Thoughts about being on TV and on CES

Last week I was on CNBC twice. Once on “Fast Money” and once on Donny Deutsch’s “The Big Idea.”

The Fast Money segment has been torn apart on the Internet but Roger Ehrenberg of the Information Arbitrage blog had the most intelligent analysis of it.

Here’s the key piece of the Donny Deutsch show, where we had a bunch of bloggers on the Microsoft Blogger Bus asking questions of Bug Labs’ CEO Peter Semmelhack. Bug Labs went onto win CNET’s “Best of CES” award for the emerging tech category.

Some things that are worth underlying about the difference between my video show and CNBC.

1. Expense. CNBC had dozens of people involved in the show, a huge booth, really expensive cameras, satellite time, etc. My show? Get a Nokia phone and go for it.
2. Makeup. Yeah, I wore it. There’s a video out there on the Internet somewhere. I’m not sure why Valleywag hasn’t found it yet.
3. You don’t get to say whatever you want. Donny’s show was tape delayed. If you try doing something wacky, they’ll just cut you out. But even if they keep you on, they have a director who is telling you what they want. She preps you for each segment, giving you “talking points.” If you don’t agree with those talking points you have to negotiate to have them changed. But if they don’t like your talking points they just won’t go with you. Second, she has a big sign and if she thinks you should make a point she makes it clear.
4. These shows are NOT about getting deep, or really getting a good understanding of CES. They were ALL about being entertaining! Hey, who knew? (I tried to pull a bunch of gadgets out and they said “we don’t care about the gadgets.”)
5. They filmed Bug Labs’ CEO for 10 hours for a two-minute segment. Now do you understand why so many CEOs let me come over and film them? I never take more than an hour with an executive, so it’s always easy to get onto someone’s schedule.
6. My show has very little editing, so it’s pretty rare that the context gets lost on an answer. On TV, though, things get cut up, sliced and diced, all for entertainment effect, not necessarily to tell the best story.

That said, the CNBC folks were awesome to deal with, helped make me better than I would have been otherwise, and weren’t there to hurt us, just amp us up to make us more interesting to watch.

Did my hits go nuts after being on these two shows? No. Barely even a blip up, if any at all. So, why do TV then? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, people who have influence in the industry appreciate that you got onto CNBC. That seems to brand you in a way that saying “I have a million visits a month” will never do. Plus, it’ll get you sales calls that blogging never will. Second, I’ve been getting nice notes all week from people I haven’t heard from for a long time saying “nice job on CNBC.”

One other thing: doing TV took me off the show floor for a LOT of the show. So, I saw a lot less of the show than I’d otherwise like to have seen — doing real TV is a BIG investment in time, so if you get a chance to do something like this next year at CES or another big show you’ve gotta measure that against the opportunity cost of being on the floor — how many more interviews could I have gotten for my own show? I don’t know, but I’m sure I missed some to be on TV.

Luckily I was working with the Retrevo Gang, so I got to know what was cool on the floor. We’ll have those shows up tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who came on the bus. Francine Hardaway. Andru Edwards of Gear Live. Sarah Meyers of PopSnap (she live streamed the bus). Loic Le Meur of Seesmic. Steve Broback of Blog Business Summit. Andrew Eisner of Retrevo and my producer Rocky was on there too.

Back to TV, though. Now I know why my “long and boring” format has found a sizeable audience. There’s an audience that wants depth with more than 30-second answers. It’s not a large one, but big enough for me to build a decent business on, which we’ll talk more about on Wednesday as I start a new part of my career.

Advice to CEOs? Definitely go on the big shows on the cable networks, but note how Bug Labs got there: they worked from the bottom of the stack up. I remember being invited to a dinner with Bug Labs where Engadget, Dave Winer, and a bunch of other bloggers were there: they showed us only a prototype set of wood blocks and talked us through the product and took our feedback. That got them valuable feedback and made the bloggers feel involved. That was really smart PR — far smarter than many of the companies who simply sent me a press release or who asked me in the last week to come to their press events at CES.

