Invasion of the 'Idol' Bloggers
5:26 PM PST 2/21/2011 by Shirley Halperin
As 'American Idol' has grown into a ratings juggernaut, so has the pool of pundits and bloggers dedicated to covering the show 24-7. Have we reached 'Idol' overload?
March 1 marks the release of the book American Idol: Celebrating 10 Years, a photo retrospective that chronicles the show’s decade on the air and a project I shepherded over the summer of 2010 as both writer and photo editor.It was a massive undertaking. The American Idol photo archive contains tens of thousands of images, many of which had never seen life outside of a FreMantle Media hard drive. For an Idol fan, it was the flashback of a lifetime. As I combed through it all, it was like reliving the excitement of those formative early season days -- the pre-makeover David Cook, an adorably clueless Kellie Pickler, the camera-ready Constantine Maroulis, the kooky side of Katharine McPhee, an über-confident Adam Lambert, the no-nonsense Jennifer Hudson and ever-the-showman Taylor Hicks, among many memorable others. But beyond the contestants, what truly amazed me was observing the show’s meteoric growth. During Season 1, the judges’ table was little more than an industrial plastic fold-up number with black mesh and an American Idol iron-on logo. Season 2 took it up a notch when someone finally went to Ikea. By season 3, they had bells, whistles, neon and everything in between as a behemoth was truly born. Along with the tens of millions of viewers -- ratings for the show peaked during season 5 when 31 million tuned in to watch Hicks win -- came the invasion of Idol bloggers. It’s amazing to think back to season 4 when maybe a couple dozen outlets crammed into one room for the post-finale winner’s circle. Today, there are a couple hundred reporters and bloggers dedicated to covering the Idol beat, oftentimes exclusively, prompting one to wonder: Is there really that much demand for Idol analysis on a daily basis? Do we need our own 24-hour American Idol cable channel? Of course not, but the pool of pundits is growing. In addition to the usual suspects -- your USA Todays, MTVs, TV Guides, Zap2It's and the like -- the New York Times now employs an Idol recapper, and New York magazine’s Vulture blog has hired comedian Paul F. Tompkins to provide Idol commentary. The former Best Week Ever host began his first blog post with this opening line: “I haven’t watched a full episode of American Idol in years. Maybe the year Taylor Hicks won. He won, right?” Indeed, even in Idol’s tenth season, we’re seeing seasoned journos jump in to offer their take on the A&R wonder they derided but a few years ago (here’s looking at you, Roy Trakin). TMZ has an Idol landing page as does People, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard along with the very site you’re reading, but aren’t we all pretty much saying the same thing? I posed that very question to Simon Fuller and his PR wingman Julian Henry who had this to offer: "It's not enough to simply review the show and recount what happened, you have to tell the story of American Idol in a fresh voice for people to want to read your story. All type of trivia and detail connected with the show gets scrutinized and commented upon and it's meant that the style of the coverage of the show has had to evolve as bloggers and columnists look to differentiate their copy. Some of this writing has been genuinely memorable, insightful and funny.” Some of it has been downright nasty, too, and, in a way, that’s the beauty of the internet: there is an antidote to anything. If MJs Big Blog isn’t your bag, maybe the brash and unfiltered Vote For The Worst is. Or you might want to give Green Melinda a whirl. If it’s spoilers you seek, your best bet is Joe’s Place. For the word on Idol’s place in the music business, we hope you’d come here to THR. Clearly, there’s limitless room on the web, and plenty of niche angles to cover, but have we hit Idol overload? Not according to the show’s executives. “The enthusiasm and support of these journalists and bloggers is important to us,” says Henry. “It helps make American Idol water cooler TV. And we will continue to do everything we can to encourage access and interactivity with the show.” What do you think? Are there too many Idol bloggers competing for your attention? What are your favorite Idol destinations on the web and why?