Did WOOD TV Kill the Golden [Zombie] Goose?

[Disclosure: I’m not really sure that it’s necessary, but to satisfy my nagging notions of intellectual honesty, I’m compelled to note that I work at GRCC and Rob Bliss is a GRCC student.]

Grand Rapids NBC affiliate WOOD TV 8 just announced that it hired social networker Rob Bliss as a “multi-platform account executive” (which sounds like a euphemism for “social networker for hire”).  Their hope is that Bliss will help the station “reach a new generation of media consumers.”

I must confess disappointment.  I’m of the opinion that Bliss’ appeal comes from the fact that his social experiments were organized for the fun of it.  By trying to monetize the experience (or use it to attract eyeballs for advertisers) he stands to lose a measure of his authenticity (and thusly his ability to attract followers).

Granted his events already were being monetized around the fringes; sponsors underwrote the costlier events, local watering holes were hosting after-parties and there were some limited sales of event-specific items.  The primary motivation for the events, however, remained “pure” in that it was purely social experimentation (how many people can he get to unite in a common activity).  With commercialism being the primary factor now driving the events, I worry WOOD’s move has robbed Grand Rapids of one of its “unique value propositions” (as one might say in businessspeak).

By way of example, my recollection is that donations/sales of T-shirts at the last Zombie Walk did not go well and they ended up with something in the neighborhood of a $6,000 deficit.

What follows will be interesting to watch because I tend to think it has implications for the use of social media (and how much commercial interference audiences will tolerate to participate in an enjoyable experience).  Unfortunately I think that introducing the profit motive will turn off a large portion of Bliss’ audience (who, as members of Gen Y, are deeply mistrustful of the traditional media and corporate America). Having a pillow fight for the fun of it is one thing.  Having a pillow fight to sell cars for a local car dealership is entirely another.

I hope I’m wrong.

7 thoughts on “Did WOOD TV Kill the Golden [Zombie] Goose?

  1. Robin Luymes says:

    Just a little conflicted on this. I agree that a part of the appeal of the Bliss events was (is?) the random, out-of-the-blue, independent nature of it all. You’re right that people started to sponsor around the edges on the Bliss events. I’m certain there will still be some successful “get-togethers” downtown based on unique concepts Bliss is able to create.

    But somehow I feel like it was already about to decline. Like, it had lost the “cool” factor somehow. I may be totally wrong on that. Actually, I hope I am because I love the fact that these events are helping create excitement around downtown.

    In that sense, I’m happy Bliss is getting paid to do what he’s already been doing. The alternative is a person doing it as a hobby and eventually just fading away. With WOOD backing, at least he probably can continue to put on these events. I’m sure there are plenty of people in the U.S. who get paid a lot more for generating a lot less value. So, on that front, Congrats Rob!


    1. derekdevries says:

      I kind of had that feeling too (that they were in decline), but the hard numbers would say otherwise; the ArtPrize entry was a rousing success and so was the second Zombie Walk (though it didn’t pay for itself, thousands more turned out than for the previous event).


  2. Dave DeJonge says:

    Maybe it wasn’t clear in the story, but WOOD TV8 has no intention of monetizing Rob’s events. We have a clear understanding with him that he’s free to continue doing his events as before. We’ll certainly cover it from a news perspective. But what he does, and how he does it, is up to him.

    His role at WOOD TV8 and woodtv.com will be to help implement social media strategies for our station and our clients. Our full intention is to be an integral source for news and information for people of all ages in West Michigan for many years to come.


    1. derekdevries says:

      Thanks for the clarification! Will Rob be “behind the scenes” or will he be a visible “face” of the social media strategies for WOOD and its clients?


  3. Mark Pyk says:

    Is this in response to WOTV Face of 4 social media campaign? From what I have been reading, things are extremely vague as to what Rob would actually be doing for WOOD. Who knows, perhaps he will just be doing twitter updates for the station. What does bother me though is the notion that Rob stated he was in debt and needs a job, and presto a job appears. It just makes WOOD look very impulsive. If they wanted to beef up their social media presence you would think that they would have had a plan in place and perhaps already been targeting individuals who would help forward this plan, instead of just reading a post of an individual and then deciding to create a position and hire him. If I was the hiring manager I would not like the information being out there that we had hired Rob because of his post on facebook. It makes it feel like a publicity stunt instead of a calculated move to increase their social media presence.


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