We are continuing to live more and more in the world of cord cutting, cord shaving, niche marketing and storytelling and brand control. With each passing day the power to aggregate an audience, control or amplify a message or tell a story shifts from massive platforms to those which have a direct purpose. Some of it, as we have seen with Alternative Facts, can drive a specific agenda time and again. Others, as we have seen with YouTube stars big and small, can be far reaching and valuable, if harnessed and focused in the right direction, no matter what the platform.
So it is with all that in mind that I ventured to the Upper West Side of Manhattan last week, hard by the Hudson River, to explore a little more deeply an intriguing experiment into what comes next in the areas of access, storytelling, brand control and audience aggregation, all being crafted by a very popular media personality who is doing her own thing; albeit on many platforms live and at once.
I joined Jenna Wolfe on the couch.
The former Today Show weekend anchor, MSG Network personality, fitness and social guru and all around sports and entertainment aficionado, is one of the best conversationalists in the world, especially for a demo that skews a bit younger and is more active than most. Now she is trying to carve a niche exclusively in the social space, and on any device you want to engage with, every day in a designated window; live in real time.
“The Jenna Wolfe Show” is live weekdays from 11am-3pm EDT, across multiple platforms including Twitter, Periscope, Facebook Live, Instagram Live and YouTube. Every platform that one can stream video from live has a place, with more coming, and each has their own look, feel and sound, as well as audience.
Total views of the show have increased from approximately 60,000 per week four months ago to approximately 250,000 per week with an active engagement going on with viewers in real time; no audio or video back and forth yet, but there is a constant monitoring of comments and communal sharing on ideas as the minutes pass by.
For now the show is a trailblazer. It is one of the few, if not only, live shows live-streaming across multiple platforms for more than a few hours per day. It is almost certainly the only daily show with a world-class television personality streaming live for this amount of time whose primary point of distribution is social media, with close to 400 hours already on line, ready for repurposing or resharing whenever the consumer would like. It can take on breaking news or create its own conversations, as well as have guests live far and wide for a few minutes or hours on end. The difference is not the who as much it is the where; and by where that means in the cloud and on your laptop, desktop, streaming TV or your phone or other handheld device. It is all Jenna anywhere you like; and by anywhere, if you can get a good streaming signal, the studio is super portable; plug and play and a little lighting and the gang can go almost anywhere.
But who is watching? The core of this community is people with a four-hour attention span who consistently watch and interact with the show for almost the entire four hours. This nucleus sits in the center of people who interact with the show multiple times during the four hours but who do not watch all four hours. The show further branches out into a community of people who watch the show over shorter durations lasting three minutes or more. Add in promoted topical guests and the audience gets amplified. Tag a storyline and that pulls in even more followers (and Wolfe has a solid core group of fans already built in).
The magic of the show emanates from interactivity and accessibility between the host, guests, and viewers and is built on the belief that the world needs conversations to take place on social media. This contrasts with one of the major points of distribution for our show: Twitter (which carries Periscope). Conventional wisdom about Twitter is that its existence is limited to 140 characters, therefore limiting conversations to a sole 140 characters. The show producers believe this encourages hostile communication. The belligerent nature of these short and snarky conversations has led to less conversation than needs to be taking place. The show, in pioneering a genre of live video and social media, is improving understanding of conversation and life around the world all in real time.
One of the key breakthroughs that TJWS has already brought to the forefront is convergence. For the most part, personalities are using one platform per message to storytell, and then try and bleed on to others. The Jenna Wolfe Show is platform agnostic, while at the same time making sure that the nuance of each stream is taken into account. Yes there is software that lets you take in several platforms on one stream; however some look better horizontally, other feeds need vertical to right the message, and what happens if the software crashes? You lose the feed. While six or seven small cameras may seem excessive, it is actually very manageable, and lets the consumer see the video in the format they choose.
How will it pay for itself? The volume of users will help, and the live format lends itself to seamless planned integration. It is also highly portable, so a sponsored content show for Broadway or a red carpet or a restaurant opening or Opening Day for MLB makes branding not an issue. It is also global in nature, so being able to talk to varied audiences from around the world on cause marketing or a particular product is a huge help.
Can anyone do this? Maybe but the idea is still in its relative infancy. Wolfe’s story and her audience speaks far and wide, and the topics she has and can cover are very varied, giving a broad appeal. Could an athlete or a celebrity pull this off? Depends on the dedication to the cause and the business of schedule. What about existing YouTube stars or entrepreneurs who want to maximize reach? Yes, but it take a solid core to start, or some heavy marketing and search dollars. And above all else, the content needs to be topical, impactful, watchable and relevant. Infomercials this is not. Real time digital story telling it is.
Is this a glimpse of the future, where essentially everyone can be their own branded channel? Perhaps. For now what it is is a smart, relevant look into branding in the digital age; a consistent, engaged relevant one stop shop with a well-respected, well read and authentic face and voice.
If you get a chance check out Jenna and the couch. You may be seeing the future.