“Seven or eight years ago I was directing a story People Magazine was breaking on Jennifer Lopez calling off her wedding to Ben Afleck,” Managing Editor Todd Gold, Fancast.com told a standing-room only crowd of Entertainment Publicists Professional Society (EPPS) media workshop recently (2-19-09).
“It was significant, because it was the first time People Magazine had broken a story Online rather than saving it for the issue. It really ushered in the every minute news cycle, and the idea of a branding a story as you broke it was fascinating watching it break around the world. You could almost draw a map as it was picked up in Europe, then New York and then across the country. Now we work the same model but at different speeds.”
“Old media and traditional media right now are suffering from many crises and its very static,” said Gold.
“In terms of getting the message out it is old, and it does seem behind the times, while new media is dynamic, it’s writing rules as it goes, while tethering with some traditional standards.
Gold reported that Fancast.com gets seven million unique visitors a month, but they pay attention to smaller sites that are running and gunning, and it gives them a barometer of people’s interest.
“I think as a publicist, it is a good idea to pitch the big outlets like Entertainment Tonight and every show you can think of, but because of the Internet, you should pitch the bloggers, too,” said Former NBC Reporter and Hybrid Journalist Shire Lazar, a crossover media personality. “It is good to have your story on the big shows, and influential blogs that are not owned by CBS, NBC and the networks. They may have a better capability of making your story more viral.”
The panelists described showbiz and political media Online as the “wild, wild west, unfiltered, no fact checking and no rules.”
“It is fast and with the lack of filtering there are pros and cons,” said Francisco Dai, The Killer Pitch. “In the old days when Todd (Gold) was an editor at People we pitched him, and if he liked it he wrote it up. If he like the story, but didn’t like you, maybe he wrote it up in maybe a negative sense. But he did the writing and he chose the articles and it came off professionally. Because of the speed and lack of filtering in new media, there’s nothing like Todd to write it up for you, or nobody like him to decide what actually deserves to be written up,” he said.
Some publicists make the mistake with new media thinking, “wow great, now I have a platform, I don’t need to suck up to journalists, so I get to put all our stuff out there. They put out a lot of junk, which clearly reflects on your clients or whatever you are trying to promote. Since there is a lack of journalistic filter, you need to learn how to filter it yourself, said the panelists.
The panel agrees that there is a lot of fear out there about new media. Michael Liskin, Online social networking consultant said, “People fear new media, they don’t always understand it, they ask which social networks do I get on, which ones are the best ones, how can I do this for my client and in what way? It’s the integration of all the different channels and connecting them in a way that makes sense in reciprocal connections that can do a lot for your client and yourself.
He cited Britney Spears’ site as a doing it right. Liskin advises, “just get going with new media. It is already happening without you anyway. So if you don’t get going, right off the bat, you’re already behind the eight ball,” he said. “It’s very important to be part of it, to be part of the conversation.”
One example of how old media drags its potential burst was the story about Writer Michael Star, who has a TV column for the New York Post, and broke the story given to him exclusively by NBC about Saturday Night Live Alum Jimmy Fallon to host Conan O’Brien’s vacated slot on Late Night. Then a news release came out the next day and more than three thousand articles hit the Internet on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. The bloggers pick it up where traditional media left off. The old way is to give it to a site and hope it gets picked up, but today it’s faster with sites like Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
“We don’t have venture capital, and I’m the only full time employee at the site along with two volunteer writers for our large audience, but I will get 50 emails an hour while trying to write posts,” said Editor Zach Behrens, LAist.com, one of LA’s most popular entertainment news blogs. “So a lot of things get kicked to the side. Everyone wants to pitch us. To me a lot of it is about developing relationships. You really have to pitch useful headlines in your email that grabs us. For me I have found instant messaging has been the best way to pitch.
“A phone call takes me away from everything, but instant messaging I do things at the same time. I can get files through, and someone sitting at their desk all day I can ask, ‘hey just a follow-up question about this story, or can you send it to me.’ Or with people I have developed relationships on Mondays I instant message everyone and say, ‘hey what’s going on in the art scene this week, because I need to know about it or assign a story.’ Those instant message conversations reduce spam. It’s like twitter, we are so immediate and we always want to be original in our reporting, but if I am calling for a quick quote, I’m ready to go to press in five minutes.”
“The number one reason stories viral out on the Internet is news,” said Fancast’s Managing Editor Todd Gold. “It doesn’t change from traditional media when you have something hot that people want to know about. The subcategory of that is you have something quirky, funny, a twist on whatever. Two examples: We had a Dancing With The Stars contestant blogging on our site last season exclusively, and when she got sick and went to the hospital she blogged about it, and it was picked up everywhere. Or something quirky: The head of Menza gave us a list of the smartest TV shows ever. It got picked up around the world. It is really about the best news and information. In terms of pitching Fancast.com, we’ve been new and under the radar. We have been making sure the usual experience is a phenomenal one in terms of watching video.”
Fancast streams hundreds of TV shows and 9,000 hours of full length episodes in current hits, classics and past shows so we go the experience right. Now we combine it with editorial. “We are competing with TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly at that level so we are looking for big stories. One of the great things of working Online as opposed to a magazine is we have unlimited space, we don’t worry about paper cuts, so we do as much as we can with every pitch that our human resources allow.”
“New media runs the gamete,” said Francisco Dao, Media Consult, The Killer Pitch.
“New media can be everything from a fan site to your twitter account. You really need to do it all. It is fast, where I can take it or you can take it and go directly to the audience. That’s how I see it.”
Dao cited Miami’s Basketball Star Shaquille O’Neal story. Shaq recently got on Twitter.com and tweeted a question direct and unfiltered asking, “what should I have for dinner at Quiznos?’ Shaq doesn’t always think about what he’s saying and will do quirky popular things. It makes him that much more likeable. Now, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have a Twitter account but are more careful. They still do movies, still do interviews on ET, but the new media is the ability for everyone sitting on this panel to go direct, go unfiltered, to have conversations with their audience. And maybe a different conversation,” Dai said.
According to Gold at Fancast.com, standards of quality are being incorporated into in a new model of the future. He said, “If you are pitching a story in a newspaper or a magazine, you’re hoping that story is interesting enough that the reader remembers to tune into that show or program their
“When you go on to Fancast.com, you’re getting a story, embedded in the story you’re getting the full episode or a preview clip as well as pictures, along with tune-in information. It is all right there and it is immediate. People are reading the story, watching the TV show, their watching the preview, they get tune-in info and soon they’ll be able to hit a button and program their DVR right from that story.”