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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: 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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  • At 3:51 PM, Blogger sarork said…

    Thank you again... You are brilliant. I hope that CBS reads this.. It's very true. This is one show that truely has inspired people(the masses)to work together to see come back.

  • At 3:55 PM, Blogger James said…

    A great article and well written.

    The internal CBS meetings are probably slow and more like emergency memos at this point - (i.e., hello IT manager, "I need a undercover email account ASAP". The Jericho decision was probably made internally a ways before May16th, maybe before the final episode appeared, my guess is they never saw it coming in many ways.

    As I commented before, CBS best move would be to ride this PR wave (albeit conservatively) as possible. Yes, they want to avoid precedence. however the public is watching and very careful action would be prudent. As a business manager/owner, I think if I could get the Monster on my side I would try that first.


  • At 3:59 PM, Blogger AusTXBill said…

    Excellent observations! The "Save Jericho" movement is the first viral campaign I have knowingly participated in, and it is only because I loved the show and hated the comments originally attributed to Nina Tassler. Nina's comments were so disrespectful of fans in general that I have to believe this is not CBS playing their own game. I am a manager for a local call center run by the best set of folks I have seen in over 20 years in the industry, and I have to admit to fallling in the past for skipping to step 3 in your 3-part process. Keep up the good work - I am learning every day from both the comments here and on the Jericho website on how paradigms can shift so quickly. Thanks.

  • At 4:00 PM, Blogger LauraM said…

    CBS would be foolish to not take advantage of all this free advertising. When they reverse their decision they get credit for listening to their viewers. The responsiblity is then on the viewers to put their butts in the seats. CBS really needs to rethink Kidnation. I do not believe that this show can overcome such a negative reaction from viewers.

  • At 4:04 PM, Blogger Corie said…

    Excellent article. You bring up many valid points. I hope that CBS executives realize the positives that have come out of the campaign and how that will reflect in more publicity for their network when Jericho is returned to the lineup. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger John said…

    Thank you for a well written article (and for feeding the "movement").

    Even though I am a proud member of the "Save Jericho" campaign, I am still in awe (and maybe a little jealous) over how quickly and effectively things get done.

    CBS would certainly be NUTS if they did not take advantage of the free publicity and good will they would generate by renewing Jericho at this point.

  • At 4:28 PM, Blogger eecoxjr said…

    It's been interesting to both particapte in such a movement and simultaneously watch the external commenatry about it. It gives a whole different perspective to see this from the buisness angle. Thanks for taking the time to watch and comment on it!

  • At 4:30 PM, Blogger Mister said…

    Good article... can't disagree with anything... now, if only we can get CBS to climb down from their ivory tower and admit they made a mistake... I'd even let them take the credit for the idea that the cancellation was just a PR stunt...

  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger Cherry805 said…

    Foolish or not CBS shows no signs of acknowledging the incredible and positive ground swell of support for their cancelled drama? Why? Why did the cancel it in the first place?

    I expect all the networks are watching. The very real drop in ratings for broadcast television demand that they react. Most of the published ideas for the decline range from daylight savings time to too many reruns have validity. But it seems to me that the true reason is much simplier. We the public now possess the ability to decide when we watch and now we want to decide WHAT we watch as well. We want quaility television and will no longer settle for cheap drivel, flaky sitcoms and retreads.

  • At 5:30 PM, Blogger ccpdppr said…

    Thank you very much. More publicity for SAVE Jericho is always appreciated, but beyond that I find it incredibly interesting to see this movement through the eyes of someone with busines savvy. Having never participated in anything like this before, I find myself proud to be a part of the "monster."

  • At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great article!! I never thought of this campaign in terms of process, methodology and execution, or realize we were sort of an organization.

    I wish we had someone like you on their executive board.

  • At 5:57 PM, Blogger Donna said…

    REALLY interesting stuff from the viral marketing standpoint. Save Jericho is becoming more than a fan response, it is becoming a lesson in modern business. Thanks for making the great observations.

  • At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You continue to write such great stuff! Thanks so much Boon Doggie! You help to give our movement a voice and we really appreciate it! We loved Jericho and we are sick and tired of having the networks tell us what shows we like and what we don't like. We LOVE Jericho and want it back for a second season! So, off to purchase MORE nuts and send MORE mail and make MORE calls!

