Lessons bloggers can learn from 24

Unless you live under a rock, 24 is a smash hit drama on the FOX network and Jack Bauer is the hero played by Kiefer Sutherland. The drama is innovative in that one season is one day that progresses in real time with each episode an hour. Jack is an agent with the counter terrorist unit staving off the terrorists from attacking America. I am sooo addicted to this show that it got me thinking, why am I so addicted? What lessons can I learn from the show and Jack?

Keep it moving

Every episode in this drama opens with a bang. There’s no opening sequence with corny music and actors trying to look good in various poses, just a ticking digital timer that stops at 24 and then an ominous voice announcing, “the following takes place between…” and bang! We’re right where we left off.

Unless you want to chronicle every living moment of your life, this is the way a blog should be or any website. People are quick to leave if you fail to capture their attention or even let go of it for a moment.

A multi-layered plot

Every episode is driven by a large conflict (a terrorist group is about to carry out a massive campaign) and little conflicts (obstacles that get in Jack’s way). This is effective because every moment is moving forward and you don’t feel any “lag or drag” typical to many productions.

The only reason this works is because there’s also a rich plot that moves it forward. In any given episode, we’re taken into a variety of scenes or contexts that serve as mini-dramas that could stand on their own. One moment we’re with Jack in the field, the Counter Terrorist Unit, the White House, or terrorist hideout. Office politics, story lines of the supporting cast, and even the backdrop of current events are masterly mixed to keep the viewer on edge. It keeps you hungering for the next episode.

What does this mean for bloggers? I think Johnchow.com does a good job of this. We’re basically taken along for a ride on his quest to make money from a blog. We’re given updates on his quest but that’s not all that’s covered. His blog is richly interspersed with life as an internet entrepreneur (trade shows and expensive dinners) and quality posts on a variety of topics.

Constant reinvention

If you’ve watched the series you know that nothing is sacred save Jack Bauer (who takes a major beating every now and then). Main characters you thought were one of the good guys turn bad and favorite characters die like flies. It’s really amazing how the show rejuvenates itself and keeps things fresh without sacrificing the essence of the drama.

It’s the same with any website. We don’t want to read the same thing every day but if we read a blog for design-related topics and it suddenly becomes an automotive blog, you’re going to lose readers unless you find a way to weave it in or evolve it.

Take whatever comes your way

Jack is unstoppable. Not only is he skilled, he doesn’t waste time making a decision. That’s why you know when he has to pause for 5 seconds, it must be a really important decision. I think we’ve all watched him hand out the equivalent of death sentences with no more than three words.

Again, John Chow. He will turn anything into an opportunity. Banned from Digg? No problem, now it’s a story and earnings are stronger than ever. John simply tells it as a story. No rant against Digg or sob story.

Have empathy

Jack’s ruthlessness toward terrorists is only matched by his empathy for others and compassion. He’s a patriot and will risk his life to protect things that matter to him.

I think it’s the same with web content. One of biggest reasons LifeHacker has such a strong following is because in the quest to provide us with strategies for greater productivity, you come under the impression that LifeHacker really cares about the reader. It shows in the articles and even more so in the comments where the tone is unusually positive.

Recap the highlights

Every episode of 24 starts with a recap of the story leading up to the current episode. It’s edited to be thrilling and stand on its own. It also prepares our mind to dive into the new episode.

Do you have a popular series on your site or a very popular article? Why not recap the highlights for your new readers? This is something we see on LifeHacker with their weekly recaps. In fact, lots of the blog networks do this. It’s a great service for regulars and new readers alike. The publisher also gets to make the most out of their greatest asset, the archives.

Put it all together

This is probably the hardest part. Putting it all together and creating a brand image that works. Not every blog is destined for greatness but it sure doesn’t hurt to try!

I’m always looking for ways to improve my site so feel free to leave a suggestion!