Indianapolis, IN - May 1, 2008
You're either with us or against us. "Us," in this case, refers to those who are just a little hooked on Discovery Channel: The huddled masses who quietly fret that Mike Rowe might actually run out of new "Dirty Jobs" or find ourselves inexplicably fascinated (and, yes, repulsed) by "Verminators." Or the psuedo-quasi-science geeks who occasionally plan their nights around "Smash Lab" and bemoan the change of hosts for "Mythbusters." You know, us.
For some of you, that paragraph was met with nods, sighs, and a slight feeling of "Yeah, Jim, I hear you, man." For others, you likely haven't even gotten to this sentence because I lost you at Mike Rowe. Like I said, you're either with us or against us.
But none of all the admittedly great programming on Discovery seems to match the devoted fan base of "Deadliest Catch." The show chronicles the real (and very dangerous) lives of the crews of five Alaskan fishing crews as they put to the Bering Sea to haul in enough Alaskan crab to pay their wages for a year. The catch to "Catch" is that the commercial fishing has long been considered one of the most dangerous jobs in America. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a fatality rate of almost 30 times the rate of the average worker. In other words, we occasionally complain that our jobs are killing us, for the crews of these boats, they often are.
With possible death lurking over their collective shoulders, the crews also face a near 100% injury rate due to the harsh weather conditions on the Bering Sea, the heavy equipment aboard the boats required to do their work, and the utter fatigue that accompanies 36-hour stretches on deck.
Why do they do it? Well, they're crazy. While that certainly helps make it palatable (and offers some very compelling television), they also do it for the money. Full crew members can earn tens of thousands of dollars each season. Or, to put it another way, they can earn a year's salary in a week. The danger, camaraderie among crew and captains, and overarching story lines have captured the imaginations and attention of 49 million viewers last season, making "Deadliest Catch" one of the year's most successful cable television programs. That combination has spilled into the online world, as well.
At the show's website, visitors can get caught up on everything they might have missed, including videos of complete episodes, video podcasts, and behind-the-scenes features. There are full biographies of the captains from each boat and a few blogs maintained by members of the production crew who live onboard the boats with the fishing crew. You can even send the crew an audio message wishing them safe passage or asking a question.
Some of the best content, however, hasn't been created by Discovery. As a testament to the power of the Internet, and displayed in ways that would make most marketers and brand managers green with envy, fans of the show are creating and maintaining much of the site. There's a message board containing thousands of posts on topics ranging from the latest show to facing danger on the job. There's a wiki covering subjects like "All About Alaska," glossaries, photo galleries, fan art, crab fishing 101, classroom lesson plans, and even a crew look-a-like contest. There are far more, comprising thousands of pages of content, all created by fans of the site.
The site design is striking and the navigation is simple and easy to understand. Some of the main features draw from the considerable resources of Discovery, so there's a mild disconnect between the Catch site and, say, where the videos are housed, but this is a minor critique. And once you get into the fan-generated content, the design of the site falls victim to the vagaries of the software, but the content makes up for the shortcomings in the design.
So join us. Stop by the site today, watch a couple of recent videos to get whet your appetite, and then check the TV schedule for the next airing. Trust me, when it comes to "Deadliest Catch," you'd rather be with us than against us.