Bloggers are finding a captive audience in the TV networks

With the Web offering more opportunity for coverage, TV networks are shifting their focus on the new era of critics - bloggers.

With the Web offering more opportunity for coverage, TV networks are shifting their focus on the new era of critics - bloggers.

Studios and networks, in turn, are treating bloggers with privileges and gifts in hopes to get repaid with positive press.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that when CBS wanted publicity for The New Adventures of Old Christine, it targeted "mommy bloggers" and invited the writers to spend the day on-set. The bloggers got free swag, watched a rehearsal, and made videos with actors that they could post on their sites.

The article also reported that Fox News Channel, when sending out invitations to an industry dinner hosted by President Bush, preferred to reach out to several New York media blogs that it deemed to be of more strategic importance than to a New York Times writer, who it originally had in mind.

Why does it matter?

"Blogs become an important part of the toolkit when promoting these shows," says James Herring, joint MD of Taylor Herring, a London agency that promotes Heroes and the UK version of The Apprentice. "The Internet is second to none."

PR pros are trying to learn which blogs are influential and give them access to screenings even before the traditional media. "Blogs [are] a good way of starting a whisper campaign before you're ready to launch [a show]," says Herring.

Since people turn to blogs to easily learn what others think about upcoming shows, PR pros view bloggers as a key component in grassroots efforts.

"[In promoting] Veronica Mars and America's Next Top Model, we found bloggers were really beneficial - as a grassroots effort - in getting great coverage," says Sienna Sanders, AE for mPRm. For Veronica Mars, bloggers were taken back stage to meet with actors, take photos, and conduct interviews with producers.

Five facts:

1 To promote the show Supernatural, Warner Bros. flew seven bloggers to British Columbia, where they stayed for free at Sutton Place Hotel and spent a day on the set.

2 The four major broadcast networks tend to spend from $800,000 to $1.5 million a year to fete traditional journalists, according to The Wall Street Journal's article.

3 A syndication service called BlogBurst delivers commentary from 600 bloggers for use by media entities like USA Today and Reuters, blurring the line between blogs and mainstream media.

4 Gawker Media, which operates 13 blogs, established a code of conduct early last year in which writers must specify on their blogs any gifts over $25.

5 According to Technorati, a company that keeps track of blogs on the Internet, there are 8,755 blogs written about TV shows in 20 international languages on the Web.

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