAssistant: yt?
NinaTassler: y
NinaAssistant: Have you heard about the nuts?
NinaTassler: rotflmao! very cute!
NinaAssistant: what do I do about it?
NinaTassler: what is there do to? the show is dead.
NinaAssistant: We can't say that
NinaTassler: write something up and I'll get it approved and out
NinaAssistant: Ok, but what do I do with nuts?
NinaTassler: I don't care, put them in the break room
NinaAssistant: There are 2 TONS of them
NinaAssistant: yt?
NinaTassler: y I'll ask

Later that day:

NinaAssistant: yt?
NinaTassler: y, go ahead with the press release
NinaAssistant: what about the nuts?
NinaTassler: give them to a charity, get some press out of that

Thursday, May 24:
NinaAssistant: yt?
NinaTassler: y, sup?
NinaAssistant: the internet is going crazy with this Jericho stuff
NinaTassler: and?
NinaAssistant: we're getting bad PR out of it
NinaTassler: not our problem, tell the guys in corp comms to deal with it
NinaAssistant: Find-The-Boots says you're an idiot
NinaTassler: oh no!

Later that day:
NinaAssistant: yt?
NinaTassler: y
NinaAssistant: comms says they'll have to hire an outside PR firm, they need a cost center from you to charge
NinaTassler: why?
NinaAssistant: they say its your problem
NinaTassler: k, I'll call Les. Tell them to start a PO, we'll figure out budget later

Friday, May 25:
NinaAssistant: yt?
NinaTassler: y
NinaAssistant: PO is ready, need resolution on the cost center
NinaTassler: too late to do anything, I'm headed to the west coast for the weekend and then Vegas on Tuesday. We'll deal with this next week, maybe it goes away.

And that's why I doubt CBS has already hired a PR firm. Just getting a PO through an organization that large takes time. Budgeting, approvals, arguing about who has to pay -- it all takes time in the corporate world. My guess is they haven't even had the meeting to discuss this at a high level -- that's for next week.

The monster moves much faster than a large corporate organization. Corporations can't possibly control the monster because the monster moves too fast. The monster works nights and weekends. Every time the monster grows, it grows in its ability to grow. The fact that the monster even exists creates PR.

The "Save Jericho" movement has moved into the mainstream in the internet world. They're moving into mainstream media. The next thing to watch is whether they can attract further members with this new publicity. If CBS was going to successfully diffuse the situation, they should have acted last week -- but that would have been impossible for any large corporation. If the movement can make the next jump, there won't be much of anything that can stop them.


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Save Jericho: You Can't Control The Monster

Sunday, May 27, 2007

As any good manager can tell you, the key to any successful enterprise is process, methodology, and execution. One of the reasons I find the "Save Jericho" movement so interesting is that they're writing new rules for all three elements.

Process - what to do. Every business has processes. They may not document them or implement them consistently, but like it or not, you have processes. Effective businesses manage their processes carefully.

Methodology - how to do it. It's one thing to keep track of your processes, and quite another to understand how you do things. Again, effective businesses manage this quite closely in order to provide repeatable and consistent results.

Execution - doing it. Weak managers skip right to this step. They just flail about trying to make things happen. Without process and methodology, execution is just a shot in the dark.

Let's use a military example. The US Army probably has a process they call "Bombarding the Enemy with Artillery". They know the types of situations where that can be useful. They undoubtedly have a field handbook that describes the methodology of how to aim the artillery, load the shells, and fire the weapon. And they've got execution pretty well down. The big guns go boom when they want them to.

So what does any of this have to do with the "Save Jericho" movement? Most businesses operate in a top-down fashion. Managers organize groups of people to accomplish the organization's goals. But a web driven movement is completely different. It's a spontaneous set of actions, without any real management or control. It's the ultimate in democracy -- everybody gets a vote because the single currency that drives the movement is the time that people are willing to put into it.

The "Save Jericho" movement is breaking all the rules, and they're doing exceptionally well.

They're sort of documenting their processes. Someone comes up with an idea, such as "Let's send nuts to CBS!" and the idea rises or falls in popularity as people agree or disagree with the notion. The methodology evolves quickly because they get immediate feedback on what's working. And they can execute quickly, because individuals see what appears to be working and doing it themselves as well. And then all of a sudden the CBS Headquarters becomes the largest supplier of peanuts in Manhattan.

Let's say you're wealthy and want a larger say in what goes on in a web driven organization. Think of the CEO of a large company -- they've got the most power and influence, so their ideas usually are what drive the organization. They can get their ideas into everyone's to do list because the participants in the organization don't have a choice. But that's not the case in a web driven organization. Ideas get judged on merit, not on power. You could go to Nuts Online and spend $10,000 on nuts and you'd still just be one member of the organization. You could hire people to spam the boards with sock puppet type posts, but you couldn't get action out of people unless individually they thought it was a good idea. Eventually you'd be shouted down.

It's been interesting to watch the dynamics of the group. A group of people have tried to act as "Commanders" to organize the monster. They seem to have been some of the first people to set up alternate web sites for the movement. They send out "Mission Orders" and exhort people to "listen to your commanders!" There have even been statements along the lines of "We have special knowledge because of our contacts, and we can see how our strategy is working, but we can't tell you." It reminds me of how some bosses try to keep their access to information proprietary in order to establish power.

The commanders have no doubt been effective, but only because they're able to make suggestions that the individuals in the group decide make sense. Unlike a business, where a manager can make a stupid decision and the employees are forced to go along, in a web movement there aren't any bosses, and everything is completely democratic. People vote with their time -- and everyone has the same amount. The Jericho Commanders are really more coordinators and organizers than they are bosses.

Think it's a good idea to run an ad in Variety? In a business you'd have to get a budget, support of management, cleared by legal, etc. These activities are very time consuming, so businesses don't do these types of initiatives quickly. But not in the "Save Jericho" movement. Somebody posted the idea and said how much money they needed and provided a paypal address to send donations. The ad is scheduled to run a week later. That's the kind of execution that would make any executive salivate.

There have been people that have expressed hurt feelings over the complaint that they didn't receive credit for something that was "their idea." I think they're missing the point. Everything that happens is built through a group consensus. Most "ideas" spring up simultaneously from several different sources, and the organization is able to promote or discard them very rapidly. Good ideas get talked about, bad ideas fall off the top couple of pages.

