Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Monster SyFy Interview: Michael Hinman

I've wanted to interview Michael for a while now but was afraid to ask. When I worked up my courage and asked he immediately agreed. I am more impressed with him now than I was when he helped us through the Nuts campaign. What a help he was! Oh, I made the mistake of calling him a blogger. I apologize.
My favorite Jericho article was this one.
Remember that day?

Here's Michael:

1. What did you do before SyFy Portal?

If you mean Web-wise, absolutely nothing. I came on the Web for the first time in early 1998 through work, and when I ended up buying the Trusty Old Gateway (now the Rusty Old Gateway) in mid-1998, I started SyFy World. It's not common knowledge (although it's no secret), but I work a "real-life" job as a business journalist in Tampa.

2. How did you get started with SyFy Portal?

SyFy Portal started as SyFy World in 1998 (it merged with Star Trek Portal in early 2001 to become SyFy Portal). My best friend at the time, Matt Bianco, had started a Web site on GeoCities to support the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I fell in love with the concept of being able to publish something that people would have constant access to (the distribution model was amazing to me back in 1998), so I decided I might want to try and pursue a dream of mine to do entertainment reporting. I realized that getting noticed on the Web (early on) was almost impossible, and that you had to have a good marketing plan going in. So I thought I would make a "guinea pig" site where I can get through all the stumbling blocks without anyone noticing, and opened up SyFy World on Aug. 13, 1998. The site was meant to be temporary, and I worked on marketing ideas for it.

The ideas worked, however ... better than I thought. And before I knew it, SyFy was becoming popular among a small, but strong core group of science-fiction fans. When it came time for me to shut down the site and start the full-fledged entertainment site, our core readers shouted out. Luckily for me, "Jericho" hadn't even been thought of, or I may have had 20 tons of nuts on my doorstep. So I decided to keep SyFy World open, and see where it went.

Nine years later ... we can see where it's gone. =P

3. Which TV show is your favorite?

I'm sure it won't be popular answer with you guys, but it's "Battlestar Galactica." It's the show that I literally sit and wait for and get excited about, and watch over and over again. It just seems to me like the series that is the closest to perfection ever. In fact, my television viewing habits have greatly decreased over the past couple years partly because of time constraints, but also because I keep comparing EVERYTHING to "Battlestar Galactica," which is pretty much unfair to everything else.

That's why I am always such a late-comer to other shows. I don't want to get invested in other good shows if they are not going to be around long enough. I didn't watch "Jericho" until after a source of ours from CBS told me that it looked like the network was going to renew the show for a second season (a decision that was ultimately changed). He told me that I needed to watch the show, so I did. I loved it, and that's why I was doing what I could to help the campaign.

4. Where did you get the idea for Rabiddoll?

Rabid Doll, which will hopefully launch very soon, is a horror entertainment Web site that is more or less under the SyUniverse umbrella (SyUniverse is the parent corporation of SyFy Portal, which I had officially incorporated earlier this year). It's a partnership of myself, graphic designer Bryant Griffin, Web programmer Nick Chase, and journalist Sherri Lonon. That makes it different from SyFy Portal since I wholly own that site. However, Bryant and Nick are they key people behind SyFy, and Sherri has written columns for SyFy in the past, so it's pretty much "From the makers of SyFy Portal" lol.

Rabid Doll was an idea we actually had back in 2003 or so. We wanted to expand outside of science-fiction (because we eventually WILL cover all entertainment, even if it's not until our 20th anniversary), and decided that horror was the best step outside from science-fiction, since there is a lot of crossover. Also, Bryant Griffin is a huge horror fan, as is Sherri (even though she wasn't part of the original concept), so it seemed like a logical move.

However, we had some internal politics going on at the time, and while we came up with a name, a logo and even had a site design finished (it was more or less a reskin of what SyFy Portal looked like at the time), the idea ended up being a victim of the internal politics and never pursued.

About 10 months ago, I was talking with Sherri (she is a former editor of mine in the newspaper business here in the Tampa Bay area) and she talked about how cool it would be to do her own horror site but she didn't have the resources to put it together. I'm like, "Hey! We had a horror site idea floating around a few years back ... we should resurrect it!" And like any great horror film, we brought Rabid Doll back to life.

The site design will be different from the original concept in 2004, but everything else is the same, including the logo. Bryant did a kick-ass job with that logo, and I'm glad we are finally able to use it.

Rabid Doll will be handled differently from SyFy Portal. It will cover a lot of independent horror and such -- productions that don't get a lot of online press -- and it will be far closer to the blog concept than SyFy Portal ever will be. People will be able to comment directly at the stories, and they will vary in length far more than SyFy does (some stories may just be a couple paragraphs, something you never see at SyFy). It also will expand into different types of television and movies that may not be normally classified as horror, but are more doomsday like, which is why "Jericho" coverage will move there as soon as the site launches.

I think it will be very exciting, but its survival -- like any site -- depends on traffic. And we need everyone's help on that. :)
5. Did you ever believe the Nuts campaign for Jericho would be successful?

