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Sam Ford

This piece originally appeared on July 05, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

Soap fans were shocked when news began to break last night and became official this morning that daytime television veteran Benjamin Hendrickson, 55, had passed away over the weekend. Hendrickson, who trained at Julliard and won an Emmy for his portrayal of Hal Munson on As the World Turns, has been in the role since 1985, aside from a few brief hiatuses along the way. The cause of death has not been reported, although Hendrickson was rumored to have had health troubles for some time.


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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on June 26, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

A couple of years ago, Days of Our Lives got a lot of people's attention by killing off many members of its main cast, later revealing that these veterans had not died but rather had been sent to a deserted island.

That kind of camp may work on a show like DAYS, but it is not what viewers expect from As the World Turns, the long-running CBS soap I follow closely and have blogged about here several times.

Rumors are circulating quite heavily that Summer 2006 will feature a serial killer storyline, and now word is circulating that the story will lead to the demise of a couple of minor and a couple of major characters on the show. Word has begun to circulate in the online community that TV Guide and Soap Opera Digest are breaking news about the serial killer storyline, although no conclusive word has come out about cast members ending their contract so far, indicating that either word is being suppressed about who is leaving the show for as long as possible or that the characters planned to be killed are not played by contracted stars, making it much harder for word to break out (or, a third option, that fans are taking several unrelated news bits and combining them into something blown out of proportion).

Recently, the show killed off newcomer character Nick Kasnoff, who was murdered in self-defense, and is set to kill off Jennifer Munson, a longtime 20-something character on the show, next week to a bout of viral pneumonia.

Fans were upset about Jennifer's death, as she's been a major featured character on the show for a while, but that pales to the reaction that fans have given over the past day or two on the ATWT Media Domain message board about rumors of the death of character Tom Hughes.

Rumors had been circulating that a veteran on the show was unhappy with their contract, and the star who plays Tom's wife Margo--Ellen Dolan--has also voiced her displeasure with ATWT in a letter written to the fan community that I blogged about a couple of months ago. With news that a beloved character was leaving the show and that Tom was going to be attacked breaking out, longtime fans are angered and feel that portrayer Scott Holmes must be fed up with never getting a storyline. While some fans don't particularly care about the character and others feel that Tom's role has been diminished to the point that his leaving wouldn't be that big of a deal, many fans feel such a move would be a slap in the face of the show's history.

For those who know nothing about ATWT, Hughes is the son of the show's early central characters, Bob Hughes and Lisa Miller. He was born in 1961 on the show and has made television history as the only character to have been born and grow up on television for that length of time, having consecutively been a character on the show for all this time. Other characters have been on television longer...(ironically, all of them are also on ATWT, including Tom's parents, Bob and Lisa, and his grandmother, Nancy Hughes, who has been portrayed by the same actress since the first episode in 1956)...but Tom was set to break that record because the character would be on the show for decades to come, only being about 50 now (slightly aged, as soaps tend to do).

After his days as a baby, Tom has been portrayed by 13 different actors, but current portrayer Scott Holmes has been in the role for almost 20 years now. He was a major star of the 1980s and early 1990s on the show but has only been used sparingly as a supporting character for the past several years, despite being what many consider the backbone of the show. Longtime fans could at least stomach his role being diminished, but there has been a major outcry in the past 24 hours regarding the possibility of Hughes' career being ended.

I've posted on the Media Domain board about Hughes as well, feeling that the show would be killing off one of its parts that makes it an historically unparalleled program. Even if the character does not have enough narrative potential to be a major star in the writers' eyes at this point, the amount of cultural and historical cache having a milestone character like that on the show gives ATWT should be valued. In fact, I just finished a semester-long research project about the Tom Hughes character.