Think of how long it takes to build consensus in a business organization. I've worked on projects where it took a year just to get everyone on the same page -- just to agree about what needed to be done. The execution then took months. The way the "Save Jericho" movement operates, those plans could have been suggested on a Tuesday and completed by Wednesday afternoon.

But the real lesson to be learned is that the monster isn't controllable. The NY Times ran an interesting article on "The High Price of Creating Free Ads." They tell the story of how Heinz has had so much difficulty controlling what they hoped would be a viral marketing strategy. Read the article and you'll see another example of how foolish it is to think that you can control something like fans that don't work for you.

There has been talk about whether CBS's cancellation of Jericho was really a viral marketing campaign designed to foster a backlash. Remember, you heard it here first, back on May 22:
I'd like to think that this was a masterful stroke on the part of CBS -- they announced the cancellation without the intent of actually canceling it, so they could bring it back with a huge groundswell. They may have known how dedicated the fans were based upon the web activity. In which case they have pulled off the most amazing viral marketing campaign in the history of the web, but they can't tell anyone about it.
The more I think about it, there's no way CBS did this intentionally. You just can't control the monster. The monster can't control itself, much less be mastered by corporate drones.

But I do think that CBS should take advantage of what they've got. If they bring back the show they'll have more internet PR than they could ever hope to build organically. Or they could publish the content purely to the internet as a pay-per-view product. But if they just sit tight and do nothing they'll make Dilbert's Boss look brilliant.

UPDATE: I just had a scroll through the CBS Jericho message board and the rumor is circulating that CBS hired a PR firm to try to diffuse the movement. Two reactions:

1) They're crazy if they think they can control a web based movement without it blowing up in their faces.

2) They're crazy if they don't use the incredible positive PR this is generating, unless of course I was right and they're afraid of the precedent this could set.

I find it hard to believe they took that strategy. I'm betting that the meeting that could have come up with that idea hasn't even fit everyone's schedule yet.


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The Problem May Be Bigger Than You Think

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I was reading Gizmodo this morning and saw a very cool Google Maps application on a Blackberry.

Now, why do I care? Well, let me count the ways: 1> No sense of direction. Ok, that is enough.

Anyway, our company has a policy against crackberries, so it's not like I'm going to buy one, but I'd buy another type of phone with GPS in a hot second for a killer app like phone+GPS+ mobile_email.

And then I noticed a small problem with "are" story:

Ok, it's a cheap jab, but it still tickled me. Even I don't look for LAX in FL.

One note on the crackberry ban: I think they did it to save money, but all that has really happened was that the company has to support 52 different flavors of Windoze moble - and support them all badly. It'd have undoubtedly saved a LOT of money to just let us go out and buy our own bberry phones and get on with losing whatever remains of our personal life.


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Wow, Check Out That Rack!

If you misunderstood what I meant, perhaps you came here for Alexyss Taylor (aka: Alexis Tyler) or Barbie Cummings.

If so, maybe I need to rethink my blog strategy. Wait, did I just say "think" on a weekend. Yikes, time to apply JWB!

Anyway, I was reading the Sunday paper and ran across this picture/story:
You can click on the picture to read it, but basically a buncha feral deer have taken up residence in a burb intown. (I'd have linked to the full story, but stupid dead paper media guys still don't understand the internet!)

I look at that guy and think: bow, arrow, barbie, taxidermist. Yummy.


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John Wayne's Birthday

I think we all have some memories of watching The Million Dollar Movie on a rainy day when we were kids - and John Wayne was always there. 150+ films - how could he not be.

One of my very favorite daily visit Not Really Safe For Work (NRSFW) blogs, SondraK, has a great list of 100 reasons why John Wayne is Great. Read 'em all, obviously, but here is the one that really struck me:
I have faith in a supreme being. I don’t believe in organized religion because there are too many of them and I just don’t think God could be so disorganized as to have all that many churches claiming his authority.
Ok, one more:
I stopped getting the girl about 10 years ago. Which is just as well, because I’d forgotten what I wanted her for.
My favorite, which she ain't got, is, when someone asked him about his toupee, "Is that your real hair?" he said:
It's real hair, just not my real hair.
Love it. Imagine a star today.....


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Quick Note on Jericho

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wow. I try to sneak off for a Friday afternoon to work out and have a nice dinner with the wife only to come back to a deluge of email and comments!

Thanks for all the praise and comments. We really appreciate it. TierFlyer and I have been IM'ing back and forth with ideas and we'll have more articles up next week.

I did notice that ABC News picked up the story, so the next tipping point may be getting very close.


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What The Heck - Let 'em Walk

From the sometimes depressing news:
Students who had been planning to walk across the stage at graduation ceremonies this weekend were instead walking a picket line Thursday morning.

The Trimble Tech High School seniors marched in front of Fort Worth Independent School District headquarters to protest Wednesday's decision by trustees to bar students who failed the TAKS test from commencement exercises.

Man, stinks to fail a test after 6 years of prep by your teachers and then get surprised not being able to walk for a graduation where you don't graduate.

But at least our mom can honestly tell you: I couldn't pass the test either honey.

You did read the sign, didn't you?


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Save Jericho Campaign - Why We Fight

This is a great video, and we're happy that we're mentioned!

Think about the capabilities of your marketing department. How long would it take them to throw together a video like this?


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Tipping Points in the "Save Jericho" Movement

A tipping point describes the phenomenon of adding a very small amount of weight to a carefully balanced object, causing the object to topple and fall. It's how you can start an avalanche with a sneeze.

The "Save Jericho" campaign continues to be extremely interesting to watch from the perspective of New Media vs Old Media. The sneeze was clearly CBS's decision to cancel the TV show. A fairly innocuous move, one that happens many times a year for the networks. Every show has fans that are disappointed, but most of the fan groups just fade away after showing their displeasure.

There was an initial tipping point in the "Save Jericho" campaign that occurred within a day of the news becoming official that the show had been canceled, back on May 15th. Within a day of the news coming out last week, the fans started to mobilize to voice their displeasure with CBS's decision. Somebody came up with the idea of sending peanuts to CBS, and Nuts Online offered to ship peanuts to CBS by letting fans pool their payments. I'll have to do an article on what a masterful stroke this was by Nuts Online -- can you recall a viral marketing campaign for a web vendor going so well? Most web vendors look at customer acquisition as being the most important driver -- once you have their information, you can send newsletters, emails, etc.

