Conan O’Brien has said that social media were central to kickstarting interest in his latest US talkshow after he left NBC’s Tonight Show in 2010.
The comedian and presenter added that social media was now central to Conan, which broadcasts on cable channel TBS, helping grow audience numbers by tweeting out who the guests were ahead of the show and co-creating an online version of the show with fans.
O’Brien left NBC in 2010, after 16 years hosting Late Night followed by a short stint on The Tonight Show, and then set about driving up interest in his new ventures through Twitter.
“I come from traditional old media. If you asked me what my website was like at NBC, it was a page that would tell you how to get tickets and who was on the week. That was just a few years ago: it was the stone age,” O’Brien said during a session at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Wednesday.
“I had no outlet. We were off the air. Overnight the Twitter and Facebook following grew,” he added. “I didn’t know what Twitter was a few years ago. Now I have 8 million and something followers. My first tweet was something about being cast adrift. We sold out a nationwide tour with no radio advertising, it was kind of unheard at the time. All we did was send out a tweet directing people to web pages.”
Along with Twitter, Facebook is fundamental to the Conan show, O’Brien said, who is now looking at ways to generate revenue from his Facebook presence.
He added: “It’s been huge for us, 25m views in the last month or something for some of the clips. We are actually thinking of ways to monetise some of it.
“If there is a way to have advertisers involved, if it is hands off and allows me to be still myself then great. If sometime during the integration I have to pick up some Doritos and say they ‘sure they are delicious” and not acknowledge it, it is creepy. It doesn’t feel right, so we have to say no.”
At one point during the Cannes session O’Brien joked with his industry audience: “Advertisers are scum.”
O’Brien also said he believed that the big US movie studios are now aping the Conan show and becoming more interactive with their audiences.
• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email email@example.com or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010