#LastWeekTonight

John-Oliver-1The purpose of my blog is to discuss satire news/late night television, and to see how digital disruption is affecting this medium, whether it is positive or negative. Late night television is not a new concept. There have been satire shows on television since its invention. However, the ways late night hosts take advantage of the emerging technology that is forming in our digital age is definitely evolving. YouTube is a huge part of the late night sphere, and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram help to promote and shape each show’s image. The particular show and social media site I will be focusing on is John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, and how he uses Twitter to not only engage viewers and promote the show, but to bring forth social issues that he feels passionate enough to rant about for much longer than any other late night host.

I was fortunate enough to talk to Mary-Bridget Welch, a former Michigan student who got the chance to intern for Last Week Tonight last summer. She was there for the show’s premiere, which is something that not many people get to say.

Mary-Bridget: As an intern I was responsible for mostly running errands for the office and assisting as a receptionist.  We also transcribed new stories and researched hot topics that week.  We occasionally helped with the social media aspect of the show by taking pictures of various things around the city for internet and YouTube bits and scoured the internet for both good and bad comments on the show. One time I got to pick up a puppy from a doggie day care.  We really did anything and everything.

She goes in depth about the different types of methods the show used in their social media platforms, and is a huge advocate for the show and how successful it has been thus far. However, I can’t help but notice the show’s ratings and how it falls short compared to Fallon’s Tonight Show on NBC and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. Is this a discussion about network vs. premium television? (Last Week Tonight airs on HBO, a cable subscription network) Or are the other shows simply rising to the top as a result of content and promotion?

John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight is known for its innovative social media tactics.

Mary-Bridget: LWT has become what I would say a show that thrives on their social media, especially their twitter.  Josh Gondelman (web producer and now writer for the show) is a stand up comedian and essentially runs the social media for the show. He told me that the twitter needed a different kind of tone because it isn’t “John’s voice” (he has his own twitter), it is mostly the “show’s voice” and the kind of attitude that they want to bring to their viewers, serious news with a humorous yet in depth take on really important topics that not a lot of news outlets are covering.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.25.00 AMIt’s interesting how popular Oliver’s hashtags have become, seeing as John Oliver himself barely uses twitter (he only has 160 tweets!). The twitter page for Last Week Tonight is a lot more substantial, but it makes it that much more impressive that Oliver is able to create these twitter movements while barely promoting it himself. He says it on the show (if anything he will tweets about it once) and then that’s it. The rest is up to the viewers of the show.

Mary -Bridget: The importance of the hashtags pertains to what a hashtag is supposed to do, get a large group of people talking about one particular thing.  #gogetthosegeckos was a big one about an issue that was kinda dumb but really fun (that is the kind of stuff people on twitter like!) but it also brings awareness to the show and what it is doing, they had a real discussion about Net Neutrality which was hugely important in recent legislation! News actually making a difference.

Untitled InfographicThe following chart that I compiled lists each hashtag that John Oliver has mentioned on the show, and what each hashtag stands for. Each hashtag was taken from a bigger discussion that was seen on the show. Oliver is infamous for his lengthy rants, and these hashtags have surfaced from these discussions. A lot of them are about prevalent issues that are affecting America, but like Mary-Bridget mentioned, some of them are more geared toward entertainment purposes.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a website that tracks the amount of impressions a hashtag gets for free, but there was a website I found that counts the impressions it has for the day. It’s clear that #GoGetThoseGeckos, #JeffWeCan and #ShowMeYourPeanuts are the most popular hashtags. It’s true that you need to factor in the time that the particular hashtag aired on the show, because that would explain why more people are talking about it now. However, the episode that had the hashtag Untitled Infographic#GoGetThoseGeckos aired back in July of 2014, and 9 months later it’s still the most talked about hashtag of Oliver’s! That’s when the question arises, what makes one hashtag more “tweetable” compared to the others?

In my opinion, I think it’s because of the quality of the story. The absurdity of the #GoGetThoseGeckos story explains why the hashtag is so popular. Basically, Russia lost contact with a satellite of geckos that we’re “possibly mating”. This story is completely irrelevant to social issues, which sadly could explain why it’s still such a popular hashtag. Meanwhile #BetterCIATweets, a hashtag that sheds light on the CIA and its infamous secrecy, is getting barely any mentions. Unfortunately, this is the way that television today works. The most popular and talked about stories are the ones that barely have anything to do with social issues that need to be changed.

