Social Media Gets Ready For Its Close-up

By Jere Hester
|  Wednesday, Jun 24, 2009  |  Updated 11:50 PM PDT
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Facebook is going from the computer screen to the big screen. Twitter, meanwhile, is providing inspiration for a book and a TV show.

The seeming unlikely projects are the products our increasingly melded media world, as well as signs that traditional entertainment forms are playing catch-up and trying to capitalize on the youthful reach of social media.

Variety reports that David Fincher, director of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” is in talks to helm the Facebook movie, to be called, “The Social Network.” The film, with a script by Aaron Sorkin of “The West Wing” and “A Few Good Men” fame, will tell how Mark Zuckerberg hatched Facebook in his Harvard dorm room and raised it to become a 200-million-member phenomena.

The Twitter book also is a dormitory-spawned creation: two 19-year-old freshman from the University of Chicago have inked a deal with Penguin Classics to write "Twitterature," which is billed as "a hipster’s Cliff Notes to Cliff Notes."

The humor book will tell the stories of great books in 20 tweets or less (that's more generous than the challenge we offered last month asking our audience to summarize profound literary works in a mere 140-characters-or-less tweet).

The book deal follows last month’s news that a planned reality TV competition show will use Twitter to put players on the trail of celebrities, in an interactive format.

All this social media-driven media appears aimed at younger folks – the “Twitterature” website proclaims outright that the book is for the 18-to-35 set.

There’s ample reason for the youth movement: The New York Times reports that the TV networks pulled their lowest ratings ever among the coveted 18-to-49 crowd last week while CBS and ABC’s evening newscasts suffered their worst overall week in history.

“The Tonight Show,” with new host Conan O’Brien, actually bucked the trend, doing fairly well in attracting the 18-to-49 crowd, according to The Times. Some audience members in that demographic likely followed O’Brien from the 12:30 a.m. slot, but new bits like his “Twitter Tracker” gag probably aren’t hurting the cause.

There are many questions facing the future of the entertainment industry as life is increasingly lived online: Can social media help draw audiences to movies, TV and books? Will the social media magic translate into other forms of entertainment media? Or will the Twitter/Facebook generation find – and make – its own entertainment online?

Stay tuned – and logged on.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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