Today, December 2, 2008, is the one year anniversary of TV Feeds My Family. What started as a shameless attempt to flog my book Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths remains, well, a shameless attempt to flog my book (available here just in time for the holidays, shoppers. Free shipping!)
What I have also discovered in the past year has been how effective new media is in reaching a fairly specific, targeted community of readers. It is cool and surprising--not to mention humbling--to get emails and messages from various corners of the television community: network power players, showrunners, publicists and writers and even the occasional headliner and featured player--from all across Canada and deep into the U.S., and, occasionally, in Europe and beyond.
Getting instant feedback and comments from people who are simply passionate about television has also been instructive and illuminating, if sometimes alarming. Who knew, for example, so many people out there named Anonymous are not fond of the CBC? (Although that's not tracked anymore--anonymous comments have not been permitted here for several months. That's something I wrestled with, but the fun factor diminished as outside individuals were targeted and the playground name calling got a little too intense and personal--almost like a House of Commons debate!)
What I have learned is that the blog room is a different room from the one I played at a traditional media base like The Toronto Sun. There, for example, feedback seemed more limited to specifics like programming information ("When the heck is Monk or The Shield coming back?" and "Why does my cable bill keep going up?"). Web readers tend to focus less on consumer information than they do on dialogue. They speculate, reason, share, challenge and debate.
By in large it is a smart room, one that keeps you honest and on your toes. Except for a lack of hurled ash trays, it reminds me a bit of my days playing comedy clubs with Pat Bullock. You get a pretty quick idea of whether your shtick is going over.
As well as what your shtick is. As a newspaper guy, that instinct to break news dies hard. You want to be first, to scoop, and it felt good to do a few times here what the Internet does best, which is beat papers to the punch. News of Marilyn Denis's departure from CityLine, for example, appeared here first.
Blogs also provide opportunities to spill from the heart and gut as well as the head. A posting on the death of young Sun reporter and dear, departed deskmate Sherri Wood helped turned grief into action, leading to a pretty cool night of shared music and remembrance at Sherri Woodstock.
In one year, over 402 postings, this site has drawn close to 100,000 hits in all, with a one day high of 2,135 hits recorded for a story which appeared here just last week. Of those, 1,914 that day were unique readers. Modest numbers compared with old media totals, but a start, and one that is trending up.
Being linked a few times lately to the Bourque NewsWatch (where they love stories about the Rick Mercer Report) has really goosed those numbers, a lesson in the power of the larger Internet community. Referrals from Denis McGrath's Dead Things on Sticks and Diane Wild's TV, eh, as well as David Bianculli's TV Worth Watching, have also brought steady traffic and a core group of regular readers.
To all who have stumbled on to this site in the past year I say thank you. Thanks for reading, for getting involved, for voting in the various polls (a recent one drew 119 votes, which may not sound like much until you realize it's almost enough to topple the Conservatives).
Look for changes to TV Feeds My Family in the coming year. There will be more focus in the future on video reports. Look for a re-design to provide easier links to content I provide to other media outlets. Crisper links to blogcasts and radio entries. And--hopefully soon--a sponsorship banner or two. After all, it would be nice if TV Feeds My Family actually did help feed my family. (Although, in a very tangible way it has, with reports and exposure here leading directly to paying gigs at conventional media outlets.) The idea is to take full advantage of not just words but images, sounds, links and interaction--all that the Internet has to offer. I've already had one media professional suggest I change the name to "Media Feeds My Family," but I'm not ready to hurl my nifty knife and fork logo off the roof just yet.
One other thing to look for in the new year--plenty of shameless plugs about my next book. Hey--these things don't sell themselves.