The Jeff Probst-hosted reality series Survivor launched in 2000 and is now in its 22nd season. Probst is more than just a host, however. Since the early days of the series, he has guided the show’s development, and in recent years has pushed to establish a strong presence in the social media landscape. He established the @JeffProbst Twitter account in 2008 and offers regular updates on what’s happening behind the scenes at his website, JeffProbst.com. He’s been writing a weekly post-episode blog on the site all through this season and live tweets through both the East and West coast airing of the show every Wednesday night.
Probst sat down recently for an interview with TechCrunch in which he discusses the growing social push for Survivor and the efforts he’s put into making that happen. “I’m fascinated by the major shift taking place that allows for truly global conversation with people all over the world,” he explained. “JeffProbst.com offered the opportunity to own my content and also provided the ability for me to take control of my voice and not have to rely on other outlets to accurately convey the things I want to share.”
Probst credits the weekly live tweets, which have been enormously successful, to radio shock jock Howard Stern, who inspired the move after he tweeted his way through a weekend viewing of his 1997 biopic, Private Parts. The Survivor host saw this, and immediately spotted an opportunity.
“I wanted to continue the conversation and give [fans] more of what they crave, which is behind-the-scenes information and personal insight,” he said. “In addition, I learn valuable information about what is and is not working for the show. It’s a very satisfying, albeit time consuming, effort.
“I think Twitter is just another amazing step in the ongoing transition that will change so much of how we communicate as a world. Twitter will not be the final frontier but Twitter and Facebook are definitely the pioneers.”
Probst puts varying amounts of time into the show each week when it is airing, between the weekly blogs and the live tweets. While he hopes that efforts such as this will eventually grow into a larger dialog, become part of what he calls a “global conversation,” there is one thing that keeps him coming back week after week, even when he has an opportunity to simply sit back and watch the finished product unfold.
“The study of human nature,” he said of the show’s continuing appeal. “It’s endlessly fascinating to me. Why we do what we do. Justifying our ethics. All of it. I learn so much about myself through others.”
It’s a lengthy interview, and one — Survivor fan or not — that is definitely worth checking out. And seriously: if you’re not a fan because you’ve never seen the show, give it a chance. It’s less a reality series in the traditional sense and more a game show with a long-term focus. With or without the growing social media elements, the past few seasons in particular have continued to raise the bar on what qualifies as good TV.