One of my favorite hashtags that Oliver implemented was #mutuallyassuredhumiliation. Oliver’s rant discussed a European law that would allow people to “erase themselves from the internet”. He later created the hashtag to prove the point that with the digital age we live in today, this is something that is basically impossible. Things we do on the internet will live with us forever, which explains the culture we live in today where public figures are constantly getting in trouble for the things they post on the internet. People can immediately delete the tweet, but there will always be that one person that will screenshot it and share it with the world.

I loved the hashtag #mutuallyassuredhumiliation, because not only did it bring to light the dangers oScreen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.03.28 PMf the internet, but fans were able to interact and tweet their embarrassing pictures. A digital footprint isn’t a particularly pressing issue, but his rant was still very informative and helped educate people who weren’t previously aware of this new law. An example of the Last Week Tonight social media team taking advantage of this hashtag would be this video that contains the best pictures tweeted by fans. The video even features a picture of Mary-Bridget!

C-Now-Jeff-We-CanAlthough #MutuallyAssuredHumiliation was my favorite, I strongly believe that the hashtag that not only was the most informative but became the most popular was the hashtag #JeffWeCan. This 18 minute long rant discusses tobacco industry regulations and how it is different across several countries. Thanks to marketing restrictions, smoking rates in the United States have lowered significantly. However, the same thing cannot be said for other countries. Oliver slams cigarette companies for their branding (specifically Malboro for their cowboy image), and to compromise between cigarette company branding and countries trying their best to warn their citizens of the hazards of smoking, Oliver created Jeff the diseased lung in a cowboy hat. This particular segment was not only informative, but it was entertaining and almost instantly #JeffWeCan was trending in both the United States and Australia. This is the perfect example of using Twitter to not only publicize the show, but to inform viewers AND entertain them at the same time. But, can Oliver achieve all of this and still make the network he’s working for happy?

“The exciting thing is that [HBO] let[s] you do whatever you want. They don’t say anything. They’re amazing. It’s almost a confusing amount of freedom.”- John Oliver

This quote was taken from an NPR article where Oliver discussed his show and some of the drawbacks of being a comedian. He lists some disadvantages to his career, but working for HBO definitely has its perks. What other network would let a host rant about one single issue for 18 minutes straight? Although he’s given this freedom, in the end the ratings are what determine if the show is making money for the network. Although HBO has this laissez-faire approach from their programming, they could pull the plug on Oliver’s show if it isn’t bringing in viewers. It was then that I had to figure out, how exactly does Last Week Tonight compare to other late night shows?

There are a number of factors that contribute to ratings and popularity of late night television, but overall I think Last Week Tonight is doing innovative and creative things with Twitter, and John Oliver is changing the way that late night television uses social media. He’s not only making it a publicity tool, but integrating the social justice aspect of social media to not only bring light to social issues, but inadvertently promote his show.

Untitled Infographic(1) The following graph presents the first quarter T.V ratings of this year (December 29th, 2014- March 29th, 2015). As you can see, Last Week Tonight is right around the middle in terms of both total viewers and its Nielson rating for ages 18-49. The Tonight Show is dominating the Tonight Show sphere by far. Could this be because of Fallon’s involvement with Twitter? Every week, he plays a hashtag game that is very popular with fans, which could definitely be a contributing factor to why people watch. If the tweet is good enough, it gets picked to be on the show.

Although Oliver is falling short in the ratings compared to other late night hosts, it’s definitely important to keep in mind that Last Week Tonight premiered in April of 2014, so it’s still very new to the television world. Also, Oliver’s show is on HBO, which is a network that viewers need to pay for in order to watch.

Mary-Bridget: Unlike the Daily Show, LWT doesn’t have the luxury of being showcased every night. But for good reason because it gives them more time to research.

His ratings are very good for a show that has these setbacks, and at this rate it’ll be topping the charts soon enough.

Mary-Bridget: While I’m not working for the show anymore it is really really special what they are doing there and the ratings show how popular it has become.  The social media aspect helps with bringing real topics to the forefront of the screens that everyone is constantly staring at. Shows like LWT remind us that is really fun to learn and watch something that isn’t cats dancing or Kim Kardashian’s nip slip.  I might be bias but it’s a damn good show.