On May 17th they shipped 89 lbs of peanuts to CBS. Not much. The next day it was 24 lbs. Then the next day a tipping point was overcome and they shipped 1,319 lbs, then 4,042 lbs, then 5,252 lbs, then 2,572 lbs. A tipping point was overcome and they got a huge burst of activity. It will be interesting to see if the 2,572 lbs performance was a momentary dip, or if the campaign is losing steam.

They've shipped over $25K worth of nuts and raised another $15K for advertising in the print media. The downside is that if you calculate that the average contribution was $7.50, then they've only got about 5,300 people in the movement committed enough to make a purchase. Throw in some people that will work but not spend money and the movement is perhaps 10,000 people.

10,000 people is a lot -- heck it's a fair sized company, but it's a drop in the bucket when compared to viewership. If they all pre-purchased an episode of Jericho for $50, they couldn't cover the costs of making the show. CBS can still ignore them, and it appears that's exactly what CBS is doing. It's Friday afternoon on the east coast, so the execs are already on their way out of the city to enjoy the long weekend.

The next tipping point the movement has to get over is to become relevant to people outside of this hard core group. So far, the story hasn't been picked up in the major media. There have been several articles and mentions in local media outlets, but the big guns are focussed elsewhere. Michelle Malkin could make this break out with a single blog post, but lately she's completely focussed on immigration. Matt Drudge could start the avalanche with a note on the first page, but so far nothing. So far, the campaign has been limited to "the social internet" -- smaller blogs, forums, and social networking sites. The movement (and the rest of us) is unfortunate in that it is taking place during a high volume of other news.

But here's the interesting point. Google Jericho CBS with keywords nuts, cancel, canceled (both spellings!), save, cancellation, cancellations, and closure removed. As of this morning it returns 741K hits. That's the entire footprint on the net that CBS had for Jericho before the show was canceled.

Now run that same query without the keywords subtracted. You get 1.5M hits. In other words, in one week the "Save Jericho" movement has established a larger footprint on the net than CBS could in an entire season! And that's without any help from the major sites.

Imagine the google bombs they could do.

The advertising in the print media scheduled for next week will be very interesting. They seem to be focusing on ads for the entertainment industry. I think that the problem with this approach is that the people they need to add to their movement probably don't read those publications. They'll get the attention of CBS executives with those ads, but without the muscle of several hundred thousand people in the movement it still won't mean much. The CBS execs will come to the conclusion that they're going to just have to wait longer for this to blow over. The movement's best hope is that these ads get the attention of the majors and they get an break out from it.

On the other hand, if they started buying ads in mainstream sources, they might really increase their scope. Of the 8M people that were watching Jericho, only a small percentage live in the world of message forums and blog posts. What if they bought TV commercials on Cable Ad-Net in selected cities? Or ran full page advertisements in the Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, etc? Ran radio station ads? They could funnel new people into their enterprise, giving them even more money to grow, and so on. Their next tipping point will be when they can start to bring enough new people into the movement to fund additional recruiting.

A $40k marketing budget for two weeks would be the envy of many a startup. That's more signing authority than most vice presidents have in large corporations. If they can keep their momentum, then they can be a formidable force.

But here's the real tipping point of interest. CBS may have inadvertently changed the way Old Media deals with viewers. If this campaign is successful, then canceling any somewhat popular show may become a liability for the networks in the future.

Web 2.0 allows the viewers to collaborate so quickly that a fan backlash can provide a deluge of negative PR. It takes a lot of positive PR to overcome just a little negative PR. The potential backlash from canceling a show could become a liability that they'll have to consider. They'll have to find a way to placate those fans, such as putting the content out purely on the web, or running it through a second/third tier cable broadcaster. It's like toxic waste from a factory production run -- networks will have to plan in advance for the contingency of canceling the shows.

CBS is doing pretty much what I expected. Their decision cycle is too long to respond to this movement, and the holiday weekend is almost here. They're hoping this is just a flash in the pan that will fizzle as the fans concentrate on more important things such as barbeque.

I think CBS is about to get Jericho'd. If the movement breaks out into the mainstream, CBS could find themselves completely out-manned and out-gunned by
people that are too desperate to quit.

It's going to be another interesting week next week.


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More Alexyss Taylor (aka: Alexis Tyler)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I blogged on this crazy lady earlier, and this rant is essentially the same, but somehow it's just, well, better with the Hogans Hero's hat on.

And, yes, that was a Bob Crane joke.

Yep, cable access brings the whole crazy world to you.

Update: I have no idea why she has changed her name. I would suspect a performance art prank, but, honestly, in my home town we have "activists" who are just as crazy as this who spend a lot of time ranting at city council meetings and other public forums. Sigh.


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CBS Jericho Cancellation Theme Song

I've not been watching Jericho like Boondoggie has, dunno why, probably just missed the first few episodes, couldn't get them on TIVO, was busy with BSG, whatever.

I kinda want to watch it now, but not sure I want to get all wrapped up in a cut-off show. Still stinging from FireFly and John Doe, I guess.

Anyway, found this on YouTube and thought, Jericho executives at CBS - a theme song.

Definitely not safe for work, but funny.


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How Does CBS Respond?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

CBS may not be taking the "Save Jericho" phenomenon seriously yet, but they are at least treating it as a crisis. I guess losing your mail room to legumes can do that to you.

There was a great post over on CBS's Jericho message board.
Over the past few days it is clear that CBS is taking the following crisis communication steps and implememented a series of key messages for all its representatives, including those now answering the phones:

1. Filter out e-mails related to Jericho as junk mail. Out of sight, out of mind.

2. Change e-mailll addresses of key stakeholders within the organization, i.e., Nina Tassler and Kelly Kahl, in an effort to further slow the e-mail onslaught.

3. Downplay the number of calls/letters/e-mails received, both to Jericho fans and the media. This, they hope, will dampen the media interest by portraying the Jericho activists as a few crackpots who can't let go of a TV show, and chill the momentum of the fans who are calling in. What better way to get people to stop calling than to make the activists think the effort is failing?

4. They plan to deny/deny/deny the shipment of nuts going into CBS. They will downplay the number as "a few bags." Why? See Item 3.