No. I have seen so many campaigns from fans in the nine years that I have done the Web site. I even interviewed the great Bjo Trimble, the woman behind the 1960s "Save Star Trek" campaign, who gave me tips that we published on how to make a fan campaign successful.

I really wanted "Jericho" to come back, but I had already written it off. We do very minimal coverage on fan campaigns, unless they are newsworthy. The "Jericho" campaign WAS newsworthy because it was clever, it was smart, and there were some strong people behind it. The campaign used facts and figures, not threats and insults, to make its point. And the "Nuts to You, CBS!" still makes me chuckle.

When we got the official word that "Jericho" was coming back, I actually had to wipe a tear. Not because a show was coming back (I like "Jericho," but I had already accepted its demise, so I had moved on), but because the fans behind this effort -- as faceless as they are to me -- just seemed like the most wonderful people in the world. I was the first media outlet to interview Jeffrey Braverman at Nuts Online, and he or someone at Nuts Online would keep in regular contact with me and I would read his blog. Just seeing the things that people were writing to him. Just reading the e-mail I got on all this. I love these fans, almost as much as I love the Save Farscape fans.

There are some nasty people out there who like to be involved in campaigns, and they wonder why their campaigns die before they get started. "Jericho" should have been renewed. It was a mistake for CBS to not renew it, and not only did the fans speak -- the fans made a difference. You spoke the language that the network understands, and you got results. That, to me, is what "fandom" is truly about.

6. Do you have a blog, besides your own, that you read regularly?

Well, just to clarify, SyFy Portal isn't a blog. :) We existed before blogs did, and as much as I like reading blogs, I don't write a blog. We are a news site, and while we might post opinions, they are clearly noted, and our reporting is generally entertainment reporting following journalistic standards.

Most of the blogs I read on a daily basis tend to be the ones that I have to read for work, so they are more locally based like Sticks Of Fire. I do read The TV Addict after meeting its main writer at the SciFi Channel Press Tour in Vancouver last June, which is an awesome site, and I also read anything that Michael Ausiello over at TV Guide writes, because he is probably one of the best entertainment reporters out there, in my opinion. I only wish I had half the talent he does. I also enjoy Maureen Ryan's column over at the Chicago Tribune, and her associated blog, as she has her finger on the pulse of everything television.

7. Anything you'd like to add to my questions?
I think you covered everything, lol! But if you have followups, send them over and I will get them back to you ASAP.

I want to really salute the Jericho Rangers. There have been some people trying to give SyFy Portal credit for everything from starting the campaign, to suggesting the nuts, and everything else. But I am no Clay Aiken. We didn't start the campaign. We didn't come up with any of the ideas (thanks, Shaun O'Mac!), and we didn't work anywhere near as hard as the fans behind this effort. I didn't even buy a single peanut (sorry Jeffery!). I wanted to see the show return, but all SyFy did was report the news. If it was newsworthy about the campaign, we wrote about it.

It's kind of a cold way to look at it, but we have to try and stay as neutral as you can (at least as neutral as possible in the entertainment business). It was the fans that did this. It was the fans that brought this show back. And it's the fans who will ALWAYS get credit. Even if I have to go online and correct every single blog on the planet, I will. That's how much the fans deserve it.

At the same time, I want to thank the fans for their support in our coverage. It meant a lot, and it really makes a difference for us. The more readers we get, the longer we will survive online because it is getting more and more expensive to host sites. The e-mails I received, the messages left in different places, the mentions you guys made of us on message boards and blogs, it meant a lot. So thank YOU for all of that.

You ruined the interview! You really aren't Clay Aiken?? Okay, I forgive you.
Can I be a Hinmanmate then? We love you .
Thank you for everything!


openminded1 said...

WOW!!!! Another GREAT article! Thank you!!!!!

kestral said...

I have always enjoyed reading the articles at SyFyPortal! It's so nice to read his take on the campaign. I enjoyed reading the history behind his site. Thank you for another great interview!

SaveJake said...

Too Cool!!!
Thank you so much! It is great to read another perspective of our campaign. The truth is, without all of you backing us with your reports, we could have never done it alone...!!!

erika said...

Well, I certainly like that you are a BSG fan, because so am I! (although i did join the party late, it is one of the best shows out there).

Thanks so much for your Jericho support!

Jericho Saved said...

Thank you all for commenting. Michael is such a doll. Oops--I hope he's not the RabidDoll.

Bob Johnson said...

Another great interview, and a BSG fan as well!

Skeeterbit said...

Michael thank you for the interview. Also, thank you for keeping JERICHO in the news.

Michael Hinman said...

OMG ... I can't believe my ramblings are worth 40 Diggs! Hahah!

Thanks, guys! :)

Jericho Saved said...

I got 41 so you actually got a total of 81.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Is is rumor or true that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be 2 movies? I have been begging every director/producer in the past of the movies to please consider it because I didn't know who would be. It will be the greatest sellers in time!!!