Tag Archives: Katalyst

Finding the ‘I Love Lucy’ of the Internet….

27 Mar

The pursuit of a creative format that would result in massive online audience has been like the chase for the Holy Grail, or the Ark of the Covenant. Many have failed, or given up in frustration. Does such a thing even exist? Or is it Hollywood ‘Legend’?

I have an inkling a new programming format that may succeed where others have failed is literally unfolding daily on our screens — in the online laboratory of actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.

First, some background. This idea — stumbling on a new creative form that would result in a massive single-form audience driver — has long been a focus of many in the online content-creation world. The business theory underlying this is pretty straightforward: Massive audience means massive money (in terms of advertising revenue and audience engagement).

But it has been virtually impossible to find the gripping narrative that would lead to massive breakthrough audience akin to the early days of television, when Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz effectively created the whole ecosystem of TV ‘prime time’ with their long-running husband and wife series.  Sure, many web businesses have massive traffic. But no one has yet been able to point to originally produced programming with massive traffic (such here-today-gone-tomorrow wonders as Obamagirl and the video life of the so-called Real Life chick who was actually a marketing ruse don’t really count).

Well, Ashton and Demi may be cracking the code.

Perhaps you are not yet following the trials and tribulations (and fun) that the actors (and real-life husband and wife) are having with Twitter, video upload site Qik and photosite Twitpic. But I have an inkling that they are weaving the ‘I Love Lucy’ on the internet, or something like it, as we watch. And one reason they are succeeding is they are using web tools (hyperlinking, retweeting, real-time photo and video uploads and the like) with great energy and originality to do it.

Both Ashton and Demi have a very active Twitter following (hundreds of thousands of followers) only a handful of whom they must actually KNOW. That said, both are being supremely generous with their time, answering many followers directly and immediately, as they update folks about their ups and downs, comings and goings, etc. (As it happens Ashton is very deeply involved with several new media initiatives, including one involving a friend of mine, Sarah Ross, who was one of Yahoo!’s most talented marketing people. Hiring Sarah was a great move. But I digress….)

If Seinfeld was a show about nothing, then the chronicles of Ashton and Demi are Ionesco-esque in their nothingness. Today’s non-episode is a case in point.

It seems Ashton is filming a movie somewhere on the French Riviera, and Demi seems to be in LA, missing her husband but planning some sort of trip to reunite with him. Whatever.

A while ago, Ashton posts a funny video showing him getting his chest hair shaved (Don’t ask why) that had technical troubles (the video, not the shave). (This is after Ashton apparently slugged his stunt double and knocked him out, but that was another episode).

Back to today: Demi pings Ashton, via Twitter and passing across the computer screens of her 300K+ audience (BTW, that’s nearly double the daily audience of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer) that she wants to see the video of her half-naked husband. Half a world away and apparently frustrated by her husband’s technical mishap, Demi tweets this:

“mrskutcher@aplusk baby this is to complicated 20 vids are there with no title or order ready to lmao so get it worked out for our viewing pleasure.”

It took Ashton a while (does the film ‘take 5’ so he can twitter?), but he responded with this: “aplusk@mrskutcher HI baby love you so much. here babe, http://tinyurl.com/djtkr2″

It didn’t work: Back in LA, Demi said: “mrskutcherThe video is no longer there boo hoo !” (BTW, how many of us watching this have been on the receiving end of a ‘honey do’ list such as the one Ashton got? To me, the authenticity resonates, driving more audience and engagement).

Ultimately, Ashton got the video working, and their tweets moved on to other subjects.

Gripping theatre? Not exactly.

But my point is simply to say this interchange is just part of the evolving plot of their lives, which thus far has included: an Oscar-night party with winner Penelope Cruz and lots of photos, Ashton taking a shot of his wife’s rear-end in a hotel bathroom while she was steaming the wrinkles out of his suit (a photo that appeared on the evening news in half a dozen countries), a trip to Miami, jet lag in Frankfurt and dozens of other twists and turns….

Now, some may say the detritus of two celebrities’ daily lives is about as boring as anyone could imagine, and I am certain they would agree. This ‘show’ is unscripted, and only edited by the 140-character count of Twitter.

Regardless, this evolving programming, including comments and re-Tweets (RT)s from friends (the musician John Mayer plays a frequent guest-starring role, as does another friend, P. Diddy — who apparently is himself tweeting when he replies to Demi and Ashton; it isn’t his ghost-twitterer…) is growing daily (which few can say about the audience for some other programming types, such as daily print newspapers or most prime-time series).

No one has yet figured out the business model here. How will the advertising be sold? Is it Ashton’s revenue? Demi’s? Does the program belong to Twitter, Twitpic, Qik or your ISP? Is there even a business model?

But one thing is certain: in the pursuit of this holy grail, the first step is creating a big audience. And in that, Ashton and Demi appear to have taken a great leap forward. As of today, their combined total audience is over 850,000. And rising….

That’s not a bad number to start with…

April 3 2009 Update: This morning, a woman in the Bay Area twittered about her possible intent to commit suicide to @mrskutcher. Demi and many others monitoring her feed apparently called the San Jose police, who brought the woman in for observation. More on this incident here http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/AheadoftheCurve/story?id=7248406&page=1

April 20 2009 Update: Ashton Kutcher ‘beat’ CNN to the million follower mark. http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/04/17/ashton.cnn.twitter.battle/