  • At 6:54 PM, Blogger James said…

    This will be a great business study case in post interent marketing.

    The Jericho campaign should soon take the "CBS Whatja Gonna Do ?" approach once they realize how large they and interent marketing is...and ask CBS for the order.

    I assume nobody at CBS is not willing to make the statement..."Heh, I'm the person that cancelled Jericho and caused the biggest internet 'boom' in recent history".

    The internet may finally prove through the "Save Jericho Campaign" that it can dwark any TV Networks ability to get the word on the street...Presidential candidates and big corporate advertisers can learn a lot from this in the coming weeks. There's a lot of power on the "wire".

  • At 7:27 PM, Blogger Scott said…

    VERY INTERESTING ARTICLE -- and right on target! We will keep the pressure on. Blows my mind that CBS spends millions hiring marketing firms to get the 'pulse of the viewer' when we are SCREAMING at them what we want! HELLO!!!! CBS would be NUTS to not run with this free, uninhibited rally of their show...NEW PEOPLE RECRUITED DAILY -- AND IF THEY ARE ON OUR SIDE, THEN THEY AIN'T ON CBSs :-) (uh oh..might want to see what happens to your other shows if you upset the viewers!)....

  • At 3:05 PM, Blogger nightbird said…

    When I first heard about the pr firm I didn't assume anything. But when it was confirmed it made me angry. This quickly turned into a greater resolve.

    I will just fight harder for my show and against the dumming down of America by reality tv. I'll spend more time on letters and emails and more money on peanuts.

    At this point I believe that CBS can absolutely not be allowed to win. CBS has already been locked out of the cable box and until they wake up and smell the roses it will remain so.

    Somehow I don't think this is what whoever decided to hire a pr firm was expecting.

  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger Jeremiah said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 9:49 AM, Blogger Jeremiah said…

    CBS has all of these high paid executives yet it's the bloggers who are coming up with the best ideas. What's up with that?

    Once again a very fine article. I hope that CBS is taking note.

  • At 10:27 AM, Blogger Susan D said…

    The Save Jericho campaign will be an amazing case study, and you are on the front lines of analyzing it in real world time...brilliantly, I might add!! I think that another advantage that the fans have is that they are united in a simple mission: to bring back Jericho. Any corporate entity (or the government, for example, re: FEMA and Katrina) has so many competing stakeholders that there is seldom any agreement on a single, simple mission, and therefore their execution is flawed.

    CBS hiring a PR firm to handle the protest is expected, trite, and unlikely to have any impact on anyone. PR firms work best BEFORE bonehead public pronouncements are made. And their consultants do not have the power to say "yes" -- so they are like negotiators with no bargaining power, impotent from the start.

    As you have said repeatedly, this is a lot bigger than that. Thanks for your creative, smart commentary. I will continue to be a fan of your blog, for there are lessons here for me in my life and my career as well!!

    Thanks again.

  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger Rich said…

    I also posted some comments similar to yours to the effect that CBS may have been using the cancellation of "Jericho" as a means of increasing its market value. But I must agree with your later analysis that any benefit they have realized out of this whole situation resulted from dumb luck, not conscious planning.
    CBS still holds all the high cards in this game. Scheduling decisions on new episodes as well as re-runs of the first 22; amount and placement of promotional ads; and timing of return are all still at the whim of Nina Tassler. She also has reportedly struck a hard bargain with the producers that probably meant less money per episode. And then she can use whatever rationale she wants at the end of the 7 episodes to either proceed with more episodes or cancel again.
    The only real win thus far for the fans of "Jericho" comes with the series not having to end with one of the greatest cliffhangers in TV history not revealed.

  • At 6:27 AM, Blogger khushi said…

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  • At 4:15 AM, Blogger willson said…

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  • At 2:41 PM, Blogger charley said…

    Jericho TV Show is the best show and one of my favorites. I love this show.

  • At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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  • At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Guys Watch Jericho TV Show online. Here picture quality is good and you will enjoy this show very much.


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