The goal of this crisis communications effort is to slow, stall, and stop the fan campaign by discrediting the fans, downplaying the number/effect, and eventually hoping that the campaign will stall during the upcoming holiday weekend.

That was the first day. It didn't go so well. They've filtered the emails, but that just means they're losing contact with the movement. Getting people to stop calling just frees them up for other activities. Denying that the nuts had arrived didn't work out too well either -- videos of the shipments are plastered all over YouTube. Instead of actively engaging, they've chosen to withdraw and hope it blows over. Memorial Day Weekend is coming up and their best hope is to just wait it out.

Old Media thinking vs New Media tactics. Stonewalling doesn't work very well at th speed of the web. But we can see clearly that the movement is inside the decision cycle of CBS, so they're having a difficult time reacting to events.

They did take a few steps to try to diffuse things:

1) The first response was a post from Nina Tassler telling the fans that she was "humbled" by their devotion and that CBS would try to come up with a way to "provide closure for the series." That strategy was no doubt intended to take the steam out of the gathering storm. Perhaps they might have been able to fracture the fan base between people that would be satisfied with a made for TV movie and continuation of the series. Unfortunately for CBS, it backfired. The fans became even more adamant that they get an entire season two of Jericho.

2) They accepted delivery of the nuts. At least they got that right. Refusing them would have been a colossal PR blunder. They've even leaked to the fan community that they're going to send the nuts to homeless shelters and charities that support the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. So a bad situation gives them a little decent PR.

3) They started talking to the press. Local media outlets started picking up the story, and they all had a line in them around "CBS is meeting to figure out what to do." So at least they were taking THOSE phone calls about Jericho. It'll be hard for the press to get too hyped up if it's still "under discussion" back in the executive hallways.

CBS's damage control is now probably centered around keeping this story out of the mainstream media. So far, the "Save Jericho" movement has mobilized within a core group of dedicated fans, but they haven't expanded to a larger group. Once the story gets out of the fanzines and a few of the business blogs talking about this story, all is lost. They have to keep this to a brush fire. Expect continued communication with the press, very low key along the lines of "Yes, we see the fans are disappointed and we're trying to figure out how to please them."

I'm doubtful any of the major networks will run with the story. Professional courtesy and all that. No network exec wants to set the example of getting a revolution on their hands when they cancel a show, so they're not going to feed the fire just to spite CBS. It won't become news until there's some real news. The fans will have to build enough critical mass that they can pull off a major demonstration, or spend some real money on media buys.

There were 8 million viewers of the show -- so far only a small percentage of them are involved in the movement. The movement is in its early stages, so it's still the hardcore, internet savvy types that are pushing it. This small group has raised over $20K in funding for their various efforts, and there's probably only a few thousand of them involved. What happens if they get 500,000 fans on board? If they each put in $5, that's a bigger marketing budget to save the show than CBS spent promoting it.

There's no centralized decision making, yet the movement seems to be able to reach a consensus and take action fairly quickly. Think of the PR blitz you could put together with a few thousand employees fired up and really getting to it. That's the advantage the "Save Jericho" movement has. Their challenge is to break out of the circle of people they know and get to a wider world. But that's doable, so CBS better think about what happens if they're successful.

Go read Rich's Copywrite Ink blog, especially the article "Saving Jericho: Seven Solutions for CBS". Go ahead, I'll wait. He's got some great ideas about things CBS could do to avoid this. But I think most of those things are at best weeks and months out (reference my earlier posts about decision times). The real question is what can they do in the short term (other than just bring back the show)?

1) Put out a free e-book that tells the story of next season. It doesn't have to be written that well, it just needs to tell a story. They could even start posting it a chapter a week. They'll drive lots of traffic and it may limit the movement by placating the more casual fans. They'll look reasonable to the press, and the hardcore fans will be livid and will say silly things to the press that make them look like crackpots. The whole thing might just fizzle.

I doubt this would work. The hard core fans would refuse to read it, and it would just be another rallying cry. But it might stunt the growth of the movement enough to avoid disaster. It also ruins the franchise in case they want to sell it. Hard to tell, it's pretty risky.

2) Let the movement think it has won. Do a press conference, say how much you admire the fans and their dedication, and you're going to try very hard to put things back together for a run next January. But somehow, things just don't work out and the show goes away. They buy several months and the story just dies. That could stop the expansion of the movement right there. Again, they look completely reasonable and it cuts out the casual fans from joining. There will be some people that are seriously alienated, but most of those have already sworn off watching CBS anyway.

I hate to say it, but this one might work. It's risky because the story might get out. They could probably even get in trouble with the Screen Actors Guild or the SEC. But there are lots of variations on that strategy that just placate the fans enough to get them to disperse. And anyone who thinks that Corporate America can't be that Machiavellian hasn't worked in Corporate America.

3) Shut down the Jericho Message Board on CBS.com. The fans have already agreed on a rallying point, but enough people would be out of the communication loop that it would deal a serious blow to the community, from which they might not survive.

I'm surprised they haven't already done this. Unless of course, they're still entertaining thoughts of bringing back the show. Why keep the message board up? It's the unifying object for the entire movement. Certainly not for the ad revenue!

4) Order a few episodes that leave the story open and release them on a pay-per-view basis. If they can charge $5/download and they get 500,000 downloads in a week they've got a $2.5M budget to work with. Or get a better revenue stream out of their views from Innertube. Better yet, add a deal with Tivo to download content directly with pay per view like Amazon has done (or just run it through Amazon). If they only break even, they'll succeed in establishing a new business model for content delivery that they can milk in the future. They can look at the revenue from those episodes and see if it makes the case for further development.

I think #4 is their best possible move at this point. It would completely diffuse the "Save Jericho" movement. Their online viewer population would probably grow past the 500K they already had -- I never watched the show on Innertube, I used my Tivo but downloading it wouldn't have been a problem if that was the only way.

I've already gone on record and said that the smartest thing CBS could do would be to graciously accede to the fans demands and bring back the show. In that case, they should continue to play nice and perhaps nurture the movement a bit. The viral marketing effect will continue to spread, and they'll have a major hit on their hands next season. Or run a short season starting in January, filling in the time slot of whatever new show doesn't make it.