Oh, and thanks to Tim Ferriss. He’s the one who told the producers at CNBC that I’d be good to have on the show. That’s a reminder to always be nice to everyone. When he walked into the BlogHaus last year no one knew he’d become a top-selling book author.

Comments

  1. Didn’t Donny Deutsch state that “The Big Idea” is the epicenter of entrepreneurship in America” at the end of your segment? Yeesh! Yes, it’s all entertainment.

  2. Didn’t Donny Deutsch state that “The Big Idea” is the epicenter of entrepreneurship in America” at the end of your segment? Yeesh! Yes, it’s all entertainment.

  3. Andrew: yeah, and the producers want you to be over-the-top excited and engaging. I think they would have been happy if I had gotten up and danced on the table! :-)

  4. Robert, have you had any media training? I actually didn’t see any of your CNBC stuff, so can’t comment on your performance, but I think EVERYONE who even vaguely might *want* to appear on TV one day should have training on how to talk to the media.

    You would learn a) to think about what exactly you want to say beforeand b) to target your ‘message’ to that programme’s audience c) that their questions should have very little bearing on what you talk about d) details are not important e) answers should be succinct and complete and no longer than 45 seconds max (unless it’s a discussion programme on which you are one of only a couple guests)…

    All very useful stuff to learn. The problem is, if one doesn’t ‘turn in a good performance’ on one show, they won’t be invited on other shows…

  5. Robert, have you had any media training? I actually didn’t see any of your CNBC stuff, so can’t comment on your performance, but I think EVERYONE who even vaguely might *want* to appear on TV one day should have training on how to talk to the media.

    You would learn a) to think about what exactly you want to say beforeand b) to target your ‘message’ to that programme’s audience c) that their questions should have very little bearing on what you talk about d) details are not important e) answers should be succinct and complete and no longer than 45 seconds max (unless it’s a discussion programme on which you are one of only a couple guests)…

    All very useful stuff to learn. The problem is, if one doesn’t ‘turn in a good performance’ on one show, they won’t be invited on other shows…

  6. Gia: I’ve had some media training, yes. But part of it is just getting experience and learning from it. One thing you’ve gotta learn? How to stare into the camera. That’s an extremely tough thing to do for many people.

  7. Gia: I’ve had some media training, yes. But part of it is just getting experience and learning from it. One thing you’ve gotta learn? How to stare into the camera. That’s an extremely tough thing to do for many people.

  8. Ah, I like cameras more than the majority of people, so that’s OK for me! Yes, true it does take practice…but I think being interviewed is LOADS more difficult than interviewing someone, don’t you think?!

  9. Ah, I like cameras more than the majority of people, so that’s OK for me! Yes, true it does take practice…but I think being interviewed is LOADS more difficult than interviewing someone, don’t you think?!

  10. PS, I just sent an email to Maryam. Brian and I are going to be in CA end of Feb, beginning of March. He’s speaking at TED. Be lovely to see you two…

  11. Gia: I’m not so sure about that. Interviewing requires listening. Being interviewed mostly requires having something to say. If one is a better listener, then doing the interviewing will be easier, yeah.

  12. PS, I just sent an email to Maryam. Brian and I are going to be in CA end of Feb, beginning of March. He’s speaking at TED. Be lovely to see you two…

  13. Gia: I’m not so sure about that. Interviewing requires listening. Being interviewed mostly requires having something to say. If one is a better listener, then doing the interviewing will be easier, yeah.

  14. I am a visual artist and have worked all my life making images. I like to define images as forms of illusion as opposed to reality. I think Scoble’s article has very good insite and proves my point. Yes Scoble’s videos are way more “real” then TV. Still…. as Humans we are working hard to produce images that look like reality but it will never happen and we always have to remind ourselves of the limitations that images carry …
    On the other end.
    Picasso said: ” images are lies which help us see the truth!”