I remain highly skeptical that the show would do something like this and feel that, even if the current portrayer is leaving (who I think ranks among the top actors on the show), that the writers and executive producer of the show would not be short-sighted enough to kill Tom Hughes off. I've been working on my research for this show for a while and have met some of the creative team. I don't think a show has forward-thinking as ATWT, coming off the success of innovative moves such as their transmedia novel and their character blog, would do something this short-sighted. Nevertheless, even though these rumors are unsubstantiated at this point beyond piecing bits of potentially unrelated tidbits together, the outrcry from the fan community has been newsworthy on its own.

If these rumors turn out to be no more than gossip, this incident will still be a lesson for producres, since the outcry of the fan community makes it even more clear that Hughes is a supported character on a multigenerational type of programming like soap operas. If nothing else, this episode has demonstrated just how strong fan support of a character can be when people have literally watched them grow up from birth to being district attorney, even if that character has been used primarily in a supporting role for most of the past decade.


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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on June 14, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

A post by Rafat on paidContent has brought my attention to a Television Week piece about Disney's new digital distribution efforts through the Disney Channel Network, as well as its SoapNet channel--a project I'm particularly interested in.

The company has adopted two simultaneous revenue streams, by receiving paid advertising content from a broader online site available to everyone in some projects, while only allowing other services to be accessed through what Daisy Whitney in the TV Week piece refers to as "gated" channels. For instance, the second approach is embodied by SoapNet's project called SoapNetic, offering content only to those who Verizon high-speed internet customers who pay to see it. But, companies should be careful by locking up content in gates that some people cannot access it even if they were willing to pay to...

According to Disney's strategy, this approach strengthens the relationship between Verizon and SoapNet and encourages fans of SoapNet to use Verizon to gain access to SoapNetic, while Disney gains fees from Verizon for offering this exclusive content.

The company is celebrating this two-pronged approach, offering both content exclusive to gated channels while also offering shows that are available for download by all. Experts quoted in the story indicate that this proves that the right idea is still up in the air and that Disney is trying to diversify by launching several different approaches simultaneously.

For SoapNetic, launching content in online forms helps it overcome the fact that the channel is not yet available in many cable markets. Daisy Whitney says that SoapNet has been "among the vanguard of networks offering shows online." The SoapNetic site will include content not available anywhere else.

I'm interested in seeing which of Disney's dual approaches seems to gain the most legs. The problem with the "gated" approach appears to be the company-specific restrictions that causes many problems of platform. If, as a fan of soap opera and pro wrestling and classic country music (using me as an example, you see), soap opera content is available to me exclusively on Verizon, wrestling exclusively on RCN, and country exclusively on BellSouth, then I'm going to be extremely upset as a fan that I'm blocked from being able to enjoy the content I want to see the most because it's locked up in such company-specific deals. Of course, these deals mentioned above are hypothetical, but--while staying in Kentucky--I can't see the SoapNetic content if I wanted to, since Verizon Internet service is not offered here.

I would much rather see companies taking the approach of charging subscription prices or pay-per-view webcasts to get content directly from their site, such as WWE does with its content. Of course, with network neutrality itself hanging in the balance, more and more of these "gated" channel distribution deals may be in our future. But I think companies, including Disney, should think more about what they may be costing themselves with "gated" deals in alienating fans and shutting them off from content they love.

In the media world, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. Considering the great number of choices out there, absence usually makes you forgotten.

Thanks to C3's David Edery for pointing me toward this development.


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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on June 10, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

2006 appears more and more to be the Year of the Telenovela in America, as network executives have already turned their eye toward the power of telenovelas and soap operas to garner a continued audience. The American soap industry has had a fall from grace and dwindling ratings due to the increase of so many new programming choices over the past 20 years, but few--if any--types of programming are better at garnering continued viewing from its ardent fan base. And few programs are more ripe for timeshifting of various sorts. After all, a whole cable channel--SoapNet--is currently being powered by providing nighttime viewing of daytime soaps, and many of today's soap viewers--for instance, me--are timeshifting soaps using digital recorders because they are working during the time they officially air.

