Saturday, September 13, 2008

On credentials in the new media

Who the hell am I, asks a "commenter" in one of my Carolyn Hinsey blogs from a few weeks back.

Who indeed? What are my credentials? None. I am, proudly, a nobody.

Let me explain that. There are terrific bloggers out there with bona fide credentials in the soap industry. First and foremost we have Tom Casiello (thank you for the recent shout out...I am humbled) and Sara Bibel. These two have real street cred as people who know the industry, and many of the players still in it. They have taken different post-strike approaches (Tom seems to blog out of sheer sense of community...his voice is so passionate and ardent that sometimes my eyes get teary at his love of the genre...but he is not making any money off it; Sara seems to be transforming into a soap journalist, with a combination of interviews, editorials, and historical insights), but both have become must-read because (at least for me) you feel a little smarter and more insightful after reading their words.

Then we have the once-published journalists (Marlena Delacroix and Lynn Liccardo), who offer the insights of long time fans with historical insight, knowledge of the industry. The gang at Daytime Confidential produces a product that simply trumps every soap publication left for breaking new and outstanding (podcast) interviews. The Canadian TV Guide Online has filled the void left behind after the US TV Guide Online essentially abandoned soaps...with a voice that is best described as "Perez Hilton for Daytime".

Then we have Roger Newcomb, who is pioneering fan-written (radio!) soaps (and whose Manhattanites independent film is eagerly awaited by many of us). Roger's "We Love Soaps" blog initially functioned as a consolidator of headlines. This is amazing. I do not know what kind of RSS feeds Roger has figured out, but literally no soap item (even regarding ex-soap actors) breaks, even in some podunk farm village, without Roger finding it and posting a link to it. Lately, Roger has been bringing more of his own "voice" to his blog, as recent pieces of fan advocacy for ATWT's Nuke or an insightful analysis of the impact of men/older viewers on rating shows.

In the ranks of such luminaries, what am I? Nothing...just a fan for all my days, but with no particular expertise.

Moreover, if you take my show (Y&R), there are 5 million people like me. And more than a few of us have blogs.

Yet, I think, that is where I have something unique to contribute. My voice (and the other 4,999,999 voices) are the outsiders, the consumers. Each of us views the soaps from a unique lens. Mine is as a 40-something guy with a lifelong attachment to soaps, and with some schooling (behavioral science, gerontology, statistics) that gives me a particular take on what is happening to the industry. Someone else--say, a mother of four who works at home--has a different lens (how the show fits into her busy life, why she makes time for it, how it resonates with the reality of her life...or maybe how it represents a 'Take me Away' part of her day).

The blogosphere is very different than old media. Access to "publishing" is no longer limited. The good part is that, in the beautiful anarchy that results, a much broader mix of voices can be heard. I suspect that the soap industry would be wise to sample this more than they apparently do. (Indeed, ATWT's Christopher Goutman has espoused the belief that internet fans are a trivial minority....I suspect he does this at his own risk).

On the other hand, it means that blowhards like me can espouse opinions that have very little backing. They are not "industry-savvy". I may lack experience, history, insight, etc. Yet, because I have carved out a "place" on the internet, some may feel that I am claiming myself to be an "authority" (which I am not).

For me, as a reader, I think the new media is an exciting way to get real time information and analysis that is less filtered, less polished. I think each of us adds interesting perspectives which, taken in their whole, represent a real resource for criticism and opinion. But a fair disclaimer: Opinions are worth what you pay for them.

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