Pam and Jim’s UGC and SM Secret

4Photo courtesy of NBC Universal and www.halpertbeesly.com

So, the kids are grown up all set to leave the nest together… and I’m not talking about Pam and Jim (yet), but rather social media (aka SM) and its sibling user generated content (or UGC).

We all remember the TIME Magazine cover at onset of 2007 (gosh has it been THAT long?!), and the more recent (June 2009) Twitter cover, proclaiming the arrival of UGC and SM into the big leagues… clearly, that train hasn’t slowed down since leaving the station.

Last night, my wife and I (as the rest of The Office watching world) tuned in to perhaps the most monumental sitcom event since the end of the Seinfeld era (g’head argue otherwise)… finally, after years of torment, countless times of looking away due to Michael’s uneasy jokes, all the laughter, some tears etc etc… the moment came. There they were, our Pam and Jim… FINALLY getting hitched.

What ensued was a spoof of the famous YouTube clip “JK Wedding Entrance Dance,” a home video that garnered over 27 million hits as of the morning after the episode aired.

I have not seen the video above until after the show aired (I’ve since given up my residence under a rock), which is a sweet embrace of a special moment in the real couple’s lives (whom should also be commended for using their new found web-fame for charity purposes). It was mimicked nearly to the T by the Office crew (see the full scene here) as the ending of the highly anticipated episode.

What I took away from this (because quite honestly it was rather anticlimactic for me and not any funnier than other episodes) was the fact that here it was, the top grossing sitcom around now ‘borrowing’ on the UGC movement, for an episode of this magnitude… seems risky (lazy even), but then again 27 million YouTube hits can’t be wrong, right?

Undoubtedly, UGC has arrived, but it has never looked so overproduced and sappy…

We all know that traditional media is struggling, and TV is no different. Reality shows are in-style for a reason; their lack of writing and acting staff along with other major overheads that’s pushing traditional media underwater… so where to turn other than into predetermined, built-in and established audiences? Besides even in TV terms 27 million people is a big share.

So it’s understandable, but disappointing nonetheless, at least from the standpoint that fictional characters should have fictional lives. I would’ve liked to see, what Doc Brown of Back to the Future called, a parallel reality… a parody of The Office world itself, than our real life events.

Also of note, when I started searching for the original video, I stumbled upon the below clip, which calls out several other ‘borrowed’ parody pieces within the wedding episode (puking scene, and the T shirt, both questionable according to the comments). Some food for thought though, pun intended.

Where will this ‘borrowing’ trend net out? We’ll have to wait and see… and through the years of training we all received from Pam and Jim’s back and forth escapades on The Office, we can hold out for quite a while.

So, to summarize and quote the touching ending to Jim’s rehearsal dinner toast… here’s to waiting!

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Niche content, Palinism vs. Liberalism and the plight of Newsweek

Palin

While watching my somewhat regular 15-20 minutes of O’Reilly Factor every other day, I caught an interesting segment with Bernard Goldberg. He and Baba over there, were discussing (nay, dissecting) the Rick Pearlstien story on Palin in Newsweek, mulling over the overwhelming negative tone coming from a ‘left wing activist writer’ as they called him. What got me thinking was the focus on the survival of Newsweek as a media publication part of the discussion…

Note: I read the story after watching the exchange on the air, which was very heated about the level of criticism Mr. Pearlsien gave ex Gov. Palin. While possibly seeing their point while watching, I didn’t find the story to be vicious at all or bellow the belt while reading… if anything it was more about OReilly/Limbaugh/Beck backend of the story that got him heated more; and no, I don’t like Palin.

When I was growing up in an avid various press reading family, the one magazine I always remember being around is Newsweek… that is until one day, my dad got enraged at the number of ads impeding his reading flow, cancelling and cursing the pub for nearly a decade. Despite this hiatus, I got used to Newsweek being my de-facto consumer news weekly, until encountering the TIME magazine staple at the in-laws.

Either way, going back to the segment spot… the point that Bernard Goldberg was making is that all of these publications (as is most media) are fighting for survival and thus seeking out niche plays to satisfy the bottom line. Given the various perspectives out there on Newsweek’s coverage tone (i.e., the 2008 campaign coverage of Palin, read: Has Newsweek Gone (Too) Liberal? or Newsweek: Palin Too Common, Too Stupid to be VP, She’s ‘Dangerous’), can Newsweek go too niche into liberalism by shunning Palinism outright? And, how niche is niche, in terms of content and the changing face of media nowadays any way?

Another major trend I’ve been observing at as part of my industry monitoring is the rise of niche content as a possible silver bullet to the media’s woes. The troubles facing Newsweek, TIME, et al (unfortunately now also including my personal favorite BusinessWeek, read: McGraw-Hill Puts BusinessWeek on Auction Block) unite them in the need to hone in their messages to their core strengths and please a niche audience to maintain a base for survival… easy for me to say.

But it does seem to have an ounce of possibility to work (think: WSJ/NYT editorial, Washington Post/Washington Times, etc.)… if my two families could recognize the coverage tone between Newsweek and TIME in the 90’s enough to drive them to a distinct choice… why not harness those wings and fringes then really go all out?

O’Reilly was upset that Newsweek didn’t disclose that Mr. Pearlstein was a ‘left wing activist writer’ versus the ‘author’ credit they printed him with… to quote my beloved Judge Judy: “Baloney!” Even if true, why should they disclose more (agreeing with Bernard Goldberg again); he’s not a first time contributing writer. Bill is once again huffing up hot air about something he himself is a part of. As centrist as he says he is (no spin zone and all), everyone knows he is a conservative talk show host, and he continues to be named alongside Rush in print, which I think always sets him off.

I see no radical change in the coverage of Newsweek toward liberalism (even if anti Palin, I’m looking at you Peggy Noonan)… but maybe, just maybe, Newsweek is circling the wagons around a theme and message that works for them (the trimmed down redesign that Newsweek underwent recently is another possible sign)… possibly taking a chapter out of Bill’s play book, hm?

I don’t know, but for me it’ll always be that magazine that Dad read, however liberal or anti-Palin or over-stuffed with ads it is… I do like the old design better though, but it’s good to not have as much celebrity focus anymore… consider your wagons circled.

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