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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.

Tipping Points in the "Save Jericho" Movement

Friday, May 25, 2007

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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23 Comments:

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger Penny said…

    First of all, thank you for spreading the word about our cause. And thanks for giving this movement respect and not dismissing us as a bunch of kooks! AND ... thanks for the advice on getting the word out - you are right about that!

    I would like to just take a minute to explain the dip in peanut delivery. This was a CALCULATED move on our part. Believe me, we had more than enough peanuts to hammer CBS just as hard today, if not harder. We thought we would give them a little break today and we figured most of the 'suits' would be off anyway. (You might want to go to CBS HQ's in NY on Tuesday or Wednesday ... check nutsonline to see the exact date).

    Let me assure you, this movement has not slowed down, has not faltered. The lack of communication has steadied our resolve and we are digging in our heels. We are in this for the long haul.

    Again, thanks for the nod ... now back to buying peanuts.

    Penny

     
  • At 3:14 PM, Blogger Quimbie said…

    I think if anything we are seeing more and more new Jericho Rangers, i.e. fans that didn't know the show was gone until recently. Today we started to see break out into mainstream media on many of the larger news web pages.

    I am fighting for this for many reasons for Jericho, a say in what sort programing is brought to my home, and because it's about time networks were beholden to there customers again. To long have we been locked in the dark, to long have we suffered under the dictatorship of networks. To long have we be told to 'shut up' and enjoy the moronic reality show formula. We are standing up and saying, you know what we just realized we don't have to 'buy' your product any more, we have more options then ever for entertainment! Pay attention to us or you will be sorry you didn't."

     
  • At 3:18 PM, Blogger dwcarless said…

    Wonderful analysis again -- I am very impressed.

    And yes, we are one news break away from busting things wide open. The Variety Weekly and Hollywood Review may be a bit of a gamble, but all that we need is one major media source to run with it. As soon as that happens then it is game over for CBS -- they will have to sue for peace.

     
  • At 3:22 PM, Blogger fwarner said…

    Well said!! We may enjoy some BBQ this weekend, and CBS may be going home for the long weekend, but they will continue to get hit hard when they return. This will not die out until they announce plans for a second season!

    Frank

     
  • At 3:22 PM, Blogger Alexis said…

    Thanks for the well-written article. You bring up so many great points. You are correct that next week will be a critical and interesting one. Plans are in the works and we will be heard.

     
  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger samcarter41 said…

    Thanks for your comments about our cause! I believe that you are right on the money and that next week will be very interesting.

     
  • At 3:59 PM, Blogger Chris said…

    Thank you for your article. Don't underestimate the viewers based on the ones that contributed. Jericho is a well balanced show about humanity and real people in a fake world, quite different from fake people put in a real world. That being the reality garbage that is forced down our throats today.

     
  • At 4:01 PM, Blogger Andrea said…

    Thank you for an excellently written article. And, don't fear, the Jericho Rangers aren't slowing down one bit! The nuts -- and phone calls, emails, and letters -- will keep pouring in to CBS all through next week. And longer if we have to!

     
  • At 4:49 PM, Blogger mk said…

    I have been reading all of your great, thought-provoking posts about the Save "Jericho" movement for the past several days. I'm pleased that you really get that it's about OH so much more than just this one show. (Although, my die-hard participation in the campaign requires me now to say, "We will accept nothing less than Season 2...nuts to CBS!)

    But I digress...it seems unthinkable to me that ratings obtained from numbers of downloads on TiVO, iTunes or whathaveyou, are not being factored into the share each week.

    Advertisers...all of whom rely heavily on their OWN Web statistics to remain successful...are media-savvy and must realize that these types of viewers are just as viable (if not more so, because they are pulling the content, as opposed to having it pushed). I have heard the suggestion made that, "well, advertisers are just used to making their buys based on Nielsen." This seems contradictory, given that the bigger agencies (where most/all of the network buys in prime time originate) must have more than passing knowledge about Web statistics.

