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Photo copyright iStockphoto.com/Guillermo Perales Gonzalez

Photo copyright iStockphoto.com/Guillermo Perales Gonzalez

11/20/2006

Reality TV, Meet the Blogosphere

By Liz Savage

I thought I had a brilliant idea. Imagine combining the ratings-grabbing popularity of reality TV with the blogosphere bonanza. Could this be the key to world denomination? Perhaps not, but if nothing else this “reality blog” could be the next big thing in Internet entertainment.

While I would like to think that I alone could come up with such an inspired idea, I found it hard to believe that some marketing genius hasn’t already thought of it. But after hours of extensive Googling, I’m beginning to think my reality blog doesn’t exist. At least not as I have conceived of it. 

There are certainly blogs about individuals chronicling their unusual lives—Prison Pete, the inmate who writes about life behind bars, a young Philadelphia teacher who moved to a tiny Eskimo village in Alaska, a disabled disability lawyer in Minnesota. But that’s not quite what I had in mind. I want a group of people blogging together. I want the drama that comes with group dynamics in a stressful situation. I want tears, infighting, gossip!

The recipe is quite simple, really. First, add a diverse “cast” of people thrown into a novel situation. You can stick with the tried and true Real World model with everyone living in the same house; alternatively, competitions, à la Project Runway or the Apprentice, are guaranteed tension builders. But feel free to get as creative as you like. Next, add some strong writing and passionate opinions. Unlike reality TV stars who have to wait to see the final product, bloggers should be able to read each other’s posts as the “show” goes on.  Stir vigorously until whipped into a frenzy.

It seems in 2004 one online marketing guru attempted to create just such a blog experience. He even went so far as to post auditions for sassy, preferably controversial bloggers to join the Big Blog Show. But the BBS never got off the ground and now is just another crumpled paper in the Internet wastebasket. And despite its rather apt title, the Big Blog Show wouldn’t quite have cut it as a “reality blog”. From what I can tell, it was intended to be just another group blog with people writing about whatever they pleased, the only difference being that the audition process would ensure that the bloggers would be of a variety of ideologies, ethnicities, genders, thus ensuring conflict would ensue.

The closest I could find to a “reality blog” was University of Michigan Medical School-sponsored student blog called “A Dose of Reality”. The concept of the blog is to show what life is really like as a med student at UM. Essentially, it is the high-tech equivalent of the glossy pamphlets school recruiters send out, chock full of quotes from students saying how much they love the school. The blog itself is fairly dull, and not surprisingly would be of little interest to anyone except the bloggers’ mothers or a prospective med school candidate.

But they had the right intention. It just falls short of its potential, unlike its overachieving student bloggers. Fortunately, I’ve taken it upon myself to transform their little PR blog into a full-fledged Internet powerhouse, an online media spectacular.

Setting the blog in a med school is a great start. If the countless number of television shows (reality or otherwise) set in hospitals is any indication, people love doctor dramas. The UM blog showcases 12 students, three from each year. This may give a good overview of the average UM medical school experience, but since most of the students don’t know each other it makes it hard to build that tension necessary for good drama. A quick fix: pick a dozen incoming students who are all in the same class. It is very important that they work together regularly, an added bonus if they live together as well.

The second thing, which may seem completely obvious, is to select people who are good writers, which isn’t always the case in the UM blog. A few of the bloggers were quite insightful about the transformation from student to physician. But more often than not, the entries read like a sixth grade essay entitled, “What I Did During Medical School”. And of course, they need to have a unique perspective on the world and something interesting to say.  In all honesty, I could hardly care less about how many times the first-year student from Florida got to play sand volleyball before winter came.

I think reality blogs could have all the elements necessary to attract online viewers—quirky characters, personal drama, an insider’s view of an unfamiliar world. So I’m throwing my idea out to the world. If it takes off, all I ask in return are some I-told-you-so rights and maybe a little chunk of the profits.

 

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