John I. Carney

Loose Talk / Charge Complete

John I. Carney is editor of the Times-Gazette.

TV, web work hand in hand

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

By the time "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" debuted on NBC earlier this month, Fallon had already been talking to, and listening to, his viewers for weeks.

Fallon produced daily videos for his web site as a preview for the new show, and each one was released to the web at 11:35 Central time -- the exact time slot Fallon was getting ready to take over from Conan O'Brien. (Locally, the show airs on WSMV-TV Channel 4.)

Some of the videos were comedy bits, others were "behind the scenes" glimpses at the preparation for launching a new talk show. Web site viewers even got to choose between two different logos for the TV show.

Meanwhile, Fallon made heavy use of Twitter and Facebook to interact with fans during the buildup to the show's launch, and is still posting somewhat regularly. All this is not surprising, given that two of Fallon's regular characters when he was on "Saturday Night Live" were a cranky office computer geek and a college student who produces a webcast from his dorm room. He's obviously a part of the Internet generation, and it makes sense that he would promote his new show over the Internet.

TV networks are learning more and more about how to use the Internet to promote their products and interact with fans. Some shows, like NBC's "The Office" and SciFi channel's "Battlestar Galactica," have produced miniature episodes for the web ("webisodes") to keep fans interested while waiting for a new season to start. Many have discussion boards to allow fans to debate and discuss what's happening on the show.

Discovery Channel makes heavy use of interactivity, soliciting viewer suggestions for popular shows like "Mythbusters" and "Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe."

TV talent contests like "Dancing With The Stars" and "American Idol" give viewers the option to vote online, although they tend to emphasize cell phone votes due to promotional tie-ins with phone providers.

TV news has gotten into the act as well. This week, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News interviewed Sen. John McCain -- not on TV, but on Twitter. Twitter users could read the interview in real time simply by following both Stephanopoulos's and McCain's accounts.

What are some of your favorite TV / Internet tie-ins? Let me know at jcarney@t-g.com and I'll round them up in a future column.

--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.