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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.

Lessons to be Learned from Save Jericho

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

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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  • At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    YEAHHH BABY!!!!! THIS IS WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT! Thanks so much for posting this article and helping us in our campaign to SAVE JERICHO! We mean business! We want Jericho back at least for SEASON 2 and no other option will appease us! JERICHO Fans Fling 8000 lbs of Nuts on CBS!!!

    Dont let CBS win this battle...change the way these tv networks view their shows and the viewers FOREVER...

    This is about more than Jericho..its old media vs new media and old way of metering viewers vs the new media revolution.

    CBS built an immense online presense for JERICHO, encouraged people to get involved and watch the show online and now they are taking Jericho away...

    CBS bemoans the demo and how the young people are not watching on TV..hello?? They are watching on TV and online on the platform YOU built and encouraged people to use..

    The Nielsens have been a flawed way of looking at viewing habits of TV shows for years...Are you going to let the select few with those precious Nielsen meters decide what the REST of us are going to watch???

    Again this fight is important to Jericho but more important that we the viewers be heard about how popularity of tv shows are figured out now in this new age..

    If you are sick and tired of these holier than thou network executives disrespecting audiences by putting shows on and then yanking them off the air or bouncing them around the schedule with ruthless disregard for its audience...this is your fight..

    If your sick and tired of being force fed this reality tv show garbage like a crack addict then this is your fight !!

    If you want the networks to give us more quality original programming that is not a spin off or rip off of another series...then this is your fight.

    If your a cable tv fan who wants a show to be able to come back to the networks for..then this is your fight

    If television itself is ever going to evolve back into what it was meant to be...then this is your fight..

    In the end even if we do not prevail in this battle, CBS will surely know we were here and we will have left a mark on CBS for years to come....

    CBS and its egomaniacal executives have to be reminded that yes we the audience DO matter.

    These days ahead are long and treacherous and we are dealing with a billion dollar heartless corporation..remember we are their viewing public, if we do not win this we can ultimately win by NOT watching CBS.

    CBS would think they won in the short run but in the long run they will be the true losers...

    Now push ahead and speak out to the media and all who will hear you...

    Get up off your chairs and couches and do something...MAKE A DIFFERENCE !!!


    and last but not least...

    This Jericho Family is BOYCOTTING CBS until Jericho returns for a 2nd Season!

  • At 11:05 AM, Blogger fwarner said…

    Very well said. I hope you sent this to CBS. Keep pushing Jericho Fans. They are bound to crack soon!

  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger Jane said…

    Thank you so much for the best article on our fight that I've seen yet. CBS brought this on themselves & Nina Tassler should be made to correct her mistake. It's time for CBS to do the right thing-Season 2 of Jericho. We won't settle for anything less.

  • At 11:31 AM, Blogger Rob said…

    Omg what a excellent article, it's the best I've read so far!

  • At 11:40 AM, Blogger Rachel said…

    What an incredible article! You are right all the way.
    We will never surrender.
    We don't want a conclusion, we want our show back for Season 2.
    Bring Jericho Back!

  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger Amy said…

    Thanks for this article. My family sits down to watch Jericho together... something that other shows never inspired.

    We are banning CBS from our home until Jericho is picked back up in it's originally intended form. No more Unit, no more Criminal Minds, not even the morning news. I don't like what NBC offers, but I'll watch it to prove a point.

    I'm beginning to change my buying habits, too. I'm willing to change brands to keep Jericho... how about you?

    CBS, it's pretty easy to correct... Just give us back Jericho!

  • At 12:05 PM, Blogger shuffy2 said…

    I love it! Great article! Thanks for your view point!!!


  • At 12:23 PM, Blogger Rahul said…

    You, my friend, are amazing! You hit the nail right on the head, and what's more, many of us have suggested to CBS that this is a possibility for them; they could turn this into a big publicity stunt to promote themselves. Nice work, and thank you for telling about us!

  • At 2:44 PM, Blogger PattyR said…

    Well done! Best article I have read yet. Right on point. This has become more than just saving a show we love. The Nielsen system is outdated and needs to be brought into the 21st century. The technology we have displayed in our campaign is evidence that someone out there can do this better. CBS needs to get on board or be left in the dust. The flame has been fanned- there is no going back.

  • At 4:07 PM, Blogger kratzermom said…

    Terrific article!

