The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

« Previous Post | Technology Home | Next Post »

'Diggnation' co-hosts talk online video, Twitter on 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon'

March 11, 2009 |  6:31 pm
Jimmy Fallon appears on Diggnation
Jimmy Fallon (left) as a guest host on Diggnation, featuring Alex Albrecht (center) and Kevin Rose. Credit: Revision3

When Jimmy Fallon appeared as a guest host on "Diggnation" in January to promote his new late-night talk show, he made clear that he was going after a different audience than broadcast TV was used to.

Now, in the second week of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," the "Saturday Night Live" alum is returning the favor. "Diggnation" co-hosts Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose will appear tonight as guests on his show.

"We sort of assumed it was going to be months before we got onto the show," Albrecht said.

The courtship of "Diggnation," a weekly online video show that's wildly popular among the geek crowd, shows how resolute Fallon has been in his quest to attract a tech-savvy audience.

"Late Night" producer Gavin Purcell has said that viewers can expect to see more product placement than they're used to. Purcell, who previously produced "Attack of the Show" on the G4 network, is pushing for gadgets, games and Web services to feature prominently.

In one gag, the camera zoomed in on audience members and then displayed silly fake Facebook status updates above their heads. A blogger from Engadget demonstrated the Palm Pre cellphone on the show. And Fallon used micro-blogging service Twitter to solicit interview questions for Cameron Diaz from fans.

Twitter has become a major promotional tool for Fallon and Co. The host has an account (@jimmyfallon); Purcell has one (@gavinpurcell); even the drummer ...

... for the Roots, the show's house band, tweets during taping (@qoolquest).

Rose, who is the founder of social news website, and Albrecht are Twitter stars, with more than 264,000 and 54,000 followers, respectively. Unsurprisingly, Fallon is featuring the website on tonight's show.

Tonight's "Twitter experiment," as they're calling it, is to feature an audience member's account on the show and in messages on all of their Twitter pages. The idea seems to be to find out just how popular they can make him or her.

In the first hour since the group tweeted, asking people to follow amateur cartoonist Bryan Brinkman, his Twitter account amassed more than 7,800 new followers -- that's more than 100 new fans every minute. The experiment may get even more interesting once the show actually airs.

The gimmick may cause a tremor among the Internet crowd. But how a mainstream audience reacts to Rose, Albrecht and all the Twitter hubbub is a mystery that may not be answered for quite a while. After all, it's more difficult to poll reactions from folks who aren't constantly tweeting their every thought.

Albrecht was optimistic about the crossover. He estimated that 25% of viewers would be familiar with him and Rose, though he acknowledged that it could be fewer if much of former host Conan O'Brien's more mainstream audience is still watching.

"If he's building this new audience -- people who are connected into the Internet -- it could be as high as 50% to 60%," Albrecht said. "I mean, they may not watch our stuff, but [they'll] know the name Kevin Rose from Digg. And know he's got some blond guy sitting next to him every once in a while."

Fallon was less confident that his audience would be familiar with Rose and that "blond guy." The Diggnation pair are the only two guests on "Late Night's" online calendar whose names are accompanied by an explanation of who they are ("of Diggnation," it reads).

"I think a majority of my audience may not know the work these guys are doing on the Web," Fallon wrote in an e-mail interview. "I am a big fan of Diggnation."

On Diggnation, the co-hosts discuss the top stories of the week on Digg. The pair lounge with laptops on a living room couch while sipping beer and bantering about odd news and gadgets.

The production values are fairly low, but the Revision3-produced Web show gets hundreds of thousands of downloads every week. The crowd is an advertiser's dream: young, tech-savvy males with plenty of disposable income.

And nowadays, when advertisers are becoming notoriously more difficult to wrangle, this is the type of audience that networks lust after.

-- Mark Milian