However this comes out, mark my words: Getting Jericho'd is going to become a term of art for having your customers revolt by making a very stupid move.

The flip side of a crisis is opportunity. Being able to recognize that is basic leadership. We'll find out a lot about CBS management by watching how they handle this crisis.

[Minor update: check out our proposed CBS executive theme song, above.]


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I Want New Neighbors

Not that there is anything wrong with my current neighbors, but I want VDH as the one I can talk politics with and Joe Paterno as the one I go for advice on how to raise my kids.


Well, some Penn State players got in a fight and Coach Paterno (he's like a million years old now, or 80, I forget which) didn't think that was acceptable behavior.
According to Paterno, the Penn State football team will clean Beaver Stadium after each home football game this fall. It'll gather garbage, sweep stairs and maybe even hose parts down.
I'd like you to ponder that for a minute. All of use who have lived in college towns know that no 17th century Burgher was more privileged that a football player. Coming from a school with a crappy team, I can only imagine what things are like at Penn State.

It gets even better.
It's a job that usually goes to members of club sports on campus – say, rugby or crew – which do it to raise money so they can compete. Paterno said the clubs still will get the $5,000 for the job, but his guys [ed: the whole team!], fresh off playing 60 minutes of major college football the day before, will do all the work starting Sunday morning.
The football guys are now LITERALLY supporting the so-called non-rev sports. That's probably worse than the cleaning, in terms of hemorrhoid sting.

See, that's the kind of standard I strive for as a parent.

What does that mean? Well, I have several kids, all pre-teen. Or, as I like to say, still in an uninfluenced state. By that I mean that popular media has had a first shot at them (my daughter wants to be a princess, my boy a fireman) but they still watch me and their mom like a hawk.

I want to be a Joe Paterno kind of guy and instinctively know to do the right thing, even though it's hard. Let's face it, if Joe wanted to let his guys slide or dodge the work, there a thousand guys who'd carry his water.

Instead he gave the team the bad news and is undoubtedly going to show up on Sunday morning with a broom of his own to provide 'leadership from in front.'

I wanna be that kind of dad.

Go, Joe, go.


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Lessons to be Learned from Save Jericho

I've been covering this phenomenon for three days now. It really has my attention. Not because my life will be over if one of my favorite shows doesn't come back (unlike many of the committed fans, it seems), but because this entire movement is extremely interesting from a business standpoint. The internet has irrecoverably changed business, but most large businesses haven't figured that out yet. And Old Media absolutely hasn't a clue.

Yesterday the real time shipment of nuts counter was at 4,800 pounds of nuts. This morning it's at 7,684. Fans have ponied up more than $10K just to make a statement.

Name the last time a business had this much effort put into a movement against it, this quickly. I'm sure the executives at Walmart are breathing a sigh of relief that they only have to deal with labor unions.

Yesterday I reported that Google had 48,000 pages indexed for the phrase "Save Jericho." This morning it's at 67,700. 19,700 pages appeared in a single day. And that's just what Google was able to index -- we know they don't visit every site every day, so the total footprint of the "Save Jericho" movement on the web is much larger. Come back next month and look at the footprint for a real estimate.

Let's say you're Bill Gates. With all of your resources, do you think it would be possible to put 19,700 pages worth of unique content onto the web, across thousands of domains, in a day? Of course not, the larger the enterprise, the more difficult it is to organize. Microsoft couldn't even plan an all-hands company phone call in less than a day.

I can beat anyone in the world at chess. I just need one change to the rules: I'm allowed 30 moves for each move they make. I'm not that great a chess player, but Deep Blue wouldn't stand a chance.

The key to winning any competition is to get inside your opponents decision cycle. If you can make more moves than they can, you'll win the game -- assuming you have the capability to win. 1000s of pinprick attacks may not do it, but if you're trading hammer blows the one with the most hits wins.

How long is the decision cycle in your business? How long does it take from the time a problem is spotted to when it can be decisively solved? How long does that cycle take if it involves customers? How long if it involves an entire movement?

I work in a megacorp. CBS is peanuts compared to us. They'd be considered a small acquisition. If a problem comes up that's entirely in the control of my group, the decision cycle is a few days. It takes time to coordinate across multiple timezones, arrange meetings, communicate expectations, etc. I think I'm perceived as a decisive manager -- I like to get things done. If the problem is outside my control, but can be handled a level or two above, the decision cycle stretches out to a few weeks. If it's going to require Senior Executive intervention, it's going to take months. You just can't get on their schedule very easily, and bringing problems to senior executives is usually not a career enhancing move. There will be a lot of CYA on the way up.

I've worked in enough places to realize that this is pretty much the same everywhere. Turning the battleship around can take some time -- there just aren't any shortcuts. If you've ever worked for a company with more than a few billion in revenue you feel this in your bones. I'm guessing CBS is a little faster than what I'm used to, but with 38,000 employees they won't be that much faster.

But a web movement is completely different. Instead of top-down, it's communication is peer-to-peer. Do the math -- a peer-to-peer communication strategy is always faster than top-down. And there's no command-and-control in a web movement. It's made up of thousands or millions of different actors, each doing what they perceive is best, but loosely organized around common themes. Therefore, the decision cycle moves at the speed of information. Somebody throws out an idea, it either gains in popularity and is communicated, or it fades away. And in a couple of days the group is sending tons of peanuts to a corporate headquarters with a very small mail room.

Let's say a web movement has 120,000 members. That's about 1/4 the number of people that were downloading Jericho each week to watch, so the "Save Jericho" movement (including potential members) is probably much bigger. With 120,000 employees, they'd be #43 on the Fortune 500 list, ahead of EDS, Honeywell, J & J, Lear, Starbucks, Emerson Electric, CVS, and Tyson Foods. No CEO in the Fortune 50 could get more than a small percentage of his employees on the same page on an issue in less than a few months.

We can already see signs of CBS's decision cycle. They acted pretty fast. It only took a few days for an executive to post a message saying "We're sorry your show was canceled, but them's the breaks." Not really, but she was pretty much dismissive. She did not take it seriously. It was more of a "How cute, they miss their show, but we're all about the money." I don't blame her, I'm all about the money too.