Telenovelas are an interesting branch from the soap opera, as short-term soaps that examine one particular storyline with a smaller cast and then end when that storyline is over.

News came out earlier this week that Lifetime has ordered a 20-episode run of the telenovela Bianca, based on a popular German program that had the same name.

This comes on the heels of the development of a sixth broadcast network called My Network TV, owned by Rupert Murdoch. The network, which is planning to pick up many of the stations that are losing network affiliation in the fall with the merger of UPN and The WB into the CW Network, will be powered, at least initially, on soap operas and telenovelas.

The network launched from several FOX-owned UPN affiliates who were losing their network and has expanded into various other major markets already; New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Antonio and many others. Overall, the network already has 150 affiliates or more at this point.

Right now, programming will focus on only two shows, airing 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. EST, but the two soaps will air six days a week. The stations will fill up the rest of the day with syndicated programming. Both soaps will be telenovelas, named Desire and Secret Obsessions. After 13 weeks, each soap will begin a new story unrelated to the prior focus. Therefore, the overall program is just a blanket name for the telenovela series, while each 13-week show will have its own title.

While my home city of Boston has yet to find an affiliate, FOX is going to carry the network from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. so that Bostonians do not miss out on Desire and Secret Obsessions. (Thanks to the Wikipedia page for providing some of that information.)

How powerful will the telenovela form be? Because of its 13-week structure, the shows may be able to garner a powerful audience during each 13-week run. However, unlike American daytime soap operas, the storylines from one 13-week arc to the next will be unrelated. Will Desire and Secret Obsessions carry any long-term vitality without that ability to depict the lives of characters on a daily basis over a number of years?

My Network TV seems to be banking on it.


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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on June 1, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

A recent thread on the Dreamcaps Forums website is following the Luke Snyder gay coming out storyline from As the World Turns.

While the thread was started and maintained by a few ATWT fans who are also members of the gay community, following the message board's reaction to the show over several weeks shows how the storyline was able to draw non-fans in. Some of them mention that they don't watch the whole show but only the Luke scenes, but they are beginning to get familiar with much of the cast, as Luke interacts with 10 or so other characters on a regular basis.

The thread is a demonstration of how fan communities within a niche audience can begin to proselytze and recruit other members of their social group to watch the show as well. First of all, members of the online gay community may have never become aware of the ATWT storyline if they were not already fans of the show without the active posting of some fans of the show. Further, their continued updated discussions of the show, made friendly for newcomers, has brought several regular posters on the Dreamcaps site to become regular viewers of ATWT as well.

The discussion about the Luke storyline starts morphing into a dicussion of the distinctive elements of the soap opera genre and its emphasis on dialogue and slow-moving action paced out over several days with multiple storylines juggled simultaneously. Posters begin encourgaging each other to not just watch the Luke storyline but also check out other current stories as well. And the thread has now gone to 17 pages over the past few months as people continuously follow ATWT.

A great example of the power of the fan community, particularly when a show taps into a niche "surplus" audience that is not its primary demographic, which is women 18-49.

As I mentioned in post back in February, the Luke Snyder character also has his own blog, as the show attempts to extend into multiple storytelling platforms.

Thanks to Alex Chisholm with Interpublic for passing this along.


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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on April 13, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

For those of you who saw my previous post about Oakdale Confidential, here is a brief update now that the novel is out. During my recent travels, I've had a chance to read it, and I've even weighed in on the book myself on some of the soap opera message boards.

Oakdale Confidential is standard fare as a quick-read murder mystery, but the way it has been woven into the plot of the show makes it a more valuable purchase for ATWT viewers. On television, then novel is treated as a fictional story that nevertheless reveals some secrets about people in town--and people that are not exactly public figures. So the book and the identity of its author has become an Oakdale town scandal.

The mystery on the show is who wrote the book, and everyone is walking around with their copies, while viewers are also able to buy the book and read it, not just to enjoy for the sake of the story in the novel--which could be readable for a non-ATWT fan but likely not nearly as enjoyable--but even more so because the book gives you clues about who wrote the book and gives you the chance to directly own and consume an artifact from the story world.

