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Want to break into Hollywood? Try breaking into Twitter first. Just ask 28 year-old Justin Halpern and he'll tell you: Twitter can be your golden ticket.
On August 3, Halpern set up an account, @shitmydadsays. The purpose: share some of his 73 year-old dad's wisdom with the world. You see, Halpern had just moved back in with the folks and figured that some of the things his dad told him might be worth rebroadcasting on Twitter. Turns out he was right: @shitmydadsays now has over 700,000 followers.
Halpern's tweets range from the common sensical ("Why would i want to check a voicemail on my cell phone? People want to talk to me, call again. If i want to talk to you, I'll answer") to the NSFW (a lot of NSFW).
Last month, Halpern sold Shit My Dad Says as a book to Harper Collins. And now CBS has picked up a comedy project based on the Twitter account. The Hollywood Reporter reports:
CBS has picked up a comedy project based on the Twitter account, which has enlisted more than 707,000 followers since launching in August and has made its creator, Justin Halpern, an Internet star.
"Will & Grace" creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick are on board to executive produce and supervise the writing of the multicamera family comedy, which Halpern will co-pen with Patrick Schumacker. Halpern and Schumacker will also co-executive produce the Warner Bros. TV-produced project, which has received a script commitment.
Not bad. In less than five months and with fewer than 75 tweets, Halpern has managed to get a book deal and a television deal. Congratulations are certainly in order and I take it that Halpern will now be moving out from his parents' place.
But before anyone calls this a victory for new media, I think it says a lot more about traditional media than it says about new media. That's because, in my opinion, Harper Collins and CBS have turned to the internet more out of desperation than in search of new opportunity. Book publishing is more brutal than ever and producing television hits doesn't look so easy these days either. So why not take a punt on something like Shit My Dad Says?
The logic being employed by CBS and Harper Collins is pretty simple: the internet is a good proving ground for new content and ideas, so anything that has attracted attention online must have a decent shot of being viable offline. Added bonus: a successful online property comes with a built-in following that will hopefully translate into an offline following.
Unfortunately for CBS and Harper Collins, the devil is in the details. Turning a Twitter account with ~70 tweets and 700,000+ followers into sitcom success and a best-selling book is probably easier said than done. Obviously, there's going to have to be a lot more content development and the product of that may or may not resonate as well as Shit My Dad Says' 140 character tweets.
Which is precisely why translating online success to offline success has proven to be so difficult. It's easy to follow @shitmydadsays; there's no friction. But getting all of those followers to tune into CBS for 30 minutes to watch a show that will be based on 'shit my dad says'? Huge friction.
None of this is to say that traditional media companies shouldn't be on the prowl online, or that they won't eventually discover their next big hit on Twitter or some random blog. Indeed, they probably will at some point. But for now, the fact that ~70 tweets can earn a book deal or television project is perhaps the best evidence yet that the traditional media is flailing in the wind.
Photo credit: ellievanhoutte via Flickr.