A few days later CBS told the press that they were impressed with the fan reaction, and would take a look at communicating how the story would have ended. Perhaps a two hour special to wrap things up. It took less than a day for a consensus to emerge from the fans that they were not impressed and would accept nothing less than another season of the show. The fans are WAY inside CBS's decision cycle, and they have a lot more resources. CBS has a little over 38,000 employees, so they're completed outnumbered. How many CBS employees are devoted to the "Jericho Problem"? I would bet not more than a dozen at best, and most of those are trapped in the mail room behind huge boxes of peanuts.

CBS hasn't had any further communication on the subject. Of course not, they couldn't possibly organize all the people that it would take to make a decision. Are the producers, cast, and crew available? Have the contracts for locations been canceled? How much money do they actually make from downloads as opposed to selling advertising for an on-air broadcast? If their analysis from the Nielson ratings was correct, then what explains the groundswell of opinion? Is their room in the schedule anywhere? Probably not, so what's the cost of cutting another show? Even a decisive executive couldn't produce answers to those questions very fast.

The absolute worst thing CBS could do would be to try to attack the movement. That would just add fuel to the fire. Their probable course of action will be to just try to ride it out, hoping that it loses steam. If the executives are personally invested in the decision they made, they may get their backs up and refuse to move. Corporate decisions happen for a lot of other things than just logic and business.

Which would be incredibly stupid on their part. Monumentally so.

Forget there ever was a season one of Jericho. Just write off the fans. Pretend that you're rolling out a new show, and that you've pulled off a viral marketing scheme that has so much popularity that 68,000 people have signed a petition saying they want to see the show. That the fans are so stoked that the show will be coming out that they'll spend $5,000/day just to announce that they want to see the new show. That you'll have a web footprint of 67,700 pages in just a few days talking about the show. You have fans demonstrating in favor of the show outside your headquarters, and they're posting videos of their demonstrations to YouTube. These committed fans are working hard to bring in more viewers.

Name a single time in history that has ever been done. CBS would have to be beyond insane to pass up this kind of opportunity. They could spend $100M on a web campaign and not get this type of traction for a show. Just ask any of the dozens of dot-com startups that spent that kind of money trying to get traction.

An important attribute of viral marketing is that it's almost impossible to pull off on purpose. That's not what marketing consultants would like you to believe, but most viral marketing campaigns happen by accident. An idea or story catches on, and pretty soon your grandmother is mentioning it. The business landscape is littered with the corpses of companies that tried to start a viral marketing campaign and didn't make it.

I'd like to think that this was a masterful stroke on the part of CBS -- they announced the cancellation without the intent of actually canceling it, so they could bring it back with a huge groundswell. They may have known how dedicated the fans were based upon the web activity. In which case they have pulled off the most amazing viral marketing campaign in the history of the web, but they can't tell anyone about it.

But I doubt it. I think this is just more evidence of how Old Media doesn't get it. CBS is either brilliant or idiotic, take your pick. If they don't bring back the show, it will be a pretty easy conclusion.

[Minor updates: We've got another post above (How Does CBS Respond?), and you may want to check out our proposed CBS executive theme song, above.]


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VDH Is My Dream Prof

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Victor David Hansen would have been the best ever college prof:
What, then, is the radical Left good for? Mostly psychological cover. It is our version of the Athenian elite demagogue’s dung on his boots or Medieval indulgences or the Bible in the hand of the philandering fundamentalist. Its rhetoric alone allows Edwards to enjoy his mansion, Gore his jet, the Kennedys’ their drink and drugs, Bill Clinton his sex, and Soros his billions—and China its cutthroat acquisitions abroad and its suppression at home. Proclaiming to be a man of the people these days can cover almost anything from living like 18th-century royalty to making the foreign policy of the United States look downright saintly.
Dang. Read it all.


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Well, He Is

At a U2 concert in Ireland , Bono (the lead singer) asks the audience for some quiet. Then he starts to slowly clap his hands. Holding the audience in total silence, he says into the microphone....'I want you to think about something. Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.'

A voice from the front of the audience yells out....'Then stop clapping, ya arsehole!'


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Here it is, the video of the first big delivery of peanuts to CBS, taken from a camera phone.

Stop and think for a bit about what this means. A guy takes a video with his phone, and in a few hours it's all over the internet.

If you work in corporate America, you realize that "very fast" means a few weeks to respond to something. But in the age of New Media, "very fast" means a few hours. Old Media can't possibly keep up. CBS waited a few days to post a short message about the cancellation of the show. That's extraordinarily fast -- that email had to go through a few meetings, get approval from legal, marketing, etc.

But a little guy with a camera phone and a YouTube account has quicker response time and therefore more reach than an executive from CBS.


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UPI Picks up "Save Jericho" Story

It's nice to see that the CBS executives were "touched", but I'll bet that's before the 2 tons of peanuts showed up at their office. CBS will be showing just how out of touch they are if they don't use all of this free publicity to promote a comeback of the show.

read more | digg story



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Amazon to Tivo

I didn't realize you could do this. Amazon.com now offers the ability to download to your Tivo. It's the same price as Itunes, but without the hassle of getting the media to your preferred viewing device, namely the TV downstairs.

Just register your Tivo with Amazon, then make the purchase and the content shows up. If you've got Tivo server installed, you can copy the media to your laptop disk and watch on the plane. Or watch at home on a real TV, your choice.



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LawDog Makes My Day

One of my must-read blogs, Law Dog, has an absolutely ROTF laughing post.

Lemmie give you a taste:
It is another day at the chronically under-staffed Bugscuffle County S.O.

Due to a family emergency, Deputy LawDog has temporarily taken over the 911 desk.

*ring, ring*

"Bugscuffle 911, this is Deputy LawDog, what is your emergency?"

"Is my baby's daddy in jail?"

"Excuse me?"

"Is. My. Baby's. Daddy. In. Jail?"
Read it all.

The Two Beers post is priceless too.


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Well This Sure Explains It

Women prefer ugly men. That's why all men marry upwards. And how TierFlyer and I ended up with our wives.


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Save Jericho an Internet Phenomenon

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a prediction.

The Save Jericho campaign will change the way Old Media interacts with the internet.

Google for "Save Jericho" and you get 48,000 hits as of this morning. Think of the amount of time and money it would take a public relations agency to put up 48,000 pages with your message, all with unique and clearly human content.

