Live Experiment, The Jenna Wolfe Show
This past summer I accidently stumbled onto something on Facebook that I have watched over the last six months with childlike fascination, The Jenna Wolfe Show on Facebook Live.
If you don’t know who Jenna Wolfe is by name you may recognize her by face if you’ve ever been a regular viewer of The Today Show. She co-anchored Weekend Today and would pop every few weeks with workout tips and other one-off human interest pieces during the weekday show. After she and the producers of the show had come to an impasse regarding her role at Today, they decided to part ways. In the years since she left The Today Show, she has had a baby and written the one fitness/lifestyle book that I’ve ever read cover-to-cover and found even remotely possible to incorporate into my normal life. I've been following her on Facebook for a few years, which is how one day I got a notification that she was Live on Facebook and how she subsequently introduced me to my first Facebook Live Show.
But let me backup. If you don’t know what Facebook Live is, it is a live video function that Facebook launched in August 2015. It gives you the ability to record video live and share the live stream, and a recorded version of your live stream with your Facebook friends. It also allows viewers to type comments and questions. And it's as simple as that. Other social media platforms have their own versions of the concept, Twitter and YouTube, and most recently Instagram. Right now, Facebook Live is free and is, perhaps, the one space on Facebook that remains advertisement free.
Jenna Wolfe and her producer Lance did not invent the concept of a Facebook Live Show, but I believe that they are one of the few that are doing it right. It is a continual work in progress and evolution that regular viewers have been watching unfold. The first show that I watched featured Jenna and her team on the roof of her apartment building. Despite how high-tech the concept of recording a live show is, the setup is no-frills. She isn’t even mic-ed, and the show is broadcast on the various live platforms using a gaggle of cellphones on tripods. It is the definition of grassroots. Since that first show, she has changed locations and taken the show on location, even broadcasting from a row boat in Central Park once. The Jenna Wolfe Show is now filmed, in what appears to be their permanent home, in a New York City apartment. Viewers have witnessed the space make its own transformation, from pop-up camping chairs and bare walls and floors, that lent a continual echo, to today with some sparse furniture, artwork, and tables that provide warmth and personality and have nearly snuffed out the echo.
The 4-hour show was once a continual, nonstop, live feed made up of segments that ended when the conversation did. Fortunately, it hasn’t evolved much beyond that point but now the segments are punctuated by a pause in the Live Feed. Each show begins with an Opening Segment where Jenna chats with her producer and answers questions from the various live stream comments. They make it a point to read and respond to each and every comment, which is less cumbersome than it may sound, and through which she has built a sort of community of loyal viewers. It is a dynamic interaction that shines a glaring light on what mainstream network talk shows are missing, human interaction. We are invited to comment on their Facebook pages and send them Tweets but rarely does the interaction go beyond that. The Jenna Wolfe Show overcomes the walls that separate the viewer and host by creating its own genre. Gone is the old-world format of “talk show” and now is the era of the “conversation show.”
The comments and questions from her digital audience determine the direction of the show, as they would in any two-way conversation. This give-and-take is even more unique when she brings in a guest and viewers have the ability to ask questions of the many gurus and experts that have sat with Jenna to talk with us. The concept is experimental on nearly every level and the moxie required by Jenna and her producer, Lance, to make this leap of faith inspires me every time I get to sit and watch it.
As a professional in the field of communications I am captivated by the endeavor, but as a viewer, I am grateful for the experience.
To find out more about The Jenna Wolfe Show click here to visit her Facebook page.