The golden rule on Spoilers

Where do you draw the line in the sand on TV Spoilers? It's pretty simple....

2013-08-28_1617This week a friend told me off for spoiling an episode of True Blood that he hadn’t managed to see. Overlooking the fact that he’s not actually a Foxtel subscriber, I proceeded to explain my view that Aired = News / Unaired = Spoiler.

It’s a policy I’ve developed over a number of years, and one that I maintain in publishing here.

His comments echoed some on the True Blood story on this site itself.

So it’s with some interest that I see The Age today follows the very same line in the sand, as noted by writer Paul Kalina:

One effect of the ”watch what you want when you want” water that we all drink these days is that most of us are watching different shows at different times.

And even if we’re watching the same show, chances are some of the audience has recorded it to watch later while others have downloaded the advance episodes.

It’s become almost impossible to talk about a series without either dropping an unintentional spoiler or hearing one.

This, of course, raises the question of when it’s OK to publish stories that discuss spoilers or what are meant to be key plot or character developments. The moment the show has aired (and if so, where)? Two hours after? A day after? The release of the box set?

Of course, giving away plot or character spoilers before viewers have a chance to see the show for themselves is a no-no. But where to draw the line?

By covering shows as close to their broadcast, websites such as this one and online bloggers are creating rallying posts for viewers to dissect and discuss their favourite shows.

*For the record, our unofficial rule is we don’t run spoilers. But once an episode has broadcast on a TV platform, it’s up for grabs.

 That last line is exactly the rule of thumb here.

TV Tonight is a blog with television news. As we know the wider media and social media report on everything from Patrick dying in Offspring to Harrison winning The Voice to the red wedding in Game of Thrones. It’s unreasonable for a dedicated television site to have to withhold such news when it is reported far and wide by other media.

Major news incidents, such as those mentioned above, generally elicit 2 or 3 articles. So the question of “when is it ok to publish?” isn’t answered by “just don’t put it in a headline?” What do you do for story #2, #3 and #4?

I’m also faced with the dilemma of what photo to use. Writing about a possible death of one character in True Blood would be completely misleading by using the photo of another. Keywords in headlines are also crucial for SEO  and site archiving. I trust everyone has at some time come to know how valuable the archive is. But headlines such as “MasterChef winner announced” “Major death in TEN show” would be useless.

Yes I appreciate my headlines are also published via Twitter and RSS. In all likelihood whatever news I am apparently “Spoiling” has already run through Twitter before me, by viewers equally shocked / surprised / delighted by the content they have just viewed.

I also believe the worst thing I could do would be to create confusion by having one rule for one show or one genre and another for everything else. The whole concept of Spoiling is about to tell you something that hasn’t yet happened. But as The Age appreciates, Aired = News. As a result, I never run Eurovision results until SBS has screened AEST despite the fact it has been on websites and the 6pm news across the same day.

From Timeshifted data we can see that viewers are watching dramas long after their broadcast, but the onus should be on you, breaking from the pack, to modify your use of social media accordingly.

Just a reminder, the Broadchurch killer will be revealed on Friday night and there’s a finale for Dexter coming very, very soon…

28 Responses

  1. Apart from The Project I have pretty much given up on FTA TV and its bad scheduling. I get all my content from Netflix and Hulu, and don’t care about spoilers. Well, except for Eurovision.

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