Mary Bridget’s point is one of my favorite things about Last Week Tonight. Sure, Jimmy Fallon may have the best ratings, but looking at the content of his show, it’s purely for entertainment purposes only. Last Week Tonight is a show that is doing pretty well for a new show on HBO , and on top of that it’s a show that is educating its viewers with informative topics and social issues that are going on not only in the United States, but around the world. His hashtags are a big part of the show, and does a great job keeping audiences engaged and informed.

Although it’s clear I’m a fan of the show, there is a downfall. Sure, Oliver’s hashtags have caused awareness for the problems he discusses, but have they actually caused change to happen? All of the hashtags I’ve looked at have merely addressed the problem. Nothing has been done to actually make change. This is a major setback for Oliver’s show. What’s the point in making a hashtag if it’s not going to do anything to help the cause? Creating awareness is not always good enough. However, working in news satire is not always 100% about changing social issues.

You know, satire isn’t journalism. That’s not to suggest that we’re not responsible for the content that we put out there. I stand behind the point of view. That being said, the tools we use are exaggeration, hyperbole, puns, imitation, ridicule. Sometimes they can cut through things in an easier way but generally in a more superficial way. It distils something to a more visceral element that does not generally present a grander picture. – Jon Stewart

This has been an ongoing issue in satire news, and something that we’ve discussed in class. Are these political satirists responsible for informing the public? My vote is no, if they want to have more entertainment than news, so be it. But I think the track that Oliver is taking in terms of informing viewers while providing entertainment is going to make him very successful.

So in conclusion:

Five Things You Should Know About John Oliver and his Hashtags

1. Digital disruption is causing late night television to take advantage of social media sites such as Twitter, specifically John Oliver and the hashtags that form out of his discussions on Last Week Tonight

2. Unfortunately, it seems as if the most popular hashtags are the ones that don’t have to do with important social issues (excluding #JeffWeCan), but there are still many important issues that are being brought to viewer’s attentions from the hashtags, even if they’re not the most popular.

3. Despite being only once a week and on HBO (a subscription channel), Last Week Tonight is doing surprisingly well in the ratings, which could be a result of the way the show uses social media.

4. Last Week Tonight isn’t formally obligated to inform viewers, but the hashtags Oliver uses on the show is a great way to not only engage viewers, but educate them as well.

5. According to Mary-Bridget, Last Week Tonight is a great place to work. If anyone on staff happens to be reading this, I can forward you my resume!

Facebook: A Way to Stay Connected

As Facebook gets older, more and more millennials have come forward stating that “Facebook is dead”. I hear that all the time. Most of my friends explain to me that they barely use Facebook anymore. However, I don’t see any of them deactivating their accounts, and when I look at their pages it seems as if they’re uploading the same amount of pictures that they did our freshman year of college (back in 2011). Sure, it may not be the only form of social media that people are using now, but it most definitely is not dead. This chart from an article in Adweek shows that in 2014 Facebook had 2.84 billion ACTIVE users, meaning that they’re STILL using the social media site. Compared to the 255 million Twitter and 200 million Instagram users, it is clear to see that there is no evidence that proves that Facebook is dying.

Another argument against Facebook is that it lowers self-esteem and causes users to become jealous of other user’s lives. This article from Psychology Today lists the many harmful things that Facebook can do to your mental health. However, what it fails to mention is that this type of behavior can stem from ANY form of social media. This same list can apply to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, and any other app that is newer than Facebook. These problems are effects of the technological world we live in today, and being on or off Facebook will not solve these issues that are forming as a result of the internet.

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the only thing my grandpa uses Facebook for is poker, but he still uses it nevertheless!

Although I stand by my argument that Facebook is still thriving, it’s hard to ignore statistical facts. Based on this chart from TIME, it is clear that in the past 4 years, younger audiences have been leaving Facebook. However, the total U.S growth is at 22%! There is an 80% growth of users who are 55 and older. This doesn’t mean that Facebook is dead, it means that the site is merely shifting its target audience. What started out as a site for college students is slowly evolving into a way for older users to reconnect with family and friends.

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A picture my Aunt uploaded of my Uncle and Grandpa from the 90’s
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A chat with all my relatives from my dad, who was keeping us up to date on my uncle. Fortunately it was good news!
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A picture my dad uploaded of me and my siblings when they visited Michigan. Almost 60 likes!