    It is a fascinating fight, on many levels. I'm proud to be part of it and I, too, agree that this is the moment we will all point to and say, "It all stated with 'Save Jericho.' "

     
  • At 5:35 PM, Blogger Lolagrrl said…

    Great Blog!
    As a big Jericho fan and communications professional, I have to tell you that something just felt wrong about the cancellation of Jericho to begin with and it seems perfectly natural that this could be the tipping point that changes corporate network behavior... Finally!
    I have been trying to think of one single TV show that started off strong and grew into a major hit for corporate TV and I cannot think of a single one. Lost, Heroes, that housewife thing... they don't count because they are new. I'm talking about your all-time great shows: Seinfeld, MASH, Sex in the City, CSI, etc. I don't recall tuning into those shows until I finally had to see "what everyone was talking about."
    It takes time to cultivate a loyal audience and shows like Jericho, LOST, and Heroes are of a new generation born from a six-year reality TV drought. People DO want shows that make them think and since TV is seen by some as "the great leveler," it's no wonder that the media only picked up on the fact that these great shows experienced a slight ratings drop after a long hiatus... but what show wouldn't?
    The cancellation of Jericho serves to show the public that we don't have to accept the drivel that the networks feed us. ... hee hee... this is so "1984," it almost gives me chills... and you are right. The key is longevity and bringing as many Jericho fans into the fray.

    On the day I heard the news, I joined the message board, bumped my thread of links to the petitions, wrote my emails and made my phone calls to the network. Since then though, I only check back every other day or so, to see (truthfully) if the movement is still alive and while I'm thrilled to see that it is not only alive but organized, I'd love to see how they will be able to pull more Jericho fans in to raise their collective voice?

    ...and what can we, as communicators, do to help?

     
  • At 5:37 PM, Blogger Rich said…

    Wow! Looks like we were on the same page today. Well done.

    "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." — BoonDoogie

    "On Tuesday, the increasingly structured Jericho fanbase is poised to move their message into the mainstream whether news outlets pick up their story or not." — Rich

     
  • At 5:48 PM, Blogger Jayne said…

    It is hard to keep interested in doing the letters, nuts, emails etc, I have so many other things to do... But Jericho was the only show I watched and so I'll hang in there for a bit longer.

     
  • At 5:51 PM, Blogger Myles said…

    I want to discuss one thing here that, although I've been a strong proponent of this movement (http://www.wordpress.com/tag/save-jericho), I believe needs to be addressed.

    "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."

    I think that this a dangerous statement to make, and it needs to be clarified. I think that this campaign can make considerable changes, but I do not believe that it will forever change the way shows are canceled.

    The internet has technically saved shows in the past, I'd argue that it was almost entirely responsible for Veronica Mars managing to get three seasons out of ratings so low that one was a miracle. I would also argue that Arrested Development, without its internet hype, would have been dead far earlier as well.

    However, no matter how many Jerichos there are, I do not believe that "somewhat popular" shows will continue to stick around if they fail to meet ratings requirements. I don't think that Jericho can change the mind of every executive, the fate of every show, the reality of development season turnover, or any such things.

    While it might perhaps make networks more patient with certain shows, I also believe that it could also raise their expectations as to web success to the point where few shows can meet them.

    While CBS will have to respond to this claim, their viewership is so strong (And based on people that likely didn't fall within Jericho's core audience) that they won't think twice about cancelling other shows. I also think that CBS, no matter what happens here, will stay very far away from serial dramas of this nature.

    I guess I'm pessimistic about it, but I think that networks will just find new excuses to cancel shows, and not every one will react as Jericho fans have. Not every show will leave people on a cliffhanger like Jericho's, or with the scheduling trauma that the series felt.

     
  • At 6:01 PM, Blogger rubberpoultry said…

    Thanks for your article! We can use all the help we can get. Hopefully we can be part of something that will show the power of new media. It would be great to get Jericho back, but it would be even better to send a message to these big media conglomerates that the little people have had enough.

     
  • At 6:27 PM, Blogger Rich said…

    Myles,

    It's not really my place to say as this is not my blog, but we came a similar conclusion that the Jericho campaign could change some network decisions in the future.

    I think, but I don't know, that BoonDoogie is saying the success of a Jericho campaign could be the rally cry of future show cancellations; perhaps shows that are not even as popular. There is some merit in that theory, but whether it will be proven true is debatable (which is probably why we didn't say it).

