Q&A with Amanda Congdon
Being un-boomed may be one of the best things to happen to Amanda Congdon since the Internet. The former host of Rocketboom, an online video blog downloaded more than 200,000 times a day, has landed two jobs, with television and cable news networks.
Congdon, 25, will regularly appear on ABC's online news channel, ABC News Now, and will host a weekly five-minute video blog appearing on ABC.com. Congdon, who will primarily provide news analysis and commentary through the network's online channels, says she also expects to occasionally pop up on Good Morning America, Nightline, and other ABC news television programs.
Congdon also found an outlet for the comedy chops she developed on Rocketboom. She's working to develop a show for HBO's on-air and on-demand channels. The subject of the show is still in the works, but Congdon plans to both write and star in the series.
BusinessWeek.com writer Catherine Holahan recently caught up with the "cewebrity" to discuss her new shows, the jump from online commentary to network news, and how the Internet is changing the concept of fame. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.
How do you feel about the move from online to on air?
Well I'm really excited, because [HBO and ABC] are both my first choice in looking at what I am doing in two separate segments. One is more news oriented and the other is entertainment. I really wanted to be at ABC for news, because they're clearly the leader of this digital movement in terms of other major networks.
[The project for] HBO is going to be a comedy show, and it's going to be across both the TV and the Internet. No one has yet made original programming for both the television and the Internet. So to play with original programming for both platforms is something I'm excited to do. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of original programming and cross-platform programming.
How will the ABC video blog differ from what you have been doing online?
I think the content will be different. I'm still going to be doing what I do when I'm on camera, but I think that the content will be a little bit more able to go in depth into things. [On Rocketboom,] we would talk about something really quick and move onto the next subject. This will be more in-depth coverage on all the items we bring up.
I do want the news show to have a certain amount of integrity in that, while I will be giving commentary, this will be information that has been verified. It isn't going to be something that we throw together and hope the facts are right. It's ABC News, so it definitely needs to be not false information. At Rocketboom, the fact checking was a little bit—it was what it was, it wasn't always perfect. I was doing it on my own. At ABC, I will have people to help me.
How is making content for broadcast television different from producing a video blog?
The interactivity makes a show that's based online a different type of show because you're constantly communicating with your viewers. When I was with Rocketboom, 25% of the stories were viewer submitted, and I'm sure we're going to make the interactivity a big part of the ABC video blog.
How will the HBO show involve both online and television audiences? Will it be the same show on both platforms?
I want both the television show and the online show to be able to be watched on their own. So if you only want to subscribe to the online version, you could not watch the television show…but if you're a really hardcore fan, you can, in fact, tune into both.
[The shows] would have the same characters and the same elements, but there's something interactive and more conversational about video blogs, and they allow for a different kind of conversation to occur between the characters and the viewers. So that kind of interplay will be played out online. And the television show would be something related. I definitely want to make sure that both shows are complete within themselves.
How does what you're doing now compare to what you wanted to do when you first began acting?
As for HBO, this is kind of like, I don't really know where to go from here. If it's a successful show, that was always kind of the top of the mountain for me. As for news, this whole media career I have gotten myself into is thrilling, but totally unexpected. I never had any expectations to do this…I was in fact very interested and curious like a reporter, and it just kind of lent itself to me. The opportunity was there, so I seized it.
Your Internet celebrity really helped you get noticed by traditional media. How has the Internet changed celebrity, in your view?
A celebrity used to be someone you could never get near and never touch…. Now, if you look at MySpace—Nicole Richie has a MySpace page. Celebrities are seeing, or their managers are telling them about, the benefits of getting involved online and [interacting with the audience]. Radio personalities are having Web chat sessions with fans, and the viewers are becoming a part of the shows, which is so terrific because it isn't television putting out information that viewers passively receive. There's a give and take now.