What makes the book most intriguing is that viewers are looking through the text and examining shows carefully to get clues as to who authored it. There are several factual discrepancies in the book from what we have actually seen on screen that are illuminating for close watchers of ATWT, and my thoughts on the message board look into those parts of the text that stray from the "truth" we've seen on the screen in detail to get a better sense of who might be the author and why they may have either gotten facts wrong or deliberately chosen to omit certain things in their rendering of the story.

From a transmedia storytelling standpoint, the attempt has been a great success. Oakdale Confidential is currently ranked the #7 book on Amazon, up from #10 two days ago but down from #5 yesterday (the numbers are updated hourly). Message boards have come alive with debates about who wrote the book, and we have yet to see if Neilsen numbers reflect a surge in viewership based on part-time fans having an interest in the book or even new readers becoming interested in the show through picking the book up (and, if the Neilsen numbers don't reflect a major difference, is this really an indicator that it isn't happening?)

While the experiment shows how much more coordination is needed between the real author of the book and the television writing team to really exploit all the possibilities of taking the story from one medium to the other, the one thing that Oakdale Confidential has demonstrated quite powerfully is that such an attempt at transmedia storytelling is becoming more and more profitable and that viewers are eager to join into a deep transmedia experience. I am hoping that the experiment not only shows the people at ATWT that this was a good idea but also what to do better the next time around.



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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on March 21, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

For those of you who follow my posts here on the C3 site regarding soap opera, and for those of you who care about the way television is viewed in general, you'll love this gem that was published yesterday evening in a story by Amy Norton on Reuters about an upcoming study to be published in the Southern Medical Journal.

A test proves that watching talk shows and soap operas is somehow tied to "poorer mental scores" in the elderly. Although a causal relationship can not yet be identified, the test indicates that those elderly people who chose "talk shows and soap operas" as their favorite programs tended to have lower cognative abilities than those who chose news programs, for instance.

I don't even think I have to respond for you to know what I think, but I wonder how "talk shows and soap operas" can be considered a category of television in the first place, or if a lot of other factors should be taken into consideration--for instance, as has happened with wrestling in the past, many viewers with a higher education level are less likely to admit their passion for genres like soap opera and talk shows (two separate genres, again, which the study does not distinguish between), even if they are, in actuality, one of their favorite shows.

Among my favorite quotes:

Dr. Fogel, who led the study, says that a preference for talk shows and soap operas "is a marker of something suspicious" in the health of patients and encourages doctors to ask elderly female patients about what might be their favorite TV shows as a way to indicate potential cognitive decline.

Considering, the constant switches, the intricate plots, and the sheer number of characters you have to keep up with, I have a hard time believing that mastering a soap opera can lead to cognitive decline. But I guess we should be happy that people have found such a great new use for television--as a way of proving a lack of brainpower depending on what people's favorite programs are.

Dr. Fogel hypothesizes that elderly people who are losing their thinking power watch soaps and talk shows because of the "parasocial relationships" that the shows encourage, so that people who can't think as clearly can revel in the emotional connection they feel with soap characters and talk shows and can thus pay attention, despite their diminished mental capabilities.

Fogel says that this doesn't mean these shows are bad for you but rather than they could signal "a possible problem."

But don't worry. Fogel finds that, while watching talk shows and soap operas might indicate diminished mental capacities, there might be some television programming out there that can benefit the intellect and help viewers manage stress.

Good. I was starting to get concerned that all our studies were for naught.

Thanks to Jenny on the As the World Turns Media Domain message board for posting the link to this story there.


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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on March 13, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

People within almost any industry often debate the value of the online fan community and the fan clubs of a particular show. A few weeks ago, I posted an argument on the Procter & Gamble Productions message board between moderators with PGP and fans on the board regarding the importance of the hardcore fan base versus obtaining general viewer impressions.

