Twitter, BuzzFeed join for breezy online morning show
NEW YORK — Twitter and BuzzFeed initially planned to start their new morning show, “AM to DM,” each weekday at 8 a.m. Then they considered their likely audience, and scheduled it for 10.
Now there’s time to wake up leisurely, have coffee and fire up your smartphone. Hosts Isaac Fitzgerald and Saeed Jones, who like four-fifths of the show’s audience are under age 35, don’t have to rise at an ungodly hour. It’s all so civilized.
Launched quietly in late September from a studio in BuzzFeed’s Manhattan office, “AM to DM” is a breezy mix of news and pop culture. Viewers can click on Twitter and watch the stream live, or catch highlights later in the day.
“It’s been kind of fun,” said Shani Hilton, head of U.S. news at BuzzFeed. “It feels like the early days of BuzzFeed where we were experimenting all the time and making things out of bubble gum and glue.”
“AM to DM” (DM standing for ‘direct message’) neatly fits the ambitions of two young media companies. Twitter has moved aggressively into video during the past year, streaming more than 800 events during the summer months. BuzzFeed wants to make money with its news operation and be top of mind with social media companies experimenting with video.
After working with BuzzFeed on an election night special, Twitter suggested the morning show. Rather than search for potential hosts with a television background, they found their team in BuzzFeed’s newsroom. Fitzgerald, 34, is a former firefighter who is BuzzFeed’s books editor, and had made several appearances on the “Today” show to talk about the literary scene. Jones, 31, is a published poet who was executive editor of culture at the web site. They make up with energy what they lack in polish.
“I never in my life thought there would be a place for a gay black man to be fully involved in a morning show,” Jones said.
“AM to DM” talks about the news more than it reports it; Hilton said producers work under the assumption viewers have already checked out news headlines. The show relies heavily on the collaborating companies.
Opening Tuesday’s show with the story about Alabama U. S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and molestation accusations, the hosts review what has been written about him on Twitter. They conducted Skype interviews with BuzzFeed White House correspondent Adrian Carrasquillo to preview what President Donald Trump will face now that he’s returned from Asia, and national security correspondent Thomas Frank about the investigation into Russian actions during last year’s presidential campaign.
“Will there ever be a point where there will be a smoking gun, or will it be an incremental creep?” Jones asked Frank.
Frank replied: “The answer is, nobody knows.”
As Jones conducts one interview Fitzgerald stands beside him, typing on his smartphone.
The show’s regular “fire tweets” segment simply involves the hosts kibitzing over random remarks made on Twitter. They laughed at one person who wrote, “no one actually tells you that an adult job is deleting 80 percent of your emails and ignoring the rest.”
Melissa Joan Hart stopped by for a celebrity interview. She answered questions about the differences between acting and directing, was given a few minutes to address a social cause she’s promoting and played along with a quiz that, among other things, revealed she was an “I Love Lucy” fan. The show has had a mix of politicians and celebrities during its first two months, including Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, singer Audra McDonald and actress Nicole Richie.
“It was fun,” said CBS “S.W.A.T.” actress Lina Esco after her recent appearance. “Chill. I felt like I was hanging out at someone’s living room.”
Tuesday’s show also featured a BuzzFeed correspondent giving relationship advice and an “NFL fashion ambassador” talking about “Dungeons and Dragons” with Fizgerald.
The content of “AM to DM” is much like that on Twitter, Fitzgerald said.
“Twitter is not one thing and that’s what I love about it,” he said. “People are not one thing. People are complex and the complexity is reflected in the platform and I hope it’s reflected on the show.”
It’s hard to tell what kind of an impact it is having. Twitter said at least one million people checked out some part of each show during its first week, but that’s deceptive; the standard used by the television industry is how many people watch in an average minute and Twitter won’t provide that figure. The company also says “AM to DM” is “one of the most-viewed daily shows” live-streaming on Twitter, but won’t say what show has the most viewers and how the new morning show compares.