CBS is being flooded with nuts. Not just fans, but actual peanuts. Nuts Online has a NUTS for Jericho promotion going. Fans can send any amount of money to contribute to a bulk purchase of nuts that will then be sent to CBS. The picture is of the first THOUSAND pounds going out. And there's another TON on the way. The promotion has only been up for two days. Nuts Online even put the UPS tracking number up so that fans can watch their packages put CBS awash in a sea of nuts.

Consider what it would be like to receive 3,000 pounds of nuts at your corporate headquarters. Especially if you're a broadcaster and don't have a warehouse loading dock because you're used to receiving cards and letters. I can see the New York City delivery guy right now: "Hey buddy, somebody's gotta sign for this!"

If CBS refuses delivery it may signal the start of the apocalypse. I wonder how the peanut vendors in NYC will be doing this weekend?

This absolutely dwarfs the famous Star Trek letter writing campaign. Today marks the 1 week anniversary since the cancellation of the show. Things move at a different speed on the internet.

And all because executives at CBS were told by the Nielson ratings that the show didn't have much support. They're only 10 years behind the times, so I guess that's not too bad for corporate America. My experience has been that even "high tech" companies trail by about 10 years from what's available in their IT capabilities. That's why the power company has to ask me my account number instead of just looking at the caller id, and why I have to repeat it every time they transfer me. Hmm, make that 20 years. CBS is making its decisions based upon an old model, and sometimes that collides with the New Media and the result isn't pretty for the old guys.

In the last few years we've seen some amazing things from the internet. Dan Rather and CBS got spanked when they tried to foist a forged letter onto the American people right before the election. (CBS, can you see a trend here?) Bloggers were all over it within minutes of the information coming out. The Swift Boat Vets got their message out through the New Media. Jim Zumbo found out about the wrath of the bloggers -- he went from popular writer to unemployed in a week because of a blog post. The Duke Hoax was mainly exposed through the relentless pestering of bloggers. Frankly, Bush's low approval ratings can probably be traced to the constant pounding from liberal bloggers. To the intelligentsia, bloggers are probably a more important source of news and opinion than the MSM. Frankly, I can't think of the last time that I sat through an entire evening news program, but I do read Kim DuToit every day.

Back in the early days of the internet, the New Yorker ran the comic "On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog." Back then, we took that as "Be careful, you don't know who you're chatting with." Which is true, but there's a larger concept. On the internet, everyone has equal access. Yes, you can tilt things in your favor by spending money on advertising, bandwidth, and search engine optimization, but none of that can compare with the viral nature of the internet. A web site is a web site is a web site. CBS's web site occupies no more space in the ether than Find The Boots. They're both just a URL. We've come to the point where content is far more important than delivery. Come up with a truly remarkable idea, or even something completely stupid, email it to 100 of your friends, and within a week it's all over the world.

CBS is under the impression that the old technology of set top boxes and personal diaries from Nielson families controls their business model. In some ways, it still does, because advertisers go along with it. The viewers aren't CBS's customers, the advertisers are. But when the advertisers figure out that the old measurements are pretty much useless, they'll start to change their models. Spending $500K for 30 seconds of prime time advertising won't seem like such a smart idea when that same $500K could be spent elsewhere.

And when that happens, we'll look back at the Save Jericho campaign and say that's where it started.

UPDATE: The nutsonline.com website now has a real-time Jericho tracker. They're up to over 4,800 lbs as of Tuesday afternoon. Wow.



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Jericho Weapons

Wow, that was quick.

Ok, Reader X wrote me talking about Kim's excellent series on what gun do you take to cross the US in 1600.

Which is good for thinking about....

I think, assuming you can hold onto your guns when the cops show up to take it away, ....

Wait, you don't think that will happen? You're the chief of police - you have trained guys, guns, and probably a secure facility. What would *you* do if you thought L&O was going to break down pretty quickly? Right.

Ok, so you hold onto your guns. They're protection but they're also barter. You can trade guns, parts, ammo, loading equipment, primers, etc. You want hunting guns (.22, 30-06, .303, 7.26x49, 12ga) that share ammo with protection long guns and, where possible, with protection pistols (.45). You might want to stock up on stuff you don't shoot with (9mm) and with stuff that is just on super-sale that someone might really really really need (.223, 7mm, 8mm, .300 win mag, etc). Someone only has one gun and no ammo, he will pay anything.

You will also want to make sure you have some guns that the gun grabbers can take and some they can't find. That means you have to cache one or more guns and ammo.

Don't forget scopes. Not fancy light reticule or red-dot - remember you're post EMP and batteries aren't being made anymore. You can occasionally pick up cheap BSA scopes and ring sets for <$10 at Wally World or K-Mart. What would someone with a .22 and no scope pay for that if they were hunting for the dinner stew?

In a perfect world all your rifles and pistols would match so you could swap parts. I dunno about you, but I have a random collection of stuff, so that's pretty much out. I do know my fancy Beretta gas skeet gun and my BAR 30-06 are what's getting offered up to the grabbers and the trade-mart first. The Mossy, the FN, the AK - they all stay. In-dee-structable.

I've started, whenever possible, buying my ammo in so-called "battle tins". It's generally no more expensive, and the d*mn things are indestructible. Perfect to grease up with vaseline, put in a plastic 4mm garbage bag, and buy in the back yard. Voila, 1080 rounds in ten years, no worries mate.

So, initial thoughts on weapons:
1> Prepare for sacrifices during the confiscation phase;
2> Hide some stuff out back in the dirt;
3> Think about stockpiling stuff for swap;
4> Consider your cartridges.

More later, I'm sure.



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Random Thoughts

Not very Jack Handy, but a few thoughts:

Is the I-Phone a device for people too young to remember the Lisa and the Newton?

Is "reduced citrus effect" mouthwash just less satisfying because it has enough crappy flavor to make you wonder if you're getting 99% less effect for 5% reduced discomfort?

That is all, back to your more worthwhile endeavors.


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Thinking Jericho Thoughts

I recall, some years ago, winning a contest to find the nuttiest nuts in internut land. I chose the EOTWAWKI (End Of The World As We Know It) folks. Seriously, the other guys had Scientology ding-dongs, ZOG conspiracy theorists, and Jimmy Carter. (That last one was close!) But I won hands down.

But I was thinking, what would or could you do if you wanted to prepare for a Jericho type situation. You know, you lose power, your electrical stuff stops working even on batteries, you wait a week or so, and you conclude....