  15. I am a visual artist and have worked all my life making images. I like to define images as forms of illusion as opposed to reality. I think Scoble’s article has very good insite and proves my point. Yes Scoble’s videos are way more “real” then TV. Still…. as Humans we are working hard to produce images that look like reality but it will never happen and we always have to remind ourselves of the limitations that images carry …
    On the other end.
    Picasso said: ” images are lies which help us see the truth!”

  16. Comic Strip Blogger: You must have missed me on CNBC. I had one of those devices in my hand! (Look at the video for Fast Money). Thanks for playing. More videos coming tomorrow from CES, though.

  17. Comic Strip Blogger: You must have missed me on CNBC. I had one of those devices in my hand! (Look at the video for Fast Money). Thanks for playing. More videos coming tomorrow from CES, though.

  18. Captain: I’ve done a bit of TV, so wasn’t too nervous. This is probably the fifth time I’m on. I’m getting used to staring at the camera. Could I get better? Probably. To do that will take a lot of time in front of a speech coach, I’d guess.

  19. Captain: I’ve done a bit of TV, so wasn’t too nervous. This is probably the fifth time I’m on. I’m getting used to staring at the camera. Could I get better? Probably. To do that will take a lot of time in front of a speech coach, I’d guess.

  20. Don’t thank me! I learned a lot about TV, too. I learned that you will be great at Fast Company, and that you shouldn’t take too much advice from broadcast, because they don’t understand new paradigms. However, they do understand makeup, so if Fast Company wants to give you a little concealer, take it. (I learned this from beauty blogging -))

    As for media training: I’ve media trained executives for twenty-five years, and you were born knowing more than any of them.

  21. Don’t thank me! I learned a lot about TV, too. I learned that you will be great at Fast Company, and that you shouldn’t take too much advice from broadcast, because they don’t understand new paradigms. However, they do understand makeup, so if Fast Company wants to give you a little concealer, take it. (I learned this from beauty blogging -))

    As for media training: I’ve media trained executives for twenty-five years, and you were born knowing more than any of them.

  22. @17. Way to stay on message…getting that Seagate mention in! At least you followed one of the points in @4. For a minute there I thought I was watching a NASCAR driver being interviewed. ;-)

  23. @17. Way to stay on message…getting that Seagate mention in! At least you followed one of the points in @4. For a minute there I thought I was watching a NASCAR driver being interviewed. ;-)

  24. Your points about why you should go on TV are very well made Robert. My company was lucky enough to get our CEO onto a Fox News politics segment a couple of weeks ago and whilst it didn’t do anything for website hits (thankfully as the website in question is really nothing more than a technology demonstrator) it has generated all sorts of sales leads that we wouldn’t have got otherwise. It just gives you exposure to the people who at the end of the day actually sign the checks.

  25. Your points about why you should go on TV are very well made Robert. My company was lucky enough to get our CEO onto a Fox News politics segment a couple of weeks ago and whilst it didn’t do anything for website hits (thankfully as the website in question is really nothing more than a technology demonstrator) it has generated all sorts of sales leads that we wouldn’t have got otherwise. It just gives you exposure to the people who at the end of the day actually sign the checks.

  26. It shows how out of touch these media guys are when that dude Mike Michalowicz said “Web Two-Oh is the Way to go.”

    Someone needs to tell these guys that “Web Two-Oh” is so 2007.

  27. It shows how out of touch these media guys are when that dude Mike Michalowicz said “Web Two-Oh is the Way to go.”

    Someone needs to tell these guys that “Web Two-Oh” is so 2007.

  28. Sean,

    You zinged me on that one! But I do feel flattered that you consider me a “media guy”. So now, play nice and tell me what the right term is to use, instead of “Web 2.0″ Considering my techie background I am a little embarrassed of my err.

    - Mike Michalowicz

  29. Sean,

    You zinged me on that one! But I do feel flattered that you consider me a “media guy”. So now, play nice and tell me what the right term is to use, instead of “Web 2.0″ Considering my techie background I am a little embarrassed of my err.

    - Mike Michalowicz