I think one of the best features of Facebook is how it keeps people connected. The main example I have to prove this point is my dad’s Facebook. He’s constantly sharing pictures that I upload, and uploading things of his own from all of our family vacations. Every time I’m tagged in one of his pictures, he gets more likes that I ever would. Most of the likes and comments are from his old friends and most of my family members that haven’t seen me or any of my siblings since we were little. It’s these pictures that help them stay connected to us, and that helps my dad see how much all of his family and friends are growing and changing.

Technology isn’t always a burden, and with all of the negativity that has evolved with the internet over time, it’s hard to remember that the main reason social media exists is to bring people together and share memories. Younger audiences may be straying away from this particular social media platform, but to say that Facebook is dead would be unjustified given the evidence of the growth that the social media site has faced.

Meerkat with Jimmy Fallon

IMG_6470IT HAPPENED. I got to watch Jimmy Fallon live on Meerkat. IMG_6471TWICE! It was seriously so exciting, and now I truly understand why Meerkat is going to be so huge. The first stream that he went live for was just him playing Mario Kart before the show started. Seems like something that isn’t really interesting, but as a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon, I found it so so cool. It was like I was FaceTiming him and all of his friends before the show started. The next best thing to actually being there. The best part by far was being able to see all the comments on the bottom of everyone else watching. He was a little preoccupied playing Nintendo, but I’m hoping the next time he does a behind the scenes Meerkat he’ll actually read the comments and answer all of his fans’ questions.

IMG_6476The next live stream was Jimmy rehearsing his monologue. As someone who’s actually from New York, every summer I do everything I can to try to get tickets to the taping of his show. Being able to watch his monologue was such a cool experience. He even acknowledged the people who were watching on Meerkat and asked where everyone was watching from. I know I just sound like a super fan girl, but it really is so amazing to see where Meerkat will take people, both in the entertainment and news industry. It’ll be so cool to see your favorite celebrities hanging out behind the scenes, with them answering any questions fans have in real time. It’ll also be so interesting to see prominent political or news figures using Meerkat to answer questions that everyday people like me have for them, and see what they do when they’re not in front of professional cameras. Basically, being able to see Meerkat live in action was a really great experience, and I can’t wait for more of my favorite celebrities in pop culture to start using the app so I can see what they do with it!

Michigan Everyday: WOLV-TV’s newest satire show

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.18.10 PMAs I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’m on the executive board of WOLV-TV, Michigan’s student run television station. This semester, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on developing a news satire show with two other WOLV-TV executive board members. I guess I’m going to be covering the whole process of creating a satire show, and how it can hopefully affect the way people view local campus news.

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Sketch Comedy cast and crew

Ryan, Lexie and I worked on a Sketch Comedy last semester called Live Bait. Working on the show really helped us to realize how fun it is to create satire and make people laugh. But we decided we wanted to take a step further and create a show on WOLV-TV where people can make fun of the news format in general. We shot the pilot on Sunday, and it definitely wasn’t as easy as we expected it. I was planning on taking a bunch of pictures, and interviewing all of the crew members that were helping us work on the show. Turns out, we ended up running around like crazy the whole duration of the show, and I barely had enough time to breathe let alone take a picture.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.45.36 PMAlthough it was super hectic, working on Michigan Everyday turned out to be a really great learning experience for me. It helped me learn how hectic it is to work on a satire show, and how important it is to have your tone and timing exactly right. For example, when I look back at all of our footage in the editing process, there are a couple of jokes that don’t end up working because the tone isn’t right. In satire, if people don’t know that you’re being sarcastic or exaggerating a certain topic to make a point, the joke just doesn’t work and it can actually be really offensivScreen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.52.00 PMe. In the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert acts like a ridiculous caricature of a host, which is why his jokes end up working. He acts like a buffoon, so when he makes fun of a certain issue, the audience laughs at him instead of with him. It’s an extremely difficult tone to perfect, and it’s something that we definitely need to work on if we make another episode.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.46.42 PMOne segment in particular that I really liked and think worked was a package of a reporter who constantly thinks that there’s some sort of conspiracy when there really isn’t. He did a package about how Dave Brandon is the anti-Christ, and I found it so funny. I think the premise of our satire show makes fun of the news format, and intertwines campus news in that. I wish I wasn’t a senior, because I would love to see the show evolve into something that not only makes fun of the news format, but satirizes actual campus events to help viewers question and think about the different events that happen in Ann Arbor.

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Acting as the weatherwoman for the show, clearly I’m doing a great job reporting on the weather.