YOYO: You're On Your Own.

What can or could a practical person have done?

Let's start with some ground rules: you can't spend a zillion dollars or a zillion hours preparing, but let's say you have some money and some time. Let's also assume that none of us are Snake in Escape From New York.


Uh, wow, a lot to think about: relatives, friends, people with medical needs, young children, pregnant wives, where do you live, where can you go, which friends are a plus and which aren't, etc, etc.

Send us some email, we'll start pulling together some thoughts...



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Time for a New Business Model for Old TV

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ok, I'll admit it. I was a huge fan of Jericho, the CBS show about life a small town after a series of nuclear terrorist attacks in the US. The show was a mix of 24, Battlestar Galactica, and Dallas. Intrigue, how people deal with the holocaust, and personal relationships. Season 1 ended with a huge cliff hanger -- everything was completely wide open with several plot lines left unresolved. So CBS canceled the show. We never found out who dropped the bomb.

CBS execs say it was because the ratings were low. Hard to imagine, since as soon as the show was starting to gather a viewership they put it on a two month hiatus. Then they brought it back against the juggernaut of pop TV -- American Idol. Here's a news flash CBS -- you aren't competing with American Idol, you're competing for what's left.

But the most interesting part of this story isn't that some fans got left high and dry, it's that the business model failed everyone. The Nielson Ratings system, which hasn't changed much since their introduction in the 1940s and violates every possible rule on randomness of sample (can you say "self selected"?), has only recently started tracking time shifted viewing. And the networks don't take that into account in their advertising rates. So take a show that will appeal to well-off, intelligent people with disposable income and put it up against a pop pablum spree like American Idol, and you'll conclude that no one is watching. I'll posit that Jericho viewers are much more likely to have a DVR and less likely to be Nielson families. And they're far more likely to have a broadband internet connection to view the shows off services such as Itunes. The concept of watching two shows at once, which is now quite commonplace, just isn't built into the ratings system.

The Jericho fans have mobilized. There were around 8 million regular viewers, but they were NUTS for the show (NUTS refers to a story in the last episode where the grandfather tells the story of an American commander's response to a German call for surrender in the Battle of the Bulge). Remember the letter writing campaign that produced a third season of Star Trek? Everything I've been able to read talks about "thousands" of letters. Jericho fans are using the internet equivalent -- an online petition, which is up to around 60K in the first week. More interesting, Jericho fans are planning on sending bags of nuts to CBS on June 5 to show their support for the show. But frankly, I'm doubtful it will have any effect. CBS has already put their schedule into production and the resources for Jericho are off to the four winds. We'll never know if Hawkins was a good guy, if Jericho survives, or if Johnston is really dead.

Which leads me to a conclusion: Old media really is dead. The idea of selling advertising in exchange for eyeballs just isn't going to make it. The "science" for measuring performance hasn't kept up. Anything you do to try to measure viewership will be self selected, by definition. It takes a certain kind of person to put up with a monitoring box in their house or to keep a diary. And those aren't the same people that are spending money on high tech gadgets like DVRs and Slingboxes. Or burning episodes to DVD from their Tivo so they can watch them on a plane.

Eventually "free" TV is going to be useless. The quality of shows will continue their downward trend as the intelligent and well-off move into other forms of entertainment. The old media will just keep producing more reality shows or mean comedies because they're the least expensive to produce. When your market is dwindling, the urge to cut costs is overwhelming. Look at the difference between the programming on paid channels (SciFi, HBO, Showtime) vs the old media. This trend has been going on a long time.

So what would I do if I was a TV exec? The solution seems pretty obvious to a techie. TV is a limited resource -- there are only so many timeslots and you have to make choices. Your advertisers pay for ratings at a certain time, so they could care less about the quality of the shows. But you can't do anything to increase your number of time slots, which is the only real way for you to increase your revenue stream. Think of the difference of competing shows where a few percentage points is make or break, and then compare that to being able to get revenue from both shows.

It's time for the old media to realize that they're not in the business of broadcasting. They've focussed on the medium. They're really in the business of providing content. Traditionally, they've capitalized this content by selling advertising. That can still work, but eventually they'll have to figure out who their real customer is. Their real customer is the viewer. We put up with watching commercials in exchange for the content. Frankly, I think they're leaving a lot of money on the table.

Let's say you've got the Number 1 rated show, American Idol. Last year, a 30 second commercial on American went for $705K. At 18 minutes of commercials/hour they pull in $25M in revenue for an episode. Not bad, considering that most of the cast works for free. Or perhaps you've got #10, Two and a Half Men, at $293K for 30 seconds and a total revenue of $10.5M. But that's the maximum you can do -- it's a zero sum game. There will be only one number one. And you can't run two shows at 8:00PM on Wednesdays.

Now what if the 7,000,000 fans who are nuts about Jericho were given the chance to download the content over the web? Let's say just 1/3 of them are willing to pay $4.99/episode. That's $11.6M in revenue, and they just beat #10. If you could get half the Jericho fans to pay $7.50/episode then you've just soundly beaten #1. And they can use that formula over and over without the constraint of a particular time slot.

The networks are in a unique position because they've already got a huge audience. If some start-up could get the funding and create an awesome weekly TV show for distribution over the web, they probably couldn't get enough buzz to make it work. But what if at the end of Season 1 for Jericho, when the CBS execs already knew they were going to cancel the show, if they had run a commercial that said "Want to see another season of Jericho? Go to www.makeCBSrichFromJericho.com and purchase a subscription for next season." How much do networks lose because they bet on shows that don't produce the ratings they think they'll get? Under this model, if the revenue isn't there to fund the show, they just refund the subscriptions. Or negotiate with the producers to bring costs in line. They also get the added reach of the global internet.

I'm doubtful that the old media TV execs are adroit enough to tackle this business model. Just look at how horrible their web sites are. Or how badly CBS has handled the fan backlash over the canceling of Jericho. These are the same people that think that what the world really needs is another episode of Survivor, or CSI in another city. But eventually someone is going to figure this out. With broadband becoming increasingly available, especially to the demographic that has money to spend, it's inevitable that entertainment goes in this direction. Free TV will be nothing more than a strategy for the networks to draw you into a show so that you'll start paying for it.



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