One actress that seems to be convinced of the importance of the most ardent fans of a show is Ellen Dolan with As the World Turns. Last week, Ellen sent a letter to the ATWT Fan Club explaining her problems with the way the character had been written and female characters more broadly on the PGP soap over the past year or two. Ellen's letter was quickly posted on message boards dedicated to ATWT across the net and became the talk of the fan community this past week.

In her letter, instead of taking the line others have that active fans represent such a miniscule number (although a number that far outweighs the Nielsen's, eh?) that they don't matter, Dolan points to the prior successes of the fan club. She points out that Trent Dawson, who was one of the favorite recurring actors on ATWT, was given a contract after being cheered on at the last annual fan club gathering.

She also makes the case that her character was originally one of the few female detectives on daytime but her professional duties have been stripped from her character, in a trend she seems to find where daytime, while once progressive with putting women in the workforce, is actually scaling back now that primetime is offering up female detectives and business leaders.

"Do you remember when Margo was a strong, independent woman and not a sniveling,cat fighting, high school girl craving for a football hero?" she asks before further asking why longtime ATWT actor and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Tamara Tunie can't seem to get a story of her own and longtime character Lucinda Walsh, a powerful businesswoman in town, never gets any stories about her professional life on the show these days.

"The character is being dismantled. These characters are your characters and I think valuable to the show. I need your support. I need you to help save Margo Hughes! I need you to write and ask for Margo back. I have attached a list of names and addresses for you to write to. Tell them how you feel about this character. Please guys, 'cus I love Margo and I want to keep giving her to you. Not to mention that my kid is only six, I've got many years to go."

ATWT is one of the best written shows on daytime television, but it doesn't mean that Dolan hasn't found one of the points that online fans constantly bring up as their frustration with the soap's content--the lack of workplace stories. While the show's producers can't be happy that what would essentially be a backstage argument has disseminated throughout the fan message boards, the direct plea and the grassroots campaign Dolan is trying to begin shows some recognition of the most active fans having the most power and the most investment in the show.

And Ellen hits on a very powerful message regarding the moral economy surrounding the characters, the feeling on behalf of the fan community that they have ownership of the characters, when she says, "These characters are your characters" and implies a fan duty at protecting the quality of the show by doing their duty and writing in.

Following this situation and the response of PGP should provide an interesting window into where things stand with the company's view of the fan community.


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Sam Ford This piece originally appeared on Feb. 20, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

Back in December, I posted an entry about a discussion on product placement in soaps from Michael Gill's Media Domain Board for As the World Turns.

At the time, everyone who posted on the thread agreed that product placement would be more effective, more natural, and possibly the only way for soap operas to survive, longterm, and people began to debate particular issues about how product placement should be handled.

Fast-forward a few months, and the same board has had a small mini-discussion with a few close watchers of ATWT regarding a particular case of product placement this past week.

One of the characters, Margo Hughes, came in with a bag of groceries, filled with Procter & Gamble merchandise. Only a few astute viewers even picked up on the fact that the majority of the items in her grocery bag were P&G items, which is the company that produces ATWT. In this case, the script called for her to be unloading her groceries in particular, and the types of items inside were completely plausible for a trip to the grocery. The items were never referenced directly, but it just felt natural--especially compared to the "Brand X" products used too often in daytime television.

These characters in the Hughes family live in the same branded world we do, and that's the type of realism that product placement done correctly can bring.

Of course, a few fans chimed in who were almost completely anti-P&G products being in the show, saying they were sickened by it, etc., but this seems to be more anti-commercialism rhetoric than anything. The majority of the viewers indicated that they found it natural, noticed but didn't pay close attention and some felt it actually added to the show to have those real products used. And most of them, the loyal and active viewers who post on message boards, also saw supporting product placement as a way to support the show and its sponsors.

Alec's the product placement expert around here, though, so I would love to have him weigh in as well...