    Naturally, networks will always be able to decide if they want to cancel a show or not, but I think the lesson here is that, more and more, viewers are not passive, but rather active participants in the shows they watch. In essence, they have become network customers.

    Not just because of the Internet. In truth, this trend started years ago when a company called HBO asked people what they thought about buying television instead of watching it. Today, it's easier to buy or find free entertainment than ever before.

    Just my two cents. All my best,
    Rich

     
  • At 6:39 PM, Blogger Dustin said…

    NUTS TO CBS!

    Thanks for the mention. Great article, BTW.

    I don't see this movement as slowing, until we get an announcement from CBS that there is a Season 2.

     
  • At 9:40 PM, Blogger BoonDoggie said…

    Hi Myles -

    Thanks for the comments.

    I think that this a dangerous statement to make, and it needs to be clarified. I think that this campaign can make considerable changes, but I do not believe that it will forever change the way shows are canceled.

    Actually, the operative word in my statement was "may". And I'm not necessarily predicting that networks will be forced to keep shows around, merely that they'll have to plan for their demise a little more than just cutting them. Sending them to a lower tier network or producing them as web content are two possibilities. or just ride out the bad PR. But they'll have to make that decision as part of cutting a show if this movement is successful.

    If the "Save Jericho" movement is successful, then it will be the blueprint for future actions by jilted viewers.

    I guess I'm pessimistic about it, but I think that networks will just find new excuses to cancel shows, and not every one will react as Jericho fans have. Not every show will leave people on a cliffhanger like Jericho's, or with the scheduling trauma that the series felt.

    I guess I'm more of an optimist. The trend I'm spotting here is that alternate methods of content delivery may be what emerges out this this. Instead of measuring how well the show does in comparison to other possible uses of the time slot, we may see those shows shift into other forms of delivery. The opportunity is there -- it's just a question of whether the networks are adroit enough to handle it.

     
  • At 10:42 PM, Blogger Waqas said…

    Thank you for your analysis. I found out about the Save Jericho campaign on May 21, and I bet there are thousands of Jericho fans out there who don't know about the cancellation of their favorite show and a campaign to revive it. It will get much more interesting once they join.

    I didn't contribute towards nuts initially because i didn't know what CBS was going to do with them. Once I found they were going to send them to the Army in Iraq, homeless shelters, zoo etc. then I made a small contribution. Some other people may also have reservations like I had, but it does not mean they didn't like Jericho as much as the people who contributed.

     
  • At 11:18 PM, Blogger snappy said…

    We're going to keep the pressure on. The next uprising may not be until Tuesday but I don't think Jericho fans are going to forget over the 3-day weekend. CBS - prepare to get thunderstruck

     
  • At 11:39 PM, Blogger Niels said…

    Thank you for the amazing articles you wrote, I hope alot more keep coming.
    I really enjoy your writing and i think you really get the point across of what all the people are doing, CBS can't ignore this kind of uproar. Let's see what they are gonna do, maybe some execs should come here and read some of the articles you wrote.
    You rock !

     
  • At 11:19 AM, Blogger M. Jeremy said…

    I think that the tipping point you mentioned has happend. ABC is running it as on their website. Michelle has also added a entry on her blog. Watch out CBS. We are not going away~ Madmacs2006 /g3pb06

     
  • At 11:57 AM, Blogger mk said…

    All,

    I'll tell you another positive thing that has come out of the Save "Jericho" campaign. For my part, I've explored some great new blogs and news sites out there that I really didn't know existed. I'll be willing to bet that others in the movement have experienced the same thing. I know I'll now be reading THIS blog regularly, as well as Copywrite!

     
  • At 7:25 PM, Blogger Mycroft said…

    I'd like to begin by saying I'm a fan of Jericho, I really want to see a second season and I may buy some peanuts myself.

    That being said, I'm not sure I agree with some of the points in this entry. SaveJericho is not the first campaign to use the internet to mobilize fans. Nor is it the first to use the concept of sending an object to the network or putting ads in the trades.

    It is ,however, a rather large fanbase. That may make all the difference in convincing the network.

     

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