February 9, 2009
Gossip Girl and the Value of Snark (Part II)

In my last post, I introduced Gawker and New York Magazine's coverage of the TV show Gossip Girl. I'll continue the discussion in this post and consider the value of non-network sites of TV fandom.

New York Magazine and Gawker both include a lot of non-Gossip Girl content, so it's likely that some readers who come for the Gossip will stay to browse the site. It's also possible that readers who go to New York Magazine or Gawker for other reasons will stumble across Gossip Girl coverage. The entertaining material on both these sites should make the people at the CW, which broadcasts Gossip Girl, very pleased because reading recaps and participating in discussions encourages viewers to stay involved with Gossip Girl long after it airs. Further, Gossip Girl is frequently among the top time-shifted TV shows and in light of these communities that makes sense: viewers who are immersed in the culture of recaps and forums are likely to watch the show early and often.

The CW's official Gossip Girl site seems to be trying to capitalize on the popularity of these other sites. The Gossip Girl site includes a blog that is allegedly written by Gossip Girl herself. This blog includes a recap of each show as well as gossip about things that have happened outside the action of each episode. For example, there's a post about two characters attending the Obama inauguration, something that is never mentioned during a Gossip Girl episode. The discussion boards on the CW's site are fairly active, but they not nearly as entertaining or focused as the discussions on New York Magazine or Television Without Pity. Posters on both TWoP and New York Magazine typically respond to the recaps as much as they do to the show while posters on the CW site usually only respond to the episode itself.

Producers and executives can read other sites to get information about their audiences, so does it matter that some of the most engaging conversations about television aren't happening on network sites? The issue remains, however, that outsiders aren't privy to metrics about web traffic that could provide useful demographic information for producers and advertisers. Bravo's 2007 acquisition of Television Without Pity seems to prove the value of online television communities that exist outside the network's purview. Instead of--or perhaps in addition to--trying to force a community onto a network site, Bravo chose to co-opt an existing community, leaving its social structure in place. Will users ever be drawn to network sites both to stream TV shows and join communities or should the CW put in a bid for New York Magazine?