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Sam Ford

This piece originally appeared on Feb. 20, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sam Ford blogs weekly there about soap operas in relation to fan cultures and innovative storytelling and marketing campaigns, in addition to blogging about many other new media issues updated multiple times daily.  You can visit his blog here.

A really interesting discussion has been taking place on the official Procter & Gamble Productions message board for Guiding Light, based on a comment made by a PGP moderator on the board on what the fans mean to the show in the overall business scheme, and where the online fan community stands in contrast to the Neilsen ratings. In many ways, I think it is a discussion that should be happening not on the boards of fan communities but in the offices of the sponsors behind these programs.

To give you a short recap. The moderator, Alina, stated that "a headwriter's job is to make the sponsors happy. They're the customers who pay the bills" and that "the only way to gauge fan happiness is ratings (message boards, magazine polls and Emmys are nice, but they mean nothing if the numbers aren't there)." Fans were upset by Alina's comments, believing that this process is backward and that making fans happy should in turn lead to maximum profit for sponsors, not the other way around. It's a case of someone wanting to shoot the messenger, though.

Alina responded by pointing out that "the 1000 or so people on this board are a tiny number compared to the overall audience, right?" She suggested that fans should "try to get as many people as you know to stop watching the show for, say, a week [ . . . ] and then see if it moves the Neilsen needle. That will give you an idea of the sort of numbers TPTB are looking at, versus what we on the boards are looking at."

Unfortunately, Alina has taken the brunt of fan anger on the board for the comments, but she is getting at the heart of what is happening in the entertainment industry. Alina is one of the people who "get it" the most in the entertainment industry and develops a lot of transmedia content for PGP. She was just stating the harsh reality of the way the industry works right now, for better or for worse.

Sure, it's unlikely that a significant number of the people posting on the boards are a large number of the 5,000 or so Nielsen households that exist at any one time. On the other hand, the question is how viable the Nielsen ratings are in an era when television viewing is splintered by so many choices. Sure, 5000 households may be a good indicator of what people are watching among three or four choices, but what happens when you have hundreds? The Neilsen's are still potentially viable, but can they really be the bible to base success by?

And are Internet message boards then not a viable measurement of a show's success? I guess it depends on what you're looking for. A message board of 1000 or so actual viewers is a bigger sample than 5000 Neilsen households, if everyone on the message boards are viewers of the show. And in the soap industry, fluctuations on a show and between shows are usually only by one or two tenths of one rating point, which would be caused by the change of a channel of a tiny number of Neilsen households.

The Neilsens are probably more flawed than the logic of some of the fans on these boards, but Alina has a good point--if it is what TPTB (sponsors and not creative forces in this case) accept, how do you change the logic that surrounds it?

If you accept that most involved fans are likely to plan their days around the shows and more likely to be more profitable for advertisers and, in the long run, more economic benefit comes from increasing the number of loyal viewers than there is creating a greater number of casual viewers on a particular day.

But Alina's point is important here...As long as the Neilsen's are accepted industry-wide as the guide to go by and as long as that is what sponsors are looking at, how do you change it? It is the sponsors that should see the value in expanding the data they look at beyond just Neilsen numbers.

Sure, a lot of the most vocal fans on the Internet aren't necessarily the best indicator. You can't write too much for an online audience who is likely to complain no matter what happens, and a lot of them will say they'll quit watching but hardly ever mean it, becuase their involvement with the show is so deep there is great opportunity cost in their minds to quit watching it considering how much time they've invested in the show over the years. On the other hand, it's important to keep the most loyal fans the most happy because they tend to be your cheerleaders, and word-of-mouth is still the best way to grow your audience.

The PGP Boards are a great example of fans and representatives of the company getting together and not discussing the company line but rather having a conversation, as a group of individuals. Sure, these discussions are not smooth, but the issues aren't really smooth, either, when there's so many transitions taking place so rapidly in the media industry.


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