Friday, July 27, 2012

Reddit-powered show gets disabled comedian Zach Anner rolling again

From Mashable:

In 2010, Zach Anner submitted an audition tape to Oprah’s “Your OWN Show” contest. When the Internet got wind of it, the web couldn’t stop laughing. The wheelchair-bound comic charmed the online communities of Reddit and 4chan with self-deprecating humor that poked fun at his own affliction — cerebral palsy.

More than nine million votes later (despite an alleged voting rig, which Redditors debunked), the Internet convinced one of the biggest cultural influencers in cable television, and arguably America.

The show, Rollin’ With Zach Anner, was a travelogue for the disabled. Four episodes later, it was canceled due to poor ratings.

Despite a short-lived cable career, Anner is asking his web audience to give the travel show a second chance, and he has help from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

The new web series Riding Shotgun With Zach Anner lets Reddit users decide where Anner will travel. He will shoot in eight cities over the course of six weeks.

Starting Wednesday through midnight EST on July 23, Reddit users can submit a city in the continental U.S. or Canada on the official Zach Anner subreddit, along with a one-sentence explanation on why he should go there.

Anner, who will also kick off the campaign with an AMA Wednesday at 11 a.m. EST, will choose eight destinations within the 25 most up-voted submissions.

Three friends experienced in film and production will join Anner in his travels. Gas, food and accommodations will be provided by Reddit, though Ohanian claims that he is seeking sponsorship from brands. There will also be limited edition t-shirts for sale online.

Despite OWN’s cancellation, Anner notes that the journey, on some level, would not be possible without the network. The team will travel in what he calls the “Oprah mobile,” a car he received from Oprah that’s specially equipped for his wheelchair.

Riding Shotgun will utilize Reddit’s sophisticated commenting system and the videos will be hosted on a dedicated YouTube channel.

According to Ohanian, this is the first series to have an official branded subreddit. Even the most engaged subreddits in the entertainment industry, like for Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, are run by fans.

“These shows do such a good job building an audience. They keep us so tuned in that we just cannot wait for next week’s episode. But what do they do to stoke that community when the show isn’t on? Maybe they tweet a few times, maybe they update their Facebook page, but none of those things are actually places for fans of the show to come together and talk about it,” says Ohanian.

Ohanian hopes that Anner can be an example for brands to consider taking advantage of Reddit.

As for Anner, integrating the online community was an important part of his vision for the travel show, even when it was on OWN.

“[Reddit users] weren’t able to be included in the making, which I felt was really important. It’s why I got there in the first place — because they could support this thing that they believe in,” says Anner. “If you eliminate that part of interactivity, that’s less exciting for people who have been championing you all along.”