  • At 4:23 PM, Blogger Rich said…

    Hey BoonDoogie,

    Great piece. You're very right that we agreed on many of the same points. As much as I too would like to think that this was a masterful stroke on the part of CBS, I don't think so.

    Even if it was, the blacklash they have created is distracting from its fall line-up. Personally, I think if they wait too long to make a commitment, it will take a long time to recoup. There comes a point when you have to admit you're in the middle of crisis.

    You're absolutely spot on about Nielson. Again, great piece and thanks for you comments!

    All my best,

  • At 6:32 PM, Blogger gizelda196 said…

    10000 pounds of nuts sent and counting

    Have you signed the petition?


    how about some nuts?

    message boards?


    join the campaign

  • At 6:47 PM, Blogger David said…

    Wow.... that was an impressive article. Hoping for brilliant.

  • At 9:00 PM, Blogger unknown_poe said…

    Awesome article. Very informative.
    Season 2 for Jericho!!!
    Nina T.'s tactless condescending head on a platter!!!!

  • At 1:12 AM, Blogger SouthBamaBikerChick said…

    Now that's what I'm talkin' about! Best article I've read on Jericho so far. Thank you so much!

  • At 3:08 AM, Blogger James said…

    I like and agree with this post. As a avid Jericho fan I wanted to know more why CBS would not take advantage of this now PR powerhouse. And as a business owner myself I would love to be in the position such great $$$ PR.

    But as I learn more about Ms. Tassler (getting to know the enemy) I sense a consistent view of Old Media rules in effect. This article tells us alot on Ms. Tassler's view on cancelling serial dramas early:


    "Can you continue to do that, he wondered, and not ultimately alienate so many fans of serialized shows that "it really hurts you"?"

    "That's a very legitimate question," Tassler admitted. "No programmer wants to piss off their audience. When that happens it's unfortunate. [With] the many different changes that are happening in multi-platform there may be opportunities to provide resolution for audiences in other platforms on shows that don't continue on broadcast. I completely respect the question, and we respect our audience. When you build that kind of loyalty and you have an audience with legitimate questions about resolution it behooves us to find a way to provide those answers."

    Here she suggests the audience's involvment can be solved with movie wrap up, or a few more shows posted on the net. I do not feel Jericho will stop with a two hour wrap up.

    On TV as in Hollywood, Little Breathing Room for the Modest Success [NY Times]

    CBS's Nina Tassler Reveals Why She Put Down 'Smith' Like A Sickly Dog

    "We have a unique vantage point at the network," she said. "I've seen cuts and read scripts for the next four to five episodes, so I could see where we're headed creatively. And we weren't 100 percent happy with what we were looking at."
    Specifically, she said, the show's scripts were becoming harder to follow. "You have to have clarity in the story-telling," she said. "Confusion kills. I think it was particularly challenged in that area."

    Citing the series' rapidly declining Nielsens probably would have been justification enough for her decision, but feeling suddenly liberated by the candor that programming executives rarely share with the press, Tassler followed up her opinion on the needless, syndication-hampering complexity of Smith's scripts by remarking, "For 2.5 million per episode, you'd think they could have edible craft service when the head of the network visits, you know? I had the runs for weeks. Weeks!" and that "in high-def, Ray Liotta's face was a little much to take."

    Here clearly Ms Tassler is in PR trouble, personal comments and a reliance on the Nielsen...

    Clearly analyzing an audience or understanding New Media is not important in valuing the show as an asset.

    At some point any company needs to re-evaluate its assests...its time for CBS to re-evaluate Jericho.

  • At 9:39 AM, Blogger jelleyjar said…

    Well said! You are right, this is the kind of buzz that money can't buy. CBS would be NUTS to ignore it.

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger redbird said…

    Yea! We have been noticed! CBS thought they could get away with business as usual, ignoring the HUGE web following for Jericho, and now they are going to pay the price. I have never been so invested in a TV show in my life, but I will not give up the fight until Jericho is renewed, or moved to another network where it and its viewers will be appreciated.

  • At 2:55 PM, Blogger xabistuff said…

    I personally love Jericho! i will not allow CBS to cancel it. help me save Jericho .The Save jericho campaign was made to make our voices louder for CBS to hear us. Check it out and tell your family and friends. Thank Xavier

  • At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really admire your post. Your post is too good and Jericho is also a good show to watch online. I have seen full show two times on net. Seroulsy mind blowing show.


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