I know it’s a little weird to basically be profiling myself and saying that I’m a prominent figure in satire news, but it’s definitely not just me. All of the work myself and the WOLV-TV members put into making this pilot happen proves how determined we are to bring satire news to the Michigan campus. It’s hard work, but I’m really hoping once I graduate the show will still keep going, and other WOLV-TV members will help develop it into full-fledged weekly satire news show. I’m still in the editing process but hopefully the pilot will be up ASAP!

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Technological Advancements in Satire Television

When I first thought about it, I didn’t think that there have been many technological advancements that have affected late night television. I began searching the Internet for inklings of advancements in shows like The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. I eventually searched Jimmy Fallon’s twitter as a last hope to see if he’d been doing anything new and interesting with his show. It was there that I saw recent tweets of his IMG_6404that had a number of links that take you to a live stream of his monologue rehearsals and other behind the scenes action. Just yesterday he live streamed St. Patrick’s Day! Unfortunately, I found this information out too late and wasn’t able to watch it.

The live stream is actually an app called Meerkat, where you can live stream to your twitter followers FOR FREE. The app uses the camera from your IphoneIMG_6403 to live stream to anyone who clicks on the link. The app launched on March 10th, so calling the app new is an understatement. Personally, I think this is such a great technological advancement, and I’m so excited to see what people will do with it. Not only will it help with citizen journalism, it’ll enable viewers to go behind the scenes of everything imaginable, and they’ll be able to watch all the action live. The Tonight Show is clearly on board with the app, and Fallon even broke Meerkat for a couple of minutes because of the amount of viewers he got using it.IMG_6400

The app is actually becoming popular rather quickly, it’s popularity grew exponentially with it’s introduction at SXSW. The buzz is only growing stronger, but is this app just going to be a fad or slowly diminish into nothing like The New York Times claims happened with Google Glass? Or is it something that will become more and more popular until everyday twitter users are live streaming their nights out? Personally, I think this is something that’s definitely going to stick around. I’m part of the executive board for WOLV-TV, Michigan’s student-run television station, and live streaming is something that we’ve been wanting to do for such a long time. It’s so expensive to do, and I can’t believe it’s now just becoming an app that you can use with your phone. I’m so excited for all the live streams I’ll be able to watch over the next couple of months, and I just subscribed to get a notification for the next time Jimmy Fallon uses Meerkat. I definitely won’t be missing the next one.

Newsfeed Photocollection

For two years I have served on the executive board for Michigan’s student run television station WOLV-TV. Last week, I visited WOLV-TV’s news program Newsfeed, and decided to take a couple of pictures to show the process and preparation of putting on a show.

You can watch the full episode here!

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Hosts looking at the rundown before the start of the show.
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Producer Shelbey Roberts reviewing the script with the hosts.
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Technical Director and Assistant Director making sure each shot looks okay before the show.
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Double checking that the graphics for the show are accurate and spelled correctly.
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The prompter that has the whole script written out for the hosts.
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Hosts beginning the show and introducing the top stories.
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A look at the Camera Operator in action.
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A look at the control room as the show is in full swing.

The Daily Show

Shows like The Daily Show have developed and flourished with the introduction of the internet, and I strongly believe that it plays an important part in millennial’s new consumption in the age of digital disruption. Last year, I took a news satire class and read a number of studies that showed that satire news is one of the main ways that younger audiences consume media.

In the episode of The Daily Show that I watched, Jon Stewart started out by talking about Arby’s and how they tweeted at him. Not the most substantial new topic, which is why I believe that satirical news definitely should not be your only news source. However, after the small entertaining bits, Stewart did not hesitate to dive deep into social issues such as LGBTQ rights and public school sexual education. These are issues that are very important, and although there’s humor involved, viewers are still understanding the root of the issues.

Although I feel strongly about consuming satirical news, I still stand by my point that it shouldn’t be a person’s only news source. There’s a difference between recall and recognition in terms of news consumption, and I believe that satirical news does a great job covering the recognition side. Audiences who consume satirical news can always identify a problem discussed on the show, but most of the time they can’t really expand beyond that point. Hard news on the other hand, helps people recall information very well.

So basically, my point is that satirical news is very entertaining and I love watching it, but you have to be careful about how much you watch it/what else you’re watching. I think it really causes viewers to think about what people are saying and helps to challenge ideas. But, you should definitely be consuming other news sources. For example, I also read The Skimm and follow important news organizations on Twitter. But, for the less educated I believe that solely watching satirical news is better than nothing.