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My Channel Ten manifesto

Hey Channel Ten, I'm sorry I slagged you off last year. So your Web site is pretty cruddy, Yasmin turned out to be the queen of the harpies, and Matthew Newton brought shame to you over the new year. We all make mistakes. But before your site relaunches, might I be so bold as to make some suggestions for what to include?

Ella Morton

commentary Dear Channel Ten,

Look, I'm sorry I slagged you off last year.

So your Web site is pretty cruddy, especially when compared to Nine and Seven's cannily integrated, partnership-boosted portals. So Yasmin turned out to be the queen of the harpies, and got boned from the network before she could get married. So you let Matthew Newton simulate a sexual act on John Foreman while both sat at the piano ringing in the new year. We all make mistakes.

You may think it unfair that I've targeted you multiple times. Granted, the vitriol could have been residual bitterness from my insane decision to watch Big Brother on a regular basis, despite harbouring an intense dislike toward the housebound personages involved. I'll wear that. But come now, you have to admit that you've been lagging dangerously far behind your televisual cohorts. Even SBS has delivered swift kicks to your posterior when it comes to online content. But the tide seems to be turning.

For a start, you've begun to use phrases like "digital media strategy" in public documents. You've hauled in a bunch of highly tech-literate employees, hailing from such dot-commy companies as LookSmart and the UK's ITV. These people will helm the revamp of your Web site, which will launch in February with a focus on video streaming, downloads, and show-related user communities. You made video podcasts from Thank God You're Here available through iTunes, a move that was particularly well played.

There's no question: things are looking up, and in the nick of time, too. But before your site relaunches as the bonus-laden behemoth you promised in your press release, might I be so bold as to make some suggestions for what to include? I'm sure you've got plans and layouts and infrastructure resulting from comprehensive market research, so let's just call it a wish list.

Righto. Here's the first conundrum: when it comes to individual TV programs, is it best to give the more prominent ones their own sites (a la last year's comprehensive, multimedia-enhanced Big Brother and Australian Idol offerings) and ignore the rest? And how best to deal with overseas-sourced shows; your Houses, your various flavours of Law and Order? Will a link to the official site from the original producers suffice? As long as you don't promote a show's Wikipedia entry as the official reference source again, it'll be an improvement.

On the local versus international issue, ninemsn and Yahoo7 have taken an approach worth emulating: they push the locally produced programs to prominence online, offering sub-sites that, while distinctive, retain the branding of their umbrella sites. Integration is the key here. Take a look at Channel Seven's Sunrise family Web site, for example. The little brekkie show that could has built a formidable Web community by launching an opt-in sub-site that gives viewers access to behind the scenes photos (hosted on Yahoo-owned Flickr), blogs and newsletters from the presenters. The online content is both complementary to, and independent of, the stuff that gets broadcast on TV. Nice.

Part of NBC's wonderful Office Web site.

This notion of the web content complementing the stuff on the TV leads me neatly to the next point. Point that browser to the Web site for American channel NBC's The Office. This is a particularly good example of how you can give fans of a TV show reason to keep coming back to your site. Every week, after a new episode is shown on TV, NBC posts a heap of associated content, including a two-minute replay and several deleted scenes. Other offerings include blogs written in character, photo galleries, impressive games, and episode summaries. Like the Sunrise site, there is a real sense of community and a focus on user contribution -- last year, some genius came up with the idea to hold an Office promo contest, where users had to create a promotional video for the show and upload it to YouTube for judging. That level of user involvement in a show is absolute gold for both the station and the advertisers, and trust me, the fans eat it up with a spoon. It's using Web 2.0 in a way that benefits all parties. This is where you should be heading, Channel Ten.

I hope you don't find these suggestions too brazen. I also hope you didn't need me to make them; my assumption is that you've thought of all this already, and are currently creating a Web 2.0 playground that will knock all our socks off come February. I'm really looking forward to "the reveal", as they say in Extreme Makeover.

Here's to a new year and new beginnings!

Regards,

Ella