It will probably come as a surprise to no one that quite a few of the folks at HIP GENIUS are big Anthony Bourdain fans. And we’re even bigger fans of his & his production team (the supremely cool Zero Point Zero Productions)’s take on social media. After being lucky enough to nab a spot in their turntable.fm event a few weeks ago, we knew we needed to know more about how they got this together. HIP GENIUS (no strangers to Friday afternoon turntable sessions ourselves!) thought it was a great idea–mixing food, booze, television & music: four of the greatest things in the universe, with social media–to interact with fans in a fun and incredibly social way. So we went right to the source: Helen Cho, ZPZ guru of all things digital. Not only does she have one of the raddest jobs around, but she also has a boss who isn’t afraid to try it all out and see what happens. Check out our Q&A with her, below:
Helen Cho of ZPZ
Hey Helen! Can you tell us your official title & a little bit about what you do at ZPZ?
I manage the digital day-to-day at ZPZ on the social media front, and a large part of that includes No Reservations. Previous to this, my jobs at ZPZ were in Production and Production Management, so I think social media is sort of instinctually looked at as just an extension of the on-and-off-screen experiences, and as an ongoing experiment in storytelling.
How did you come up with the idea for the Turntable.fm event? Whose idea was it?
I started playing around with the site when it launched last summer and would organize small rooms at the production office just for fun. It’s no secret that music is an extremely important part of No Reservations and Tony, so naturally, we talked about doing a turntable.fm session with friends.
What did everyone at ZPZ (& the DJ folk involved) think about it? How did you get all of your DJs involved?
ZPZ execs & staff were all down and excited to host the session, but I don’t think anyone, myself included, really knew exactly what we’d be getting ourselves into – but everyone was still cool with that. To keep it fun and interesting, Tony wanted to DJ with friends with varied musical tastes, so for this session, we asked Doug Quint from Big Gay Ice Cream, Eddie Huang from Baohaus, Marky Ramone of The Ramones/Blitzkrieg, and Mike Ruffino of The Unband and Gentlemanly Repose. All these guys have appeared in our shows and are friends of ours, so it wasn’t hard convincing. None of them had really used the site before, but everyone was on board pretty much instantly — it was more a matter of finding a date and time that would work with everyones insane schedules.
The jams are in session!
As for the actual session, it was great to see everyone get into it — there was 11am boozing, shit-talking track choices, Marky getting sucked into the vortex of private messaging fans, someone asking Doug to smell Tony and report back, competitive ‘awesome-ing’ and ‘lame-ing’ amongst the DJs, and we also learned a few things, like how making Bieber jokes is basically the equivalent to making Iranian jokes, and that Pineapple Princess would make for a great soundtrack to a beating. So, all in all, to quote Doug, “This thing was weird and hilarious and awesome,” and we definitely plan on hosting another session soon.
Did you have any goals or benchmarks you hoped to reach with this? Were they achieved?
No, not really. We thought it’d be sweet for the room to fill out, which it quickly did, but other than that, there weren’t any concrete goals set. A lot of decisions made on No Reservations stem from Tony and the crew wanting to have fun and do stuff that is interesting to us. This was just an extension of that.
How long has this been in the works? (We loved the little avatars! A lot of times, these sort of integrations are reserved for paid opportunities on websites. Was that the case here or—because of the level of talent associated with the event—did they leverage the publicity as a sort of barter?)
Definitely not paid, and there was no talk of leveraging publicity for this of any sort. Some people may look at that as being naive and not planning correctly in terms of PR, but that’s not something of priority for us. We did announce that we’d be doing the session at our sxsw panel, but that was because we were talking about upcoming things that were new and exciting for us; the turntable.fm guys didn’t even know that we’d be doing that til a couple days before. In fact, we didn’t even announce the room until a few minutes before we went live the morning of the turntable session. The avatars were in motion months before that, and those just came from wanting to personalize the experience.
Check out those dope custom avatars, yo.
You also live-streamed this on the ZPZ Facebook page: whose idea was that & why did you decide to bring everyone (save Mr. Ruffino) into the same room to participate & show the behind-the-scenes action?
We invited all the DJs to ZPZ HQ because we thought it’d be a fun second screen experience for the fans who were able to get in the room, but also a way for those who couldn’t to still get a piece of the action. And if the avatars weren’t enough, it would seal the deal in authenticating that fans weren’t interacting with a bunch of bots. Previous to the livestream, I also had a conversation with my counterpart at Travel and we both agreed that it would be best to livestream it on ZPZ’s facebook page rather than the NoRes page because the site restricts access to US only, and with its limited room capacities, we didn’t want to frustrate 1.4mil fans who, for the most part, were probably not likely to get in. It was also sort of a nod to the hardcore fans who follow us not only on facebook but also on twitter, tumblr, google+, etc.
The men hard at work: drinkin’ & DJin’
Who lets you guys know about new and emerging social media?
At ZPZ, I probably do a majority of the research & development for new social media platforms, tools, etc., but it’s definitely a collaborative effort. I’m also fortunate to be able to bounce ideas off of friends and mentors in the industry like Anthony De Rosa, Ellie Rountree and Kenyatta Cheese. Part of my job is definitely to find cool new things for us to experiment with, so I’m always open to suggestions –if you got a tip to a new tool/site/platform that you think we’d be into, hit me up!
How has social media changed how you guys do what you do? Do you think social media has helped or hindered the television-making process?
Director/Producer Tom Vitale pretty much sums it up with “What twitter giveth, twitter also taketh away.” Social media has, in many ways, helped us connect directly with our fans and allowed us to share the bits and pieces to extend the NoRes experience, but it’s certainly hurt us as well. We shot an episode of No Reservations in Finland this season upon learning, through Facebook insights and a fan-made facebook campaign, that we had a huge fanbase there. Yes, we’ve used Twitter and Facebook to crowdsource locations– or an entire episode, in this case– but it’s also forced us to implement an absolutely zero advance-posting policy to avoid having our spot blown up and having swarms of people show up on locations. It sucks for both us and the locations, but we’ve for sure had to cancel scenes due to leaks on social media platforms. At the end of the day, I think there have been far more plusses than drawbacks for us, and it continues to be an exciting thing to explore.
Many thanks to Helen & the ZPZ bunch for letting us ask the questions! Did you attend the turntable session? What do you think about No Reservations’ take on social media? Let us know in the comments!
(All images courtesy of Helen Cho @ Zero Point Zero Productions)
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
anthony bourdain, no reservations, Social Media, tony bourdain, travel channel, turntable.fm
Sadly I wasn’t able to attend since I was in Canada at the time. You should have live-streamed it on plug.dj too which is just like TT but with video and works internationally and can reach a far broader audience! But then again the two are probably direct competitors and I bet